Strange Happenings in Vlaanderen, Other Racing, Injuries.

Mar 22 2006

Remember last year’s Gent-Wevelgem, when a neutral service vehicle inexplicably led Belgian Nico Mattan up to foreigner Juan Antonio Flecha in the final K? Well, at today’s Dwars door Vlaanderen relative unknown Frederik Veuchelen, another Belgian from a Belgian team and sole survivor of an earlier four-man break, held on to take the win ahead of a hard charging field. But he may have had some help, as, entering the final k with roughly 15 seconds’ lead, the race commissar neglected to pull a fleet of support vehicles out of the gap. Thus the peloton behind was sprinting into a wall of bumpers and exhaust pipes, and Ag2r’s Lloyd Mondory almost came to grief shooting the gap between a follow car and a support moto after crossing the line. It probably didn’t affect the overall win, but with the peloton snapping so closely at the breakaway’s heels, it just seems a bit suspicious, no?

At very least, it shook up the battle for the podium. Tom Boonen certainly seemed to slow up a bit as he came into the line, but the World Champ may have just been a little cooked; he rode aggressively all day, finding himself driving a group of 15 (with 4 temmates), then a two-man escape with teammate Kevin Van Impe, and finally a powerful move over the race’s last climb inside of five k to go. But for all of Quick.Step, Disco and Davitamon-Lotto’s tactical posturing behind, the final charge to the line came too late, and Continental Squad Chocolade Jacques’s man in the break had just enough to hold out, and took the day. I watched it live on Cycling.TV, and highlights are most likely up there now.

Moving on to races I didn’t see, Coppi y Bartali got its third leader in as many stages; though this guy won Stage 1a, somehow this other guy got the lead, though by the afternoon it was all moot, as CSC won the TTT, though the resulting advantage for Dave Zabriskie was in turn erased by a solo move from Vincenzo Nibali in today’s stage. At Castilla y Leon, another solo move succeeded, this time from within the final few km. At Tour of Normandy, TIAA-CREF succeeded in protecting its first European stage race lead, at least for the first half of today’s racing.

Looking forward to this weekend’s racing, Fabian Cancellara has added his name (scroll down) to the list of Italians (well, actually, he’s Swiss – but he seems Italian) targeting the classics this year. You can catch Fab live in the E3 Prijs this Saturday at 9am EST on Cycling.TV. One rider certain not to be on hand? T-Mobile’s Andreas Kloden, who needs his collarbone surgically repaired following a crash. Also likely on the wounded list is ’04 Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt, whose knee forced an early exit from last weekend’s Milan-San Remo.

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