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By Neal Rogers
Sandwiched in between last Sunday’s Tour of Flanders and this Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix is Wednesday’s Ghent-Wevelgem, a slightly shorter “semi-classic” which rejoins the sport’s highest classification on the UCI’s new ProTour. When the World Cup was created in 1989, Ghent-Wevelgem had to make due with hors categorie status, as only two events were allowed per country, and Belgium’s Tour of Flanders and Liège-Bastogne-Liège occupied those precious spots.
Unlike the hilly Flanders course and the heavily cobbled Roubaix, crosswinds often play a major factor at Ghent-Wevelgem, a 208km counterclockwise loop around western Flanders leading from the town of Deinze out to the North Sea and back along a route from the coastal town of De Panne to Wevelgem. Two major ascents each of the Monteberg (at 148km and 169 km) and Kemmelberg (150km and 171 km) will also play a pivotal role, and with 25km of paved roads from the final ascent of the Kemmelberg to Wevelgem, the race can remain wide open until the traditional final sprint. Twice in the past four years, the race has come down to a photo finish, with American George Hincapie narrowly defeating Leon Van Bon in 2001, and German Andreas Klier beating out Aussie Henk Vogels in 2003.
Hincapie (Discovery Channel), Klier (T-Mobile) and Vogels (Davitamon-Lotto) all return to the start this year in the town of Deinze, just southwest of Ghent, as does last year’s winner Tom Boonen, who handedly outsprinted Swede Magnus Bäckstedt and Estonian Jaan Kirsipuu, also both returning. With Boonen’s display of strength at Flanders Sunday, combined with his powerful victories at the Tour of Qatar and the E3-Prijs Harelbeke, he enters Ghent as the overwhelming favorite. Some, however, are questioning whether he might save some strength in his legs for Sunday’s more prestigious Paris-Roubaix, the “queen of the classics.”
Asked how his win in Flanders might affect his position for Ghent and Roubaix, Boonen answered, “I think I’m in the same position I was in before the Tour of Flanders. I think I was the favorite anyway, so it doesn’t change a lot. At Roubaix there will be the same riders as Flanders, and they will all do the same as they tried to do there, they will try to beat me. I don’t think it will change at all for Ghent-Wevelgem, but it all depends on the race develops and how the weather is. If it is a race like last year, there’s a good possibility that the race will end up like last year. I am feeling strong, so we will hope to control the race for as long as possible, and that is the most important thing to me.”
Bäckstedt is another rider that will start Ghent but is expected to save himself for Roubaix, while 2003 Flanders-Roubaix winner Peter Van Petegem will not race in Ghent.
But many teams will be looking for redemption on Wednesday, including T-Mobile, which had two riders in the winning six-man breakaway at Flanders and still couldn’t seal the win, continuing its winless streak of 2005. Second-place at Flanders, Klier will hope to repeat his 2003 Ghent victory, as will teammate Erik Zabel, who rode courageously at Flanders, attacking relentlessly until initiating the final break.
Also looking for a better showing this time around will be Discovery, which missed the key breakaways at Flanders and came away with a somewhat disappointing seventh place for Hincapie. Brit Roger Hammond, Russian veteran Viatcheslav Ekimov, Dutchman Max Van Heeswijk and Belgians Leif Hoste and Stijn Devolder will back Hincapie, the fourth-place finisher at Ghent last year. As at Flanders, Discovery comes to Ghent as one of the strongest teams, and anything less than a podium finish will be viewed as a disappointment.
But there are plenty of other teams looking for a spot on that podium. Davitamon-Lotto boasts Vogels, American Fred Rodriguez (who finished second at Ghent in 2002), two-time Ghent winner sprinter Tom Steels and his Belgian compatriot Nico Mattan. It’s an all-star classics quad the Belgian team brings, hoping to close out the Belgian early-season with a major win.
Another strong team that was shut out at Flanders is Rabobank, who will likely pin its hopes on Dutch compatriots Steven de Jongh and Karsten Kroon; missing is world champion Oscar Freire, to injury, and Erik Dekker, who is sitting out Ghent after racing in Flanders.
The American Navigators Insurance squad nearly pulled off its biggest win to date with Vogels in 2003, and hopes to put it all together this time around with sprinter Kirk O’Bee.
Another to watch for is Lampre’s Alessandro Ballan, one of the main antagonists at Flanders on Sunday. Ballan won a stage and finished second overall at the recent Three Days of De Panne, and could light a fire at Ghent. Aussie Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis) showed some form at Flanders, and could be a real threat in the finishing straight in Wevelgem.Results- 2004
VeloNews.com is pleased to provide LIVE COVERAGE of the 67th edition of Ghent-Wevelgem, starting at 8:00 a.m. (Eastern Time in the United States) on Wednesday, April 6, 2005.As always, we encourage readers to take a guess at who will win this prestigious event, the fifth stop in the UCI’s new ProTour, by sending an e-mail to Rosters@InsideInc.com. The first person to submit the name of the winner of the 67th edition of Ghent-Wevelgem will receive a special three-book prize package from VeloGear.com: “Insidethe Postal Bus” by Michael Barry; “Marco Pantani: The Legend of a Tragic Champion” edited by John Wilcocksonand “Maximum Performance for Cyclists” by Dr. Michael Ross. Contestants are limited to one entry. StartList – Ghent Wevelgem – 2005TheProTour Points System ExplainedUCI ProTour Standings, after four events
1. Alessandro Petacchi (I), Fassa Bortolo – 93 pts
2. Oscar Freire Gomez (Sp), Rabobank – 78
3. Danilo Hondo (G), Gerolsteiner – 70
4. Tom Boonen (B), QuickStep – 62
5. Bobby Julich (USA), CSC – 50
6. Andreas Klier (G), T-Mobile – 41
7. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Sp), Illes Balears – 41
8. Peter Van Petegem (B), Davitamon-Lotto – 35
9. George Hincapie (USA), Discovery Channel – 35
10. Fabrizio Guidi (I), Phonak – 35
11. Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez (Sp), Saunier Duval – 35
12. Thor Hushovd (Nor), Credit Agricole – 35
13. Jens Voigt (G), CSC – 31
14. Erik Zabel (G), T-Mobile – 30
15. Stuart O’grady (Aus), Cofidis – 30
16. Roberto Petito (I), Fassa Bortolo – 25
17. Jörg Jaksche (G), Liberty Seguros – 25
18. Franco Pellizotti (I), Liquigas-Bianchi – 25
19. Laurent Brochard (F), Bouygues Telecom – 25
20. Alessandro Ballan (I), Lampre-Caffita – 20
Results – 20041. Tom Boonen (B) Quick Step 4:58:47 (41.762 km/h)
2. Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Alessio-Bianchi
3. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) AG2r
4. George Hincapie (USA) U.S. Postal
5. Jimmy Casper (F) Cofidis
6. Roger Hammond (GB) MrBookmaker
7. Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Sp) Fassa Bortolo
8. Vladimir Goussev (Rus) CSC
9. Sébastien Rosseler (B) Relax
10. Andreas Klier (G) T-Mobile
11. Gert Steegmans (B) Lotto-Domo
12. Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Landbouwkrediet
13. Nico Mattan (B) Relax
14. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo
15. Frank Høj (Dk) CSC
16. Tristan Hoffman (Nl) CSC
17. Peter Farazijn (B) Cofidis
18. René Haselbacher (A) Gerolsteiner
19. Lorenzo Bernucci (I) Landbouwkrediet, all s.t.
20. Johan Museeuw (B) Quick Step, at 0:09
21. Servais Knaven (Nl) Quick Step
22. Nick Nuyens (B) Quick Step
23. Robert Förster (G) Gerolsteiner, at 0:14
24. Wilfried Cretskens (B) Quick Step, at 0:21
25. Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Quick Step, at 0:26
26. Steffen Radochla (G) Illes Balears-Banesto, at 4:38
27. Jörg Ludewig (G) Saeco
28. Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak
29. Chris Peers (B) Chocolade Jacques
30. Stefan Van Dijk (Nl) Lotto-Domo
31. Julian Dean (NZ) Crédit Agricole
32. Remco Van Der Ven (Nl) BankGiroLoterij
33. Mark Scanlon (Irl) AG2r
34. Grégory Rast (Swi) Phonak
35. Pablo Lastras Garcia (Sp) Illes Balears-Banesto
36. Gabriele Balducci (I) Saeco
37. Marc Wauters (B) Rabobank
38. Serguei Ivanov (Rus) T-Mobile
39. Maxime Monfort (B) Landbouwkrediet
40. Martin Hvastija (Slo) Alessio-Bianchi
41. Paolo Fornaciari (I) Saeco
42. Hans De Clercq (B) Lotto-Domo
43. Geert Omloop (B) MrBookmaker
44. Robert Hunter (SA) Rabobank
45. Jeremy Hunt (GB) MrBookmaker
46. Jo Planckaert (B) MrBookmaker
47. Daniele Nardello (I) T-Mobile
48. Kim Kirchen (Lux) Fassa Bortolo
49. Nico Eeckhout (B) Lotto-Domo
50. Wim Vansevenant (B) Lotto-Domo
51. Preben Van Hecke (B) Relax, all s.t.
52. Jans Koerts (Nl) Chocolade Jacques, at 7:23
53. Sébastien Hinault (F) Crédit Agricole
54. Kristof Trouve (B) MrBookmaker, at 10:04
55. Sebastian Lang (G) Gerolsteiner
56. Bart Dockx (B) Relax, s.t.
186 starters – 56 finishers – 131 abandoned