Het Nieuwsblad: Thomas 4th in First Classic of 2013


Welshman Geraint Thomas was fourth in the first of the 2013 Classics, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Het Volk) won by Italian Luca Paolini

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L-R: Stijn Vandenbergh, Luca Paolini & Sven Vandousselaere. Photo: OPQS/Tim de Waele

The race began with tempertures below freezing with the riders facing 199km of cobbled climbs and narrow roads so typical of these early season classics. The early stages, like so many pro races saw a break go clear with NetApp-Endura rider Zak Dempster of Australia getting in the move. The speed of the race remained high as the bunch gave them some leeway but with the speed averaging 46km/h, the lead of the break never got out of control.

In the peloton, the team known now as Blanco (used to be Rabobank) drove the chase along with FDJ and Lotto-Belisol. Team Sky came to the fore on the Donderij cobbles, but as the race hit the Taaienberg, it was 2011 winner Sebastian Langeveld (Orica-GreenEDGE) who caused some damage splitting the peloton.

As the ‘bergs followed thick and fast, the peloton started to disintegrate and after the early break had been brought back, it was Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) who seized the opportunity to attack solo, opening up some daylight on the Belgian lanes.

A selection formed featuring a number of big names including Geraint Thomas, Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol), Lars Boom (Blanco Cycling), Marco Bandiera (IAM Cycling), Van Avermaet and Paolini. After Chavanel was finally reeled in at the top of the Molenberg, it became a battle of the two groups, with Orica-GreenEDGE committing numbers to the second group which contained the likes of Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step), defending champion Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco) and Team Sky trio Eisel, British champion Ian Stannard and Boasson Hagen.

The peloton though was not making up any ground on the selection up front and Quick-Step used their numerical advantage to good use as Vandenbergh jumped clear with Paolini building up a good lead heading into the final 20km.

From that two up break, it was Katusha’s Luca Paolini who beat Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) into Gent to win the seasons first ‘Spring’ classic. Whilst those two stayed away, Thomas, who had crashed earlier in the race, was denied the final podium place by Sven Vandousseleare (Topsport-Vlaanderen) who beat Thomas and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) in the rush to the line.


Photo: OPQS/Tim de Waele

Paolini went for the sprint in the final few hundred meters, and despite the best efforts of Vandenbergh, Paolini crossed the line victorious. Chavanel attacked the chase group in the final kilometer, but finished 7th amongst his chase group members. Sven Vandousselaere (Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise) was 3rd.

“I’m absolutely happy about this win – said Paolini – it’s a very important victory both for me, for Katusha and for Russia. It was a special triumph for me in a very prestigious race, one of the most beautiful Belgian classic races. I felt in a great condition despite the cold weather, and in the end I managed to win thanks also to my bigger experience. I have to thank the whole team, they worked great: in the morning we decided the strategy, and everything went as we planned. I wanted to anticipate the most favorite riders, and thanks to my shape I managed to”.

“Second place is also good, to win is better but with second I am happy,” Vandenbergh said. “I was in front with Chava on the Eikenberg when he took action. Then, after the Lippenhovestraat, I attacked. It was in my mind I was in a good place because on the Lippenhovestraat I was in the front, and after that we turned to the left I went on the side, and it was a good moment for an attack.”

“After the Eikenberg I knew I felt really good and I really felt I was strong overall today. As for the sprint, Paolini went with 250 meters and he took directly two or three meters. He was simply too fast. When I attacked I knew I had Paolini with me, and he is really strong. But after a hard race like today you don’t know how he will be in the final. I will sleep good because I am happy with my second place.”

“I am happy about my race,” Chavanel said about his aggressive performance. “I tried to attack and I was thinking somebody would have followed me. When I remained alone I really didn’t force the situation. With a headwind it wasn’t possible to go to the finish alone. In any case I’m happy about my condition and I want to congratulate Stijn for the great race. He deserves it.”

Tom Boonen, meanwhile, was seen chatting comfortably in the peloton at times during the race and was seen at the front grabbing bottles deep into the race.

“I still have a lot of work to do,” Boonen said about his condition leading into the Classics. “I think I did better than I expected. I’m back on track for the Classics. Especially with this really hard weather, these really hard conditions it went well.”

“After 100km I already felt empty, but with the experience I have, and the experience with the race, I still made it through pretty OK to the final, and made it through the accelerations I needed to do because the group was already gone.”

“I felt OK and like I said, I need some extra work, but it was the first time I really had to go deep for a longer time — one hours or two hours. So, I feel satisfied. Today we had a few guys who were able to make it into the front group.”

“It’s really nice to have a race like that. It’s nice to know if you really have a hard half hour, you have teammates who can take over the actions of the race. I’m happy for Stijn. I knew that he can do these kind of actions. Unfortunately he was in the breakaway with Paolini who is faster than him, and has a lot of experience. Stijn in any case showed he was ready and on a good track for the next important races.”

Matteo Trentin crashed during the race — hitting his right hand — and was forced to withdraw. He will pass further examinations this evening to check the extent of the injury to his hand.


1 Luca Paolini Kat 4:52:14
2 Stijn Vandenbergh Omega Pharma Quickstep
3 Sven Vandousselaere Topsport
4 Geraint Thomas Sky
5 Greg Van Avermaet BMC
6 Marco Bandiera Ita IaM
7 Sylvain Chavanel Omega Pharma Quickstep
8 Jurgen Roelandts Lotto
9 Maarten Wynants Blanco
10 Egoitz Garcia Echeguibel Cofidis

17. Edvald Boasson Hagen Sky Procycling 6:27
19. Heinrich Haussler Iam Cycling 6:27
20. Jack Bauer Garmin Sharp 6:27
34. Ian Stannard Sky Procycling 6:27
53. Luke Rowe Sky Procycling 6:27
64. Bernhard Eisel Sky Procycling 6:27
65. Nick Nuyens Garmin Sharp 6:27
77. Thor Hushovd Bmc Racing Team 6:27
78. Taylor Phinney Bmc Racing Team 6:27
80. Lars Boom Blanco Pro Cycling Team 6:27
84. Tom Boonen Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team 6:27
103.Zakkari Dempster Team Netapp – Endura 12:04
110. Matt Brammeier Champion System Pro Cycling Team 13:39
114. Erick Rowsell Team Netapp – Endura 13:39
119. Russell Downing Team Netapp – Endura 13:39
120. Jonathan McEvoy Team Netapp – Endura 13:39


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