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High Road’s Mark Cavendish won the 207km Grand Prix de l’Escaut (also known as the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen) for the second successive year on Wednesday just ahead of top sprinters Tom Boonen of Belgium and Australia’s Robbie McEwen.
Germany’s Eric Zabel took fourth place but it needed a photo-finish to separate Cavendish and former world road race champion Boonen.
Boonen, who won the Paris-Roubaix classic on Sunday, thought he had won the race and even raised his arms on the finish line but in fact it was Cavendish who was ruled the winner.
“I didn’t see Mark beside me,” Boonen said afterwards.
Belgium’s Koen Barbe and Dutchman Albert Timmer made a break early in the race but were caught with 27km to go having at one point led the main bunch by 13 minutes.
The teams with top sprinters — Quick Step, High Road, Millram and Silence mainly — took the initiative in reeling in the breakaway riders before trying to set up their men for the dash to the line.
The peloton was all together with 1km to go as they went under the red kite, led by five riders from the Quick Step outfit which augured well for Boonen.
However the Belgian, who won this race in 2004 and 2006, failed by a whisker to live up to his status of favorite and will now take some time off to recover after the Paris-Roubaix victory.
1. Mark Cavendish (GBR/HighRoad), 207km in 4:59:15
2. Tom Boonen (BEL) s.t.
3. Robbie McEwen (AUS) s.t.
4. Erik Zabel (GER) s.t.
5. Stefan van Dijk (NED) s.t.
6. Fabien Bacquet (FRA) s.t.
7. Gregory Henderson (NZL) s.t.
8. Wouter Weylandt (BEL) s.t.
9. Daniel Musiol (GER) s.t.
10. Borut Bozic (SLO) s.t.