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Sport: Bike Season Heralds the Summer

  • April 10th, 2007
  • Posted by Sarah West

bike-sarah-reduced.jpgThe European cycling season has arrived with the start of the one-day Spring classics, leading on to the “grand tours”, like the Tour de France, in the coming Summer. Sarah West was in Brugge for the Tour of Flanders; her report:

With the professional cycling season in Europe, in full swing, seven Australian riders were amongst the 248 who fronted up on the weekend (9.4.07) at the start of the 91’st Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour de Flanders) in perfect weather for a one day spring classic.

Thousands of cycling fans lined the cobbled streets in the Belgian town of Brugge to watch the riders warm up, in the marshalling area, before the pack headed for the outskirts of the city for the start of the 259 km race to Meerbeke.

The appearance of Belgian cycling hero Tom Boonen ignited the imagination of the local crowd who held high hopes he would win the race for the third time in succession. Gastro-enteritis kept Australian sprint king Robbie McEwen out of the Predictor-Lotto line-up, but Team CSC’s Stuart O’Grady was hoping to improve on his third place finish in the ‘De Ronde’ in 2003.

The race started aggressively and at just 29 km’s into the event seven riders, lead by Jose Vicente Garcia of Caisse d’Epargne, had broken away from the pack; and with the exception of a few failed attempts at catching the group, the peleton seemed content to let the attacking group remain in the lead for the early stages of the race.

Belgian favourite Boonen was thrown off his bike in Kortrijk and complained of a sore wrist before rejoining the peleton which was working at whittling away the 13 minute lead gained by the seven-man breakaway group, down to 9.30 minutes by Molenberg; the first of the 18 climbs.

Spanish rider Vincente Garcia led the break-away group to the top of the 1260m non-cobbled Knokteberg, while teams T-Mobile and Quick Step started to build the speed of the peleton and sent Paolo Bettini to the front to work the pack into a good position for his team mate Boonen.

Team CSC’s Fabian Cancellara pushed forward to the front of the pack splitting the peleton, and, joined by Quick Step’s Gert Steegmans, caught the break-away group within 20 km of Meerbeke.

Tom Boonen dropped off the new lead group with ten km’s to go, leaving Predictor Lotto’s Leif Hoste and Lempre-Fondital’s Alessandro Ballan to fight it out for the title. Hoste was the first to break into a sprint for the line, but only managed to lead out Ballan who took the win. A disappointed Hoste crossed closely behind and Liquigas’s Luca Paolini took out third place. Stuart O’Grady was the first Australian rider to cross the line in tenth position, followed by the race favourite Boonen who took a disappointing 12th position.

Picture: The winner!! Alessandro Ballan