By Andrew Hood
Some of Oscar Freire’s biggest wins have come at the expense of one man: That perennial German warrior Erik Zabel.
The Spanish sprinter took his third world title in 2004 in Verona in Italy with Zabel taking second, a win that came months after Freire out-stabbed Zabel on the Via Roma to win Milan-San Remo that spring.
In Sunday’s Vattenfall Cyclassics, Freire once again revealed he has one of the best bike stabs in the game, sneaking away with a photo-finish mass sprint with Zabel getting the worse end of the bargain. Last year’s winner Filippo Pozzato came through third.FULLRESULTS
“I was behind Zabel and overtook him at the right moment,” said Freire, who became the first Spanish rider to win the race. “We were all strong until the end and it was only a matter of throwing the our bikes to the line.”
After scores of late breaks were reeled in with about 10km to go to set up a mass gallop, it looked like Zabel was going to get a huge victory into Hamburg to repeat his 2001 victory.
Pozzato was being led out by his Quick Step teammate, but appeared to begin his sprint too early, opening the door for the 37-year-old Zabel. But it was Freire, sneaking past Zabel’s right shoulder with a perfectly timed jab at the line, who snagged the win.
Freire didn’t believe it until he saw the photo finish. He, too, has been on the wrong end of photo finishes, losing a tight battle to Alejandro Valverde earlier this year in a stage at the Vuelta al País Vasco.
“I didn’t lift my head not for one second and I had to wait until I knew for sure I had won,” Freire said. “To win is always important. It’s a classic and I had to take the chance when I had it. I stayed in good position, but you never know. Zabel was racing at home and that always counts.”
The 243.3km race – formerly the HEW Cyclassics — saw the return to action of Astaná (formerly Liberty Seguros-Würth) and Alexandre Vinokourov, who was forced to miss the 2006 Tour de France after several of its riders were implicated in the Operación Puerto doping investigation in Spain.
Several top riders skipped the race, including world champion Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Champs Elysees winner Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) and Andréas Klöden (T-Mobile).
The hilly circuit course in and around Hamburg typically ends in a sprint and this year proved no exception despite the best efforts from the agitated peloton to derail the sprinter’s hopes.
The race was the first one-day ProTour classic since Liège-Bastogne-Liège back in April and will be followed up in two weeks by the Clásica San Sebastian in Spain on Aug. 12.
The main hurdle of the route is the Waseberg climb, a short but steep hump that includes more than a half kilometer at 15 percent. The route tackled the Waseberg four times, with the final passage coming at 16km to go, which often serves as a springboard for late attackers.
After about 40km, three riders – Dario Andriotto (Liquigas), Corey Sweet (Wiesenhof) and Laszlo Bodrogi (Credit Agricole) – extracted themselves from the main bunch and chugged away, gaining more than 12 minutes at one point. Andriotto crashed, leaving Sweet and Bodrogi to fight the good fight until they were gobbled up with about 60km to go. From there, the Quick Step and the big German powers – Milram for Zabel, Gerolsteiner for Rebellin and T-Mobile – did their collective best to keep a lid on a jittery bunch. Scores of riders tried to splay off in the frenetic, closing 30km, including Philippe Gilbert (FDJeux) who launched ahead of the penultimate passage over the Waseberg climb. Gerolsteiner sent Fabien Wegmann out to cover the move and the pair opened up a gap of nearly a minute coming through the final launch up the Waseberg, where it all comes back together again with 15km to go. Rebellin led a counter-attack that found some company of Luca Paolini (Liquigas), Alessandro Ballan (Quick Step) and Mirko Celestino (Milram) to open a narrow gap of about 15 seconds with 10km to go, but Rabobank and Quick Step collaborated to put the hammer down on a much-reduced peloton.
Quick Step sent Pozzato charging toward the line, but perhaps a tad early, opening the door for Zabel and Freire to sneak through.
For Freire, who was forced to abandon the Tour in the final week after taking two stage victories, the win comes as a nice surprise.
For Zabel, it was another second-place finish in a number that’s sure to come close to his career 200-plus wins.
“I am not bothered,” Zabel said. “Freire is famous for his finishing sprint.”
If anyone knows, it’s Zabel.
1. Oscar Freire (Sp), Rabobank, 243.2km in 5:30:02 (44.2kph)
2. Erik Zabel (G), Milram
3. Filippo Pozzato (I), Quick Step
4. Nick Nuyens (B), Quick Step
5. Gerald Ciolek (G), Team Wiesenhof Akud
6. Grégory Rast (Swi), Phonak
7. Samuel Dumoulin (F), AG2R
8. Giuliano Figueras (I), Lampre
9. Danilo Napolitano (I), Lampre
10. Manuele Moro (I), Saunier Duval, all s.t.
ProTour Standings, after Vattenfall Cyclassics
1. Alejandro Valverde (Sp) – 195 points
2. Floyd Landis (USA) – 175
3. Frank Schleck (LUX) – 150
4. Tom Boonen (BEL) – 145
5. Ivan Basso (I) – 138
6. Cadel Evans (AUS) – 120
7. Christophe Moreau (F) – 118
8. Jsrg Jaksche (G) – 110
9. Alessandro Ballan (I) – 110
10. Damiano Cunego (I) – 106
11. Oscar Freire (Sp) – 99
12. Filippo Pozzato (I) – 95
13. Patrik Sinkewitz (G) – 90
14. Samuel Sanchez (Sp) – 89
15. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) – 87
16. Michael Boogerd (Nl) – 85
17. Paolo Savoldelli (I) – 85
18. Paolo Bettini (I) – 84
19. Oscar Pereiro (Sp) – 83
20. Denis Menchov (Rus) – 83
1. Oscar Freire (Sp), Rabobank, 243.2km in 5:30:02 (44.2kph)
2. Erik Zabel (G) Milram
3. Filippo Pozzato (I) Quick Step-Innergetic
4. Nick Nuyens (B) Quick Step-Innergetic
5. Gerald Ciolek (G) Wiesenhof Akud
6. Grégory Rast (Swi) Phonak
7. Samuel Dumoulin (F) AG2R
8. Giuliano Figueras (I) Lampre-Fondital
9. Danilo Napolitano (I) Lampre-Fondital
10. Manuele Mori (I) Saunier Duval
11. Sébastien Hinault (F) Credit Agricole
12. Vicente Reynes Mimo (Sp) Caisse d'Epargne-I.B.
13. Davide Rebellin (I) Gerolsteiner
14. Luca Paolini (I) Liquigas
15. Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak
16. Enrico Gasparotto (I) Liquigas
17. Bram Tankink (Nl) Quick Step-Innergetic
18. Fabian Wegmann (G) Gerolsteiner
19. Erki Pütsep (Est) AG2R
20. Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-I.B.
21. Cristian Moreni (I) Cofidis
22. Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery
23. Pablo Lastras Garcia (Sp) Caisse d'Epargne-I.B.
24. Roy Sentjens (B) Rabobank
25. Michael Barry (Can) Discovery
26. Alexander Efimkin (Rus) Barloworld
27. Matteo Tosatto (I) Quick Step-Innergetic
28. Jérôme Pineau (F) Bouygues Telecom
29. Riccardo Ricco (I) Saunier Duval
30. William Bonnet (F) Credit Agricole
31. Philippe Gilbert (B) Française des Jeux
32. Anthony Geslin (F) Bouygues Telecom
33. Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile
34. Hugo Sabido (Por) Barloworld
35. Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr) AG2R, all s.t.
36. Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) Lampre-Fondital, at 0:03
37. David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval
38. Salvatore Commesso (I) Lampre-Fondital
39. Johan Van Summeren (B) Davitamon-Lotto
40. Mirko Celestino (I) Milram
41. Andrea Moletta (I) Gerolsteiner, all s.t.
42. Marc De Maar (Nl) Rabobank, at 0:06
43. Leonardo Bertagnolli (I) Cofidis
44. Marco Velo (I) Milram, all s.t.
45. Lorenzo Bernucci (I) T-Mobile, at 0:09
46. Daniele Nardello (I) T-Mobile
47. Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana, all s.t.
48. Paolo Bettini (I) Quick Step-Innergetic, at 0:13
49. Alessandro Ballan (I) Lampre-Fondital, s.t.
50. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana, at 0:21
51. Gerben Löwik (Nl) Rabobank, at 0:39
52. Joseba Albizu Lizaso (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:57
53. Thomas Voeckler (F) Bouygues Telecom
54. Piet Rooijakkers (Nl) Skil-Shimano, all s.t.
55. Paul Martens (G) Skil-Shimano, at 1:17
56. Björn Schröder (G) Milram, both s.t.
57. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Credit Agricole, at 1:40
58. Markel Irizar Aranburu (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
59. Matthieu Sprick (F) Bouygues Telecom, at 1:49
60. Aitor Perez Arrieta (Sp) Caisse d'Epargne-I.B., at 1:55
61. Daniel Becke (G) Milram
62. Christian Knees (G) Milram
63. Stephan Schreck (G) T-Mobile
64. Roger Hammond (GBr) Discovery
65. Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus) Discovery
66. Volodymyr Bileka (Ukr) Discovery
67. K Fernandez De Larrea (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, all s.t.
68. Stuart O'grady (Aus) CSC, at 2:03
69. Ca Barredo Llamazales (Sp) Astana, at 7:32
70. Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Sp) Astana
71. Olaf Pollack (G) T-Mobile
72. Mik Pradera Rodriguez (Sp) Caisse d'Epargne-I.B.
73. Joaqu Rodriguez Oliver (Sp) Caisse d'Epargne-I.B.
74. Sergio Miguel Mo Paulinho (Por) Astana
75. Christian Leben (G) Wiesenhof Akud
76. Artur Gajek (G) Wiesenhof Akud
77. Peter Mazur (Pol) Saunier Duval
78. Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana
79. Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Saunier Duval
80. Serguei Yakovlev (Kaz) Astana
81. Eric Leblacher (F) Française des Jeux
82. David Kopp (G) Gerolsteiner
83. Manuel Quinziato (I) Liquigas
84. Allan Johansen (Den) CSC
85. Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank
86. Franck Renier (F) Bouygues Telecom
87. Yannick Talabardon (F) Credit Agricole
88. Claudio Corioni (I) Lampre-Fondital
89. Mauro Facci (I) Barloworld
90. Julian Dean (NZl) Credit Agricole
91. Pieter Mertens (B) Davitamon-Lotto
92. Joseba Zubeldia Agirre (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
93. Alexandre Usov (Blr) AG2R
94. Mark Scanlon (Irl) AG2R
95. Aart Vierhouten (Nl) Skil-Shimano
96. Mathieu Heijboer (Nl) Cofidis
97. Maarten Tjallingii (Nl) Skil-Shimano
98. Kevin Hulsmans (B) Quick Step-Innergetic
99. Matthias Kessler (G) T-Mobile, all s.t.
100. José An Redondo Ramos (Sp) Astana 10:12
101. Aurélien Clerc (Swi) Phonak, at 10:20
102. Lu Pagliarini Mendonca (Bra) Saunier Duval, at 11:00
103. Corey Sweet (Aus) Wiesenhof Akud
104. Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Credit Agricole
105. Michael Albasini (Swi) Liquigas
106. Anton Luengo Celaya (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
107. Marcus Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner
108. Diego Caccia (I) Barloworld
109. David Loosli (Swi) Lampre-Fondital
110. Wouter Weylandt (B) Quick Step-Innergetic
111. Steffen Radochla (G) Wiesenhof Akud
112. Kevin Van Impe (B) Quick Step-Innergetic, all s.t.
Did Not Finish
Fabian Cancellara (Swi) CSC
Jakob Piil (Den) CSC
Luke Roberts (Aus) CSC
Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) CSC
Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) CSC
Matti Breschel (Den) CSC
André Korff (G) T-Mobile
Thomas Ziegler (G) T-Mobile
Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak
Bert Grabsch (G) Phonak
Fabrizio Guidi (I) Phonak
Robert Hunter (RSA) Phonak
Steve Morabito (Swi) Phonak
Alexei Markov (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-I.B.
Jurgen Van Den Broeck (B) Discovery
Jason McCartney (USA) Discovery
Max Van Heeswijk (Nl) Discovery
Jan Boven (Nl) Rabobank
Joost Posthuma (Nl) Rabobank
Matteo Carrara (I) Lampre-Fondital
Mario Aerts (B) Davitamon-Lotto
Christophe Brandt (B) Davitamon-Lotto
Nick Gates (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
Gert Steegmans (B) Davitamon-Lotto
Peter Van Petegem (B) Davitamon-Lotto
Wim Vansevenant (B) Davitamon-Lotto
Sven Krauss (G) Gerolsteiner
Volker Ordowski (G) Gerolsteiner
Peter Wrolich (A) Gerolsteiner
Guido Trentin (I) Saunier Duval
Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Saunier Duval
Jimmy Engoulvent (F) Credit Agricole
Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Credit Agricole
Arnaud Coyot (F) Cofidis
Hervé Duclos-Lassalle (F) Cofidis
Tyler Farrar (USA) Cofidis
Thierry Marichal (B) Cofidis
Tristan Valentin (F) Cofidis
Iker Flores Galarza (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
Iban Iriondo Uranga (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
Alan Perez Lezaun (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
Simon Gerrans (Aus) AG2R
Laurent Mangel (F) AG2R
Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) AG2R
Enrico Poitschke (G) Milram
Sebastian Siedler (G) Milram
Dario Andriotto (I) Liquigas
Magnus Bäckstedt (Swe) Liquigas
Marco Milesi (I) Liquigas
Stefano Zanini (I) Liquigas
Stef Clement (Nl) Bouygues Telecom
Andy Flickinger (F) Bouygues Telecom
Christophe Kern (F) Bouygues Telecom
Ludovic Auger (F) Française des Jeux
Christophe Detilloux (B) Française des Jeux
Frédéric Finot (F) Française des Jeux
Ian Mcleod (RSA) Française des Jeux
Jérémy Roy (F) Française des Jeux
Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) Française des Jeux
Igor Astarloa Ascasibar (Sp) Barloworld
Giosuè Bonomi (I) Barloworld
Enrico Degano (I) Barloworld
Jeremy Maartens (RSA) Barloworld
Kenny Robert Van Hummel (Nl) Skil-Shimano
Masahiro Shinagawa (Jpn) Skil-Shimano
Tomoya Kano (Jpn) Skil-Shimano
Felix Odebrecht (G) Wiesenhof Akud
Lars Wackernagel (G) Wiesenhof Akud
Gregor Willwohl (G) Wiesenhof Akud