Gent-Wevelgem: Vandenbergh 8th on Shortened Course
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Stijn Vandenbergh was 8th, finishing with the former select group that produced eventual race winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale) on Sunday at Gent-Wevelgem. Gent-Wevelgem was shortened by about 45km, with a different starting location, because of snow and cold.
The race was immediately animated, with the peloton splintering due to wind and the high pace. OPQS had as many as six riders in the front group, after Tom Boonen, Mark Cavendish, and Zdenek Stybar were in the original lead group almost immediately. Eventually Michal Kwiatkowski, Nikolas Maes and Gert Steegmans were able to catch on with a second group. However, that move of about 50 riders was brought back with 87km to go.
Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) counter attacked, with a few others following. Eventually Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) tried to bridge to the escape group, and that is when Vandenbergh, Sagan, and others followed. Eventually the chasers caught the break with 51km to go, and an 11 rider select group worked together until about 15km remaining. The gap began to fall, and Sagan — who had a teammate with him until about 5km to go — caught Vandenbergh on a brief attack, countering soon after. Sagan was able to build up a 16" gap with 2km to go and eventually crossed the line for the win. Borut Bozic (Astana Pro Team) was 2nd and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) was 3rd.
Tom Boonen was forced to abandon after a crash in the area of the Kemmelberg climb.
"In the final I just attacked as it was my only chance, so when they reacted and got on my wheel, they were a little bit fresher," Vandenbergh said. "There was no chance for me to react to Sagan's move."
"Tom and Cavendish were the leaders today," Vandenbergh said. "I just followed on the Kemmelberg but I did nothing because we had Cavendish in the back. To get a top 10 result is still good for the team, as we always want to try to go for a good result regardless of the race situation."
Boonen is reported by team medical staff to have a contusion on the right knee and the tendon in the area of the tibia insertion as a result of the crash. Another evaluation will be made and communicated tomorrow.
"Everybody was looking for good position for the Kemmelberg," Boonen said about the moments before the crash. "I was waiting in the group for the right and last moment to go to the front so I didn't spend so much energy. At the moment I thought 'OK, this is the time to go', another rider passed me from the right, so I had to wait for a few seconds. In those few seconds the curb went from zero to 10 centimeters. The rider in front of me didn't see it and he wanted to go. So, I had to react and didn't have enough room to jump on it. I touched it with my front wheel and went down pretty hard. I touched first with my knee and then with the rest of my body. My knee is swollen, it hurts, but we'll see how it reacts tomorrow. Now is important to keep calm now and don't try to run before we can walk."
"We started straight away very hard," Boonen said of the race. "I was the first guy to put the speed up high and make it very hard. It split into five groups straight away. It was a tough day for everyone. Actually, at the moment of the crash we had the race perfectly under control. We wanted to have someone in the break after the Kemmelberg for sure. We tried to be there with one or two guys and then we could make a decision what to do. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side today."
"It was a very cold day, a very fast day," Cavendish said. "I felt good today but we were a little bit unlucky when we lost Tom in a key moment of the race. With Tom in the race we could have done something good after the Kemmelberg. Anyway, we had Stijn in the front, he had a great race once again. But Sagan is a machine. He deserved to win today."