Klier Becomes First German to Win Gent-Wevelgem
Andreas Klier (Telekom) has become the first German to win Gent-Wevelgem. Klier took a five-man sprint to win the 204-km race in 4:29:00. Henk Vogels (Navigators) finished second, and Tom Boonen (Quick Step) finished third.
The riders rode with the wind at their backs for most of the race. Consequently, the pace was fast. Quick Step rode tempo to break the field. At 53 km, six riders, including Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and Ludo Dierckxsens (Landbouwkrediet) crashed and abandoned.
Quick Step's pressure split the bunch. A 26-rider lead group formed that included defending champion Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze); Tom Boonen, Servais Knaven, and Johan Museeuw (all from Quick Step); Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r); Klier and Danilo Hondo (both from Telekom); Tom Steels (Landbouwkrediet); and Vogels. Rabobank and Cofidis pursued unsuccessfully.
A series of attacks in the hills reduced the lead group. Vogels, Klier, and Museeuw led the first ascent of the Kemmelberg with 62 km left. Twenty-two km later, Museeuw, Klier, and Boonen led nine others over the Kemmelberg. By then, the leaders were Boonen, Knaven, and Museeuw (all from Quick Step); Klier; Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo); Max van Heeswijk (U.S. Postal Service); Mathew Hayman (Rabobank); Vogels; Raivis Belohvosciks (Marlux); and Roger Hammond (Palmans).
In the last 20 km, the leaders began to attack each other. Knaven got clear with 11 km left, but his lead maxed out at 0:10. He was reeled in with two km left. Knaven then led out Boonen, but Klier came around them to win easily. Boonen crashed into a finish line photographer, but neither person was hurt.
Cipollini was disqualified for throwing two water bottles at a motorcyclist who was an official for the Belgian Cycling League. During the second descent of the Kemmelberg, the Lion King crashed. He had gotten up and was talking with his directeur sportif in the latter's car when the Belgian cycling official passed him.
Klier has taken his second professional victory and by far his biggest one. (The Telekom rider's first win was in last year's GP Jef Scherens Leuven.) Will he have more luck in Paris-Roubaix on Sunday? Will Museeuw, Boonen or someone else win? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!
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