By Andrew Hood
Confusion in Sunday’s fourth stage of the Tour of Benelux cost Christian Vande Velde (CSC) and Jason McCartney (Discovery Channel) a possible shot at victory.
The two Americans, along with Belgian Bart Dockx (Davitamon-Lotto), were on the attack in Sunday’s hilly, seven-climb 232km march across Belgium’s Ardennes, nursing a comfortable six-minute lead, when the main bunch accidentally went the wrong way.
Vande Velde and Co. were already over the day’s fourth climb at the Côte de la Haute Levée with about 60km to go when the peloton accidentally went off course coming down the descent on the previous climb at the Côte de Wanne.
“It was total chaos,” Vande Velde told VeloNews. “No one knew what was going on.”
Evidently a race marshal left after two chasing riders — Matej Mugerli (Liquigas-Bianchi) and Marzio Bruseghin (Fassa Bortolo) – rolled past. When the peloton came upon the crossroads, no one was there to direct them where to go.
Chaos ruled as riders, commissaires, race officials and sport directors tried to figure out what was going on. Meanwhile, Vande Velde and his fellow escapees kept on racing.
“They all went the wrong way,” said Vande Velde, explaining that CSC sport director Scott Sunderland told them to keep going because they hadn’t done anything wrong. “By the time they got going again, our lead went from six minutes to 15.”
But the race officials disagreed and decided to force the leaders to stop and allow the peloton to re-establish itself on course at the time difference from the point of confusion.
Vande Velde said none of this was abundantly clear and they initially refused to follow orders until stewards threatened to kick them out of the race if they did not obey. They were eventually forced to stop by a Belgian police officer riding on a motorcycle.
“One officer put his hand on my arm and hit the brakes,” Vande Velde said. “I guess it was his way of expressing to us we should stop.”
Long and heated discussions took place between the race officials, riders and sport directors before everyone agreed to carry on with the time differences the leaders had before the incident. Dockx became so angered he actually sat down on the ground.
The confusion took the wind out of the break’s sails. Vande Velde described the officials’ actions as “half-assed” as they reset the time differences at four minutes instead of six.
“It was all nonchalant. They just waved us on, it wasn’t like they had any stopwatch or anything,” he said. “It was total BS.”
The trio rolled on and was eventually gobbled up coming up the day’s final climb with about 20km to go.
Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Caffita) won the bunch sprint while race leader Rik Verbrugghe (Quick Step) came through second to conserve his lead to Aussie sprinter Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros).
Vande Velde finished 43rd at 55 seconds back, but grabbed the King of the Mountains jersey for the effort.
Stage 4 results
1. Alessandro Ballan (I), Lampre-Caffita, 6:06:05
2. Rik Verbrugghe (B), Quick Step, same time
3. Leif Hoste (B), Discovery Channel, s.t
4. Allan Davis (Aus), Liberty Seguros, s.t.
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (B), Discovery Channel, s.t.
1. Rik Verbrugghe (B), Quick Step, 19:44:28
2. Allan Davis (Aus), Liberty Seguros, at 0:06
3. Michael Blaudzun (Den), Team CSC, at 0:14
4. Erik Dekker (Ned), Rabobank, at 0:15
5. Carlos Barredo (Sp), Liberty Seguros, at 0:16
Basso wraps up Danish tour
Ivan Basso (CSC) sewed up his overall victory at the five-day, six-stage Tour of Denmark after finishing safely in the main bunch in Sunday’s finale.
Andre Greipel (Team Wiesenhof) won the last stage in a sprint from Tomas Vaitkus (AG2R) and Paride Grillo (Ceramica Panaria).
Basso won four of the six stages, including his second major time trial of the season in Saturday’s 13.8km race against the clock. He also won a long time trial at the end of this year’s Giro d’Italia.
The Tour de France runner-up said he was even more impressed with the enthusiastic Danish crowds.
“Reaching Copenhagen was a brilliant feeling and the perfect finish to a great week for me and my team,” Basso said. “I’ve seen how popular we are here and I must admit it’s made a huge impression on me to meet the Danish people and seeing how much they love to watch cycling. This week has given me a lot and I’ll never forget the support we’ve received.”
Stage 6 results
1. Andre Greipel (G), Team Wiesenhof, 3:35:37
2. Tomas Vaitkus (Lit), AG2R, same time
3. Paride Grillo (I), Ceramica Panaria, s.t.
4. Graeme Brown (Aus), Ceramica Panaria, s.t.
5. Marcin Lewandowski (Pol), Intel-Action, s.t.
1. Ivan Basso (I), Team CSC, 19:58:37
2. Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor), Team CSC, at 2:21
3. Rory Sutherland (Aus), Rabobank, at 2:51
4. Tomas Vaitkus (Lit), AG2R, at 2:55
5. Daniele Nardello (I), T-Mobile, at 3:07
Castaño solos to win in Burgos opener
Carlos Castaño (Andalucía-Paul Versan) won the first stage of the Vuelta a Burgos in northern Spain on Sunday.
Castaño held a solo attack for victory, coming across the line 31 seconds ahead of 2003 world champion Igor Astarloa (Barloworld) with Ricardo Serrano (Kaiku).
Like many races left out of the ProTour series, the Burgos tour has seen participation among the top teams decrease. There are no foreign ProTour teams among the 12-team field, though all four Spanish ProTour teams – Saunier Duval, Euskaltel, Illes Balears and Liberty Seguros – are in the race.
The race continues through Thursday, with the 159km summit finish to Lagunas de Neila on Wednesday looking to be the decisive stage.
Moreni back in winner’s circle
Italian national champion Cristian Moreni (Quick Step) snagged his first victory of the year in the opening stage of the Tour de l’Ain.
Moreni, back in action after overcoming some injuries earlier in the season, was part of a 20-man break in the 155km stage from Saint-Vulbas to Lagnieu. Six riders attacked on the final finishing circuit of 20km and Moreni followed a late attack from Preben Van Hecke (Davitamon-Lotto) and held off Francesco Bellotti (Credit Agricole) and Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r) to snatch the win.
“I knew that Van Hecke was fast, so I took his wheel and I passed him to the last curve around 150 meters from the finish line,” he said. “Now it won’t be easy to defend the jersey, but I will try. The last two stages are difficult, but the team can also count on two climbers like Mercado and Pecharroman.”