“I never liked this race,” said HTC-Columbia’s Bernard Eisel. He might like it now.
Eisel blew past a fading George Hincapie (BMC) in the last 200 meters to win the 2010 Gent Wevelgem. Sep Vanmarcke of the little-guy Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator team earned himself a massive bonus in taking second.
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) snuck in for third best but was seen kicking himself and his teammate Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto) for their questionable tactics. They had the advantage in the winning six rider group.
Gent Wevelgem looked like a race that could end any number of ways once Matti Breschel blew the race apart on the second climb of the Kemmelberg.
In the split about 10 riders made the front group and there were plenty of stars to chose from. Oscar Freire put the fear of Oscar in the break as the fastest sprinter until he suddenly, unaccountably dropped off. Post Milan San Remo fatigue?
Breschel of Saxo Bank appeared to be a strong candidate until a slow wheel change from the neutral service car ended his day. With Breshcel and Freire gone, Eisel knew he had his best shot. “This is the chance, you have to take it,” said Eisel. “I was really going well.”
The experienced George Hincapie, who won the race back in 2001, was also a top candidate but ran out of gas. He’d skipped E3 on Saturday hoping to be fresh but his dead-legs attack at the finish was quickly countered by three riders — he sat down in the saddle almost immediately. Stars and stripes but no podium
Spectators and race commentators kept waiting for Gilbert and Roelandts to attack their four break companions but it never happened. Confusion and indecision in the Omega Pharma-Lotto team car? Hard to drive those narrow roads and strategize at the same time. Gilbert can count himself lucky to get third.
American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) rode well but sadly tactics did not play in his favor. Stuck in a chase group of four, nobody wanted to help the fast man close the 30 second gap. Even when they picked up Breshel after his mechanical, they made no headway. That’s bike racing, as they say. They also say alot of obscenities but we can’t repeat those.
Not in the mix, yesterdays top finishers in E3, Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen, put in a half day, left at the feed zone and watched the race on an 80 inch flat screen in the Team Sky disco team bus.
Bernard Eisel said he’s only finished Gent Wevelgem twice in nine times. After the course recon, he admitted it was going to be a suffer-fest. But he was all smiles at the finish. “It’s a big laugh,” said Eisel.