World Ports Classic: Boonen blasts home on stage one
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Friday, August 31, 2012

World Ports Classic: Boonen blasts home on stage one

by José Been at 10:59 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
First race lead for Belgian champ

Tom BoonenAlthough he downplayed his favourite status in the days leading up to the race, the first stage of the inaugural World Ports Classic was taken today by Tom Boonen. The Belgian champion finished off a day of by-the-book Omega Pharma-Quick Step teamwork by beating Lotto-Belisol's André Greipel and Katusha's Alexander Kristoff in the gallop to the line.

After the finish Tom Boonen called the 201-kilometre race a four-hour time trial. “I am very proud of winning here today. It was our plan to ride full throttle from the start. My teammates really made this race hard, which resulted in a final bunch sprint with about 40 riders.”

Kristoff tried to pick up a win for Katusha but couldn't do better than third. "It was really hard stage with a very strong wind. Our team spent a lot of energy to get me back into leader’s group and I thank our teammates for that," he said. "In the final, Oscar [Freire] provided me big help in the sprint. Maybe I started too early, but I tried to give my all for the best position. So, after such a race I am pretty happy with the result and I am looking forward to the next stage tomorrow. Hope, we will have a chance to fight for something better."

Run off in autumn-like conditions, the ASO-organised race was characterized by the wind. Immediately from the start the peloton split in three pieces. Top sprinters like Marcel Kittel, Mark Renshaw, Tom Boonen, Oscar Freire and Alexander Kristoff found themselves in the first group, André Greipel and Theo Bos in the second echelon. The gap between the two groups remained stable around 30-40 seconds for the entire race but, because of the ferocious crosswinds, Lotto-Belisol and Garmin-Sharp - who had no riders up front - couldn't close the gap.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step had strength in numbers with five riders in the first group, and three in the chasing group. When they sent Andrew Fenn up the road in the final, the pace dropped and the second group managed to come back.

Rabobank's sprint ace Theo Bos called it the hardest race of his career. “I am bust. We rode over 52km/h average,” he said afterwards. “I was on the verge of having to let go several times during the race. This was so hard. It was a fair race, though. Everyone did their share up front. There was no hiding from the wind today." He ultimately didn't contest the sprint but his teammate Mark Renshaw finished fifth.

A large part of the field finished outside the 8% time cut. The commissaires considered excluding them, but eventually decided to raise the split to 12% of the winner’s time.

The inaugural version of the World Ports Classic finishes tomorrow with a stage in opposite direction from Antwerp to Rotterdam, over 163 km. Tom Boonen will start in the leader's jersey but there are bonus seconds available on the road and the finish line, leaving the final outcome up in the air.

If he and his team ride as they did today, he could well run out as the final victor. Even so, he says he’s still building.

“My form is not just yet where it should be for the upcoming World Championships, but it's coming,” he said. “After this weekend I will recover and then focus 100% on Valkenburg.”

World Ports Classic (2.1)

Stage 1, Rotterdam to Antwerpen:

1, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma - Quick Step) 201 kilometres in 3 hours 56 mins 47 secs
2, Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol Team)
3, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha Team)
4, Blaz Jarc (Team NetApp)
5, Marc Renshaw (Rabobank Cycling Team)
6, Steele Von Hoff (Chipotle Development Team)
7, Jonathan Cantwell (Team Saxo Bank)
8, Michael Van Staeyen (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator)
9, Guillaume Boivin (Spidertech Powered By C10)
10, Daniel Schorn (Team NetApp) all same time

More to follow


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