Events

Cipollini takes Ghent – Wevelgem

Good morning. The 64th edition of Gent-Wevelgem is underway. At the start Defending champion George Hincapie is in the field along with seven of U.S. Postal teammates, including Lance Armstrong. The wind is a steady and brisk breeze from the north and the day is still quite sunny. The official start time is now listed as 11:43 a.m. Almost from the start Lotto’s Nico Eeckhout made an attack. Now by kilometer 35, he has about a 4:20 lead. Behind the escapee, the wind is forcing the field into echelons. VeloNews editorial director John Wilcockson remarks that the day is already somewhat

Ghent Wevelgem – updates throughout the race

By VeloNews Interactive

Good morning. The 64th edition of Gent-Wevelgem is underway.

At the start Defending champion George Hincapie is in the field along with seven of U.S. Postal teammates, including Lance Armstrong.

The wind is a steady and brisk breeze from the north and the day is still quite sunny.

The official start time is now listed as 11:43 a.m.

Almost from the start Lotto’s Nico Eeckhout made an attack. Now by kilometer 35, he has about a 4:20 lead. Behind the escapee, the wind is forcing the field into echelons.

VeloNews editorial director John Wilcockson remarks that the day is already somewhat reminiscent of the race in 1989 when Motorola’s Sean Yates joined Gerrit Solleveld in a similar early flyer. Those two managed to hold on and Solleveld took the day. Who knows? Could be another day for the early headbangers, eh?

12:45 p.m. After an hour of racing Eeckhout is still off the front of the field, but his advantage is dropping. At the one-hour mark, (at km 45.4) he held a lead of 4:20. By the 49km mark, his advantage was down to 4:10 and at 50km, he was only 3:43 up on the field.

By the way, you might remember Eeckhout from The tour of Flanders this past weekend. He was involved in a crash and broke his finger. He is competing today with a splint on his hand.

But the day’s big news for Belgian fans was that Johann Museeuw did show up at the start this morning. He’s out on the road and racing so his talk about his immediate retirement appears to have been just that: talk.

1:15 p.m. A tenacious fellow, this Eeckhout. With the Postal team leading the peloton, the lone Lotto rider’s advantage over the field was trimmed down to 58 seconds by the time he reached Oostende at the 62km mark.

But he hasn’t given up. Ten kilometers later in Middelkerke, he enjoyed a lead of 1:15 and he has managed to hold it at around 1:20, as he passed through Nieuwpoort at km 80.

1:45 p.m. Eeckhout’s solo effort finally came to end just before the feedzone at km 89.

After two hours of racing, the peloton has covered 92.7km, 47.3 in the second hour.

The field is all together now at kilometer 96 and the course is again turning inland. The course will soon enter a wide multi-laned concrete highway. VeloNews editorial director John Wilcockson reports that the wind is blowing hard from the left side of the road and things are likely to break into echelons as the field hits this wind-blown stretch of open highway.

2:23 Well, the wind did its predicted damage to the field. As the peloton hit the open roads at kilometer 102, the harsh sidewind broke things up into six separate echelons.

Ten kilometers later, the first group of 21 riders has an advantage of 49 seconds on the second and 1:25 on the third group. We don’t have a complete picture of who is in that first group, but we do know that most of the important players are there. George Hincapie is there with teammate Tom Boonen. Museeuw and Fred Rodriguez are there from Domo. Also in the group are Mario Cipollini, Erik Zabel , Mapei’s Robbie Hunter, Lotto’s Robbie McEwen and CSC’s Tristan Hoffman. We’ll try to update you as reports filter back.

2:45p.m. With about 60km to go, the lead group now has an advantage of about 1:25 on the next echelon.

We now have a complete picture of the make up of this break and it looks like like today’s winner will probably emerge from this lead group:
George Hincapie and Tom Boonen (U.S. Postal);
Andreas Klier and Erik Zabel (Deutsche Telekom);
Robert Hunter from Mapei;
Gorik Gardeyn, Hans De Clercq, Aart Vierhouten and Robbie McEwen (Lotto);
Wilfried Cretskens, Servais Knaven, Johan Museeuw and Fred Rodriguez (Domo-Farm Frites);
Tristan Hoffman and Paul Van Hyfte (CSC-Tiscali)
Martin Hvastija (Alessio)
Mario Cipollini (Acqua e Sapone)
Jean-Patrick Nazon and Franck Pencole (La Française de Jeux)
Hendrik Van Dyck and Wim Vansevenant (Palmans)

3:13 p.m. There’s a reason they don’t call us the ‘psychic hotline.’ That second group isn’t giving up.

Driven by the major teams without or with minimal representation in the break – namely Fassa Bortolo, Rabobank and Mapei – the second group narrowed the gap to just 25 seconds as the leaders crested the Kemmelberg for the first of two times today. They are making a fight of it. Still, the leaders have since managed to rebuild their lead to around a minute.

John Wilcockson reports that the speed of the lead group is such that Lotto’s Gorik Gardeyn has been dropped, leaving that team with just three riders. Domo remains the best represented in the lead group with four riders: Wilfried Cretskens, Servais Knaven, Johan Museeuw and Fred Rodriguez.

3:35 p.m. The second time up the Kemmelberg today, Fred Rodriguez launched an attack and he was joined by Hendrik Van Dyck and Franck Pencole. With a strong lead out from Boonen, Hincapie managed to jump across the gap and join the group.

The group was soon joined by none other than Mario Cipollini, the man who has won the race on two occasions (1992 and ’93).

From the side of the road on the Kemmelberg, John Wilcockson reports that the leaders now have an advantage of 18 seconds over the first chase group and another 22 seconds on the second group.

3:51 p.m. With 20k left in this 207-kilometer semi-classic, the five leaders – George Hincapie, Fred Rodriguez, Martin Hvastija, Mario Cipollini and Hendrik Van Dyck now have a lead of one minute on a chase group of 12.

The next group is another 50 seconds back.

3:58 p.m. With 15k to go, the time gap is 46 seconds and 1:25 on what is left of the peloton.

The five leaders — – George Hincapie, Fred Rodriguez, Martin Hvastija, Mario Cipollini and Hendrik Van Dyck – are riding into a strong headwind.

That chase group of twelve, by the way is made up some interesting – and competing – forces:Postal’s Tom Boonen won’t be chasing, nor will Domo’s Wilfried Cretskens, Servais Knaven or Johann Museuuw. But the two men from Telekom – Erik Zabel and Andreas Klier – will likely join forces with Mapei’s Robert Hunter, CSC’s Tristan Hoffman, Coast’s Fabrizio Guidi and Franck Pencole (La Française des Jeux).

4:09 With 10km to go, the gap is still at 46 seconds.

4:14 p.m. With four k to go…. The gap is 1:06. With five km to go, George Hincapie attacked, but he was reeled in.

Now Van Dyck has attacked with 3.5km to go.

4:16 Van Dyck has been caught. The leaders are two km from the finish.

4:18 One kilometer to go. Five together…. Hincapie is at the back watching for an early charge..

4:19 Van Dyck, starts… Hincapie jumps on his wheel. The others move up quickly.

Cipollini… Cipollini

Cipollini’s got it. Fred Rodriguez is second and George Hincapie is third.

4:22 p.m. Mario Cipollini has won the 207km semi-classic, Ghent Wevelgem for the third time — ten years after his first win here in 1992.

The Acqua e Sapone sprint ace edged Americans Fred Rodriguez and George Hincapie to take the win.

We’ll have a post-race report from VeloNews editorial director John Wilcockson, photos by Graham Watson and full results to come.

Results

1. Mario Cipollini (I) Acqua e Sapone 207km in 4:42:14,(44.26 kph);
2. Fred Rodriguez (USA) Domo-Farm Frites;
3. George Hincapie (USA) U.S. Postal Service;
4. Hendrik Van Dijck (B) Collstrop-Palmans;
5. Martin Hvastija (Slo) Alessio;
6. Robert Hunter (SA) Mapei-Quick Step, at 1:29;
7. Tom Boonen (B) U.S. Postal Service;
8. Erik Zabel (G) Telekom;
9. Tristan Hoffman (Nl) CSC-Tiscali;
10. Johan Museeuw (B) Domo-Farm Frites;
11. Servais Knaven (Nl) Domo-Farm Frites;
12. Aart Vierhouten (Nl) Lotto-Adecco;
13. Hans De Clercq (B) Lotto-Adecco;
14. Franck Pencole (F) Francaise des Jeux;
15. Paul Van Hyfte (B) CSC-Tiscali.