Gent-Wevelgem: Boonen 5th, OPQS Gives Everything to Ensure Sprint Finale
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team surrounded Tom Boonen in hopes of a top result at 233km Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday.
In a race filled with nervousness and crashes, OPQS was able to stay near the front and also put all riders into the chasing down of a breakaway that included Silvan Dillier (BMC Racing Team), Andrey Amador (Movistar), and Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing). Guillaume Van Keirsbulck even tried to bridge with about 18km to go in the race, but he was brought back by a peloton that maintained a high pace.
The catch was a close one, as the gap remained at 18" with 3.9km to go. However, OPQS refused to settle for the breakaway staying away, and put everything into ensuring a bunch sprint finale for Boonen.
The catch was made inside the final kilometer, and the peloton was spread across the road trying to lead out their top sprinters. Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) crashed several kilometers earlier, putting them out of contention. There was another crash during the chaotic sprint, but OPQS did not appear to have any riders involved.
John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) had the best position in the middle of the road and won, with Arnaud Demare (FDJ.fr) 2nd and Peter Sagan (Cannondale ProCycling) 3rd. Boonen finished 5th, launching his sprint on the left side.
“I still had some pain in my hand," Boonen said. "In the beginning it was still sensitive. On the cobbles it still hurts, but on the normal roads it was acceptable. It was not something I was worrying about. I have some time left to recover from this. As for the race, I was good today. The race was really fast. You can see if it’s fast like that the splits are maybe appearing later in the race. Everyone is already tired. It wasn’t really windy today, so it changed the tactics a lot. The first time on the Kemmelberg we were attending the race in the front. I told Styby straight away I was going to aim for the sprint, not try to bomb the race on the climbs. It’s too far to get to the final. So I concentrated on the sprint from the last time on the Kemmelberg. Then everything went the way I was hoping it would, the team brought me until the final, but in the sprint we messed it up in the last 400 meters. But OK, my condition was good. So maybe it hurts even more. If you start sprinting and blow right away you say OK, but if you start sprinting from 15th position and finish 5th, it’s maybe a missed chance. It’s painful to lose a race like that. But, that happens and now we look ahead.”
Tom Boonen won’t participate in VDK Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde.
“Now it is recovery, concentration, and training, to tune things up for next Sunday," Boonen said.