By Andrew Hood
Juan José Haedo was the center of attention Wednesday at the start of Ghent-Wevelgem as journalists scrambled to get word with the “man who beat Petacchi” in Monday’s Rund um Köln.
The Argentine ace made easy work of Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) and Graeme Brown (Rabobank) to win for the first time on European roads. The victory boosted his profile as he makes the leap from domestic racing in the United States to a largely European schedule with Team CSC.
“It was an important victory in front of people like Petacchi and Brown, I can only be happy with the win,” Haedo told VeloNews before the start of Ghent-Wevelgem. “I am very content to have this my first win in European in front of people of this category.”
Many were wondering if Haedo – who’s shined on the U.S. scene the past two seasons – could withstand the speeds and distances of racing in Europe. He’s beaten the Europeans before, but that was in American races when many of the Euro riders are quick to site jetlag and other excuses for not executing.
With the emphatic victory, Haedo erased any doubt he could compete at this level, winning after just his 10th start in Europe.
“The people can say what the want, I knew that when I came to Europe I would need a little patience, but I also knew I was capable of winning,” he said. “I’ve been training well and I have the support of one of the best teams in the world, so I am satisfied. The win came pretty fast, but I had a bad start with a crash at Criterium International. I knew with a little patience things would eventually go my way. The truth is I am very happy.”
Team CSC brass are gushing over Haedo’s finish-line punch. It’s the first time the team has had a pure sprinter on its roster and relishing the opportunity to snag a few victories that would not be on the radar for the Danish team typically focused on the spring classics and the grand tours.
“It’s a huge win for confidence and for the scalps he took there. When you start beating guys at that caliber, you start getting some respect in the peloton. They will allow some space it the finals because they know he’s a candidate to win,” said Team CSC sport director Scott Sunderland. “He’s fast. He’s got that second kick in his sprint. He’s not like a Cipo or a Petacchi, who are really strong who can sprint from 200, 300 meters. He’s got that extra punch in the final 25, 50 meters. He can find his own way around. We just have to bring him to the last 500 meters, then he can do it himself.”
Concerning his expectations for Ghent, Haedo once again urged “patience.” He’s had a taste of the cobblestones with some training rides with Team CSC, but knows Wednesday’s race will be no cakewalk.
“We have other riders who can win here, like O’Grady,” he said. “This is only my second ProTour race [Milan-San Remo was first] and there are some stronger riders here who are specially prepared for this race.”
Haedo will skip Paris-Roubaix and return to the United States to race the Tour de Georgia. After that, he’s back to Europe to race Tour de Romandie and the Giro d’Italia.
Hushovd on the mend, Giro-bound
Defending Ghent-Wevelgem champion Thor Hushovd discounted his chances of a repeat after fending off a bout of stomach flu that KO’d him ahead of Milan-San Remo last month.
“I was so sick. I wasn’t able to even touch the bike for a week and it really set back my preparation for the classics,” Hushovd told VeloNews. “I am feeling better, but I am not 100 percent. My form was better last year.”
The Norwegian sprinter started Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, but abandoned after “blowing up” on the Kwaremont climb with about 80km to go.
“I’m really just getting back to my training,” the Credit Agricole captain said. “I will race Roubaix and I hope to finish. For sure I will race the Giro to prepare for the Tour. I would like to win a stage there.”
No start for Bennati
Pre-race favorite Daniele Bennati didn’t start Wednesday’s Ghent-Wevelgem because of a bout of dysentery, according to officials from Lampre-Fondital. Bennati fell ill overnight and decided to skip the sprinter-friendly Ghent in favor of saving his reserves for Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix.
In other news, pre-race blood screenings from 40 riders on five teams – Wiesenhof, DFL-Cyclingnews, Skil-Shimano, Credit Agricole and Gerolsteiner – revealed no unfit case.
Vicioso takes lead in Basque Country
Angel Vicioso (Relax-Gam) grabbed the overall race lead after winning Wednesday’s third stage of the Tour of the Basque Country.
The Spaniard crossed ahead of countrymen Paxti Vila (Lampre-Fondital) and Iker Camano (Saunier Duval-Prodir) to win the 173.5km stage between Karrantza and Vitoria. He now leads Netherlander Bram Tankink (Quick Step-Innergetic) by two minutes and Spaniard Juan Jose Cobo (Saunier Duval-Prodir) by 2:14. —Agence France Presse
Tour of the Basque Country — Stage 3
1. Angel Vicioso (Sp), Relax-Gam, 174.5km in 4:04:06
2. Patxi Vila (Sp), Lampre-Fondital, same time
3. Iker Camano (Sp), Saunier Duval-Prodir, s.t.
4. Hubert Dupont (F), Ag2r, s.t.
5. Bram Tankink (Ned), Quick Step-Innergetic, s.t.
1. Angel Vicioso (Sp) 12:39:58
2. Bram Tankink (Ned), Quick Step-Innergetic, at 2:00
3. Juan Jose Cobo (Sp), Saunier Duval-Prodir, 2:14
4. Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Sp), Saunier Duval-Prodir, 2:20
5. Manuel Beltran (Sp), Liquigas, s.t.
QuickStep recon mission
Most teams will be taking reconnaissance rides of the cobblestones Thursday and Friday ahead of Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. Some of these rides turn into media events, especially when Tom Boonen is involved. The QuickStep-Innergetic team will ride Friday from the Haveluy à Wallers (pavé sector 19) to Cysoing à Bourghelles (pavé sector 6) to check out part of the course. Boonen will then give a press conference later that afternoon.
|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|