By Andrew Hood
The carnage from crashes Wednesday on the Kemmelberg descent during Ghent-Wevelgem has triggered calls for the treacherous cobblestoned section to be removed from the spring classic.
Opinions were split. Some felt the harrowing pavé descent was just too steep for today’s high-speed peloton. A seeming majority felt that such hazardous, yet historic landmarks should remain in the northern classics despite the danger.
Regardless of the opinions, the facts remained harsh. Dozens of riders fell and nearly all earned a trip to local hospitals, most with broken bones.
Here’s an official list of injuries from the two major pile-ups released by race officials:
Tyler Farrar (Cofidis): fractured left patella, bruised right elbow – out for at least four weeksMarco Velo (Milram): fractured collarbone, knee and two ribs. According to perhaps over-imaginative witness reports, he flipped over his handlebars and landed in a nearby tree; officials initially spotted a bike but couldn’t find a rider to go with itAndy Capalle (Landbouwkrediet): fractured elbow and partial fracture to shoulderJames Vanlandschoot (Landbouwkrediet): fractured thumb, elbow and wristWim de Vocht (Predictor-Lotto): fractured thumbJimmy Casper (Unibet.com): fractured cheekbone and sprained wrist in horrible face-plant on the cobblesWilfried Cretskins (Quickstep-Innergetic): deep cuts and road rash to elbow and arms, which required skin grafs from thigh area to cover open wounds ground through muscle tissue to the boneMatthew Wilson (Unibet.com): sprained wristMatthew Hayman (Rabobank): fractured elbowLuke Roberts (CSC): knocked unconscious, according to Jeremy Hunt, Roberts woke up and asked, “Where am I?”Aart Vierhouten (Skil-Shimano), Servais Knaven (T-Mobile), Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) and Fabio Sacchi (Milram): Various cuts, scrapes and abrasions Win uplifting for ‘reborn’ T-Mobile
Ghent-Wevelgem might as well have been the Tour de France or the world championships for T-Mobile on Wednesday.
Not that Ghent-Wevelgem is quite on that level, but Marcus Burghardt’s impressive solo victory in front of the likes of Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) leading the main bunch tasted like sweet redemption for the reborn German team.
“It’s big for us, as you can imagine,” said Roger Hammond, who finished second to make it a 1-2 for T-Mobile. “It proves that our system is working and it proves our belief system.”
That “belief system” is an ambitious new zero-tolerance stance on doping for the once-mighty T-Mobile/Telekom franchise.
Last year, the team was brought to its knees following revelations that team star Jan Ullrich was linked to the alleged blood doping ring at the center of the Operación Puerto investigation in Spain.
DNA tests revealed last week that at least nine of the close to 200 bags of blood and plasma found in police raids last May belonged to Ullrich. The 1997 Tour winner was fired days after he was kicked out ahead of the start of the 2006 Tour de France.
The revelations prompted team sponsors T-Mobile – Germany’s giant telecommunications company – to clean house. Along with Ullrich, sport director Rudy Pevenage and team manager Olaf Ludwig were fired.
The team brought in American entrepreneur and confessed cycling outsider Bob Stapleton to right the ship.
Stapleton has since introduced a strict code of conduct and internal controls to encourage “fair and equal play in sport,” a buzzword which underscores the team’s new philosophy.
Many cynics rolled their eyes at such talk. Others simply said the team wouldn’t win many races.
And at least in that regard, they weren’t too far off-base. Before Burghardt’s big win, T-Mobile’s lone victory on the year was a relatively minor stage win by sprinter Bernard Eisel at the Tour of the Algarve in February.
“That’s not normal for T-Mobile. We’ve had some seconds and thirds, but we haven’t won much,” said new sport director Tristan Hoffman, referring to the small amount of victories for the team. “We’ve made a lot of changes to the team, so we’re very happy with this win. It means a lot to us. We never lost morale. [Saturday] night at the dinner table, I saw 10 or 12 smiling faces. They will be smiling more now.”
Hammond – who joined T-Mobile after two seasons at Discovery Channel – said the riders on the team know they are working for more than just good results.
“T-Mobile could have pulled the plug on the whole program. Instead, they’ve thrown 100 percent support behind us,” said Hammond, who was in an all-day breakaway that made it to the line. “I feel like we’re racing for a belief. That probably made the difference today between blowing up and making it to the finish.”
Hoste back for revenge
Leif Hoste will be riding with a double-dose of anger in Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix.
The Belgian missed winning Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, losing by a whisker to Italian Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital). And he will also be keen to make up for last year’s controversial relegation after finishing second but only to lose that spot because of the “train-crossing” affair.
Last year, Hoste was among other riders who were relegated for what race judges said was a dangerous maneuver at a training crossing late in the Roubaix course last year.
American Fred Rodriguez, who started Wednesday’s Ghent-Wevelgem, will not be starting.
Predictor-Lotto for Paris-RoubaixLeif HosteBjorn LeukemansBert RoesemsRoy SentjensTom SteelsGreg Van AvermaetWim VansevenantJohan Vansummeren
No Roubaix for Freire
Three-time world champion will detour around Sunday’s “queen of the classics.” Instead, the Rabobank captain will go home to rest ahead of the Ardennes classics.
“I’ve only seen Roubaix on TV, but judging from the amount of crashes and the type of rider it takes to win, I know it’s not a race for me,” Freire said.
The Spanish sprinter finished third in Wednesday’s Ghent-Wevelgem and is scheduled to start Amstel Gold Race on April 22.
Rabobank for Paris-RoubaixJan BovenJuan Antonio FlechaBram De GrootPedro HorrilloDmitriy KozontchukRick FlensLeon Van BonMax Van Heeswijk
|Troisvilles à Inchy|
|Viesly à Quiévy|
|Quiévy à Saint-Python|
|Vertain à St-Martin-sur-Ecaillon|
|Capelle-sur-Ecaillon – Le-Buat|
|Verchain-Maugré à Quérénaing|
|Quérénaing à Maing|
|Maing à Monchaux-sur-Ecaillon|
|Haveluy à Wallers|
|Tranchée (ou Trouée) d’Arenberg|
|Wallers à Hélesmes|
|Hornaing à Wandignies – Hamage|
|Warlaing à Brillon|
|Tilloy à Sars-et-Rosières|
|Beuvry-la-Forêt à Orchies|
|Auchy-lez-Orchies à Bersée|
|Mérignies à Pont-à-Marcq|
|Pont-Thibaut à Ennevelin|
|Templeuve – L’Epinette|
|Templeuve – Moulin-de-Vertain|
|Cysoing à Bourghelles|
|Bourghelles à Wannehain|
|Carrefour de l’Arbre|
Voigt takes stage, Vicioso defends at Basque Country
Germany’s Jens Voigt (CSC) won the fourth stage of the Tour of the Basque Country on Thursday.
Voigt got into a nine-man lead group that went on to build a maximum lead of eight minutes on the group. The peloton eventually upped the pace and began to close in, but Voigt — known for daring raids either solo or in the company of others — decided to prolong his efforts, attacking on his own at the 119km mark.
The German was no threat in the general classification and completed the remaining 57km to finish more than 90 seconds ahead of Juan Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir), who parted company with his overall rivals in the final kilometers to take second in the 176km stage between Vitoria and Lekunberri.
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) crossed third at 1:53.
Spaniard Angel Vicioso (Relax-Gam) retained the race leader’s jersey, albeit by a reduced margin of 1:46 over Gomez Marchante and 1:54 over Juan Jose Cobo (Saunier Duval-Prodir).
Friday’s fifth stage, over 169km between Lekunberri and Oiartzum, features five rated climbs, two of them Category 1 ascents. —Agence France Presse
Tour of the Basque Country — Stage 4
1. Jens Voigt (G), CSC, 176km in 4:32:15
2. Juan Angel Gomez Marchante (Sp), Saunier Duval-Prodir, at 1:39
3. Alejandro Valverde (Sp)m Caisse d’Epargne, at 1:53
4. Rinaldo Nocentini (I), Ag2r, s.t.
5. Damiano Cunego (I), Lampre-Fondital, s.t..
1. Angel Vicioso (Sp), Relax-Gam, 17:14:26
2. Juan Angel Gomez Marchante (Sp), Saunier Duval-Prodir, at 1:46
3. Juan Jose Cobo (Sp) , Saunier Duval-Prodir, at 1:54
4. Tadej Valjavec (Slo), Lampre-Fondital, at 2:09
5. Koldo Gil (Sp), Saunier Duval-Prodir, s.t.