|Navigators Report Flanders, Belgium Part 2|
"With luck, the riders awoke to beautiful blue
skies... the temperature was still hovering just below freezing, and everyone
knew that some kind of wind would await them near the coast, but at least they
could see the sun..." Updated with photos by Karen Lambrecht
RECORD Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen (UCI 2.1):
Stage 2: Torhout- Handzame 180.6 km
The second of the 3-Days, offered up a nice serving of one of Belgian cycling’s
other delicacies…twisty, flat, open, and often very narrow, roads.
The key to this flavor of Belgie racing is the wind. On the calmest of days,
there is always wind on the north coast of Belgium, so Navigators neo-pro,
Bernard Van Ulden received his first education on riding the bricks yesterday,
and he was happy to learn in the team meeting that lesson number two would
center around the Viking god Thor, and his ability to split the field into many
Riders line up for the start. photo c. Karen Lambrecht
With luck, the riders awoke to beautiful blue skies, and hardly a shred of
visible evidence that air could be moved. Of course, the temperature was still
hovering just below freezing, and everyone knew that some kind of wind would
await them near the coast, but at least they could see the sun, and the flags
hanging in the courtyard didn’t look like they were mounted on cardboard and
pointed directly at them.
Unibet, Aqua Sapone, and Rabobank at the start. photo c. Karen Lambrecht
After yesterday’s soft showing, the Navigators were ready for some aggressive
racing, and when the first break of the day was announced at 15km in, the
Uzbekistan National Champion, Sergey Lagutin was in the mix.
Three riders gained a small advantage, and Lagutin was joined by Davitamon
Lotto’s Nick Ingels, Chocolade Jacques’ Frederik Willems, and the last across
the gap was Bodysol’s Kristoff De Zutter.
With smooth and efficient efforts, the quartet built a steady margin, and as the
gap approached 1 minute, the Quickstep team took control, and set pace at the
front of the main bunch. The four leaders were smooth and committed, and their
advantage reached nearly 6 minutes in spite of the often-adversarial wind. But 6
minutes was more than Quickstep would allow, and after holding the group to just
under that mark, they turned up the pace with about 90 km to go.
Kobzarenko and Lagutin photo c. Karen
Unibet's Wilson - Hunt photo c. K. Lambrecht
The four leaders were focused and cooperative, and they maintained a solid
pace. Quickstep was forced to work the chase, and eventually received some help
from the Unibet team of Jeremy hunt.
With Lagutin gaining some advantage seconds at the bonus sprints, the break was
showing some potential for reward in spite of the now determined, and blistering
chase by Belgium’s revered team.
Unfortunately, the 4 were absorbed on the last finishing circuit, about 10 km
from the finish. A long open section of road, with a significant cross wind had
the field in the gutter as they rushed upon the escapees who had been gone for
over 150 km. Lagutin struggled to find a slot in the long speeding train of
riders, but there were no gentleman in the bunch. As Lagutin struggled to hold
the back of the bunch, his team-mates Glen Chadwick and Ben Brooks dropped to
offer protection and shelter, but the pace was too high, and Lagutin’s reserves
were tapped from his efforts.
Sergey Lagutin Photo c. Karen Lambrecht
The bunch wound up for another exciting kick, and Kobzarenko, and Clarke
worked to get Grishkin in position. The trio did a good job of staying together
in the frenetic rush under the 1km banner, but at 600 meters, Clarke and
Grishkin were split, and Grishkin found the clean line, sitting third wheel with
500 meters to go. But, 500 meters was too far to go, and McEwen’s Lotto train
rushed past, bringing the sprint ace to perfect position to win the kick in
front of CSC’s Matti Breschel, and Unibet’s Hunt. Grishkine followed Chicchi to
the line in 18th place as Chicchi keeps the leader’s jersey with Hunt moving
into 2nd, and McEwen now in 3rd.
Tomorrow will be the third and final course on this West Flemish weekend
menu, and the day’s special will feature the pitching bergs and cobbled climbs
of the Belgian Ardennes.
1 Robbie Mc Ewen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 4.21.12
2 Matti Breschel (Den) Team CSC
3 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Unibet.com
1 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Quick Step - Innergetic 8.30.17
2 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Unibet.com 0.03
3 Robbie Mc Ewen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto