Boonen with right knee contusion after Gent Wevelgem crash
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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Boonen with right knee contusion after Gent Wevelgem crash

by Kyle Moore at 3:58 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Injury
“My knee is swollen and it hurts, but we’ll see how it reacts tomorrow. It is important to keep calm”

Tom BoonenOmega Pharma-Quick Step entered Gent Wevelgem with multiple cards to play. Mark Cavendish was available for the bunch sprint option, two-time defending champion Tom Boonen would be likely to stir up the climbs, and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad runner-up Stijn Vandenbergh has brilliantly covered moves throughout the early “spring” season.

But Wilfried Peeters’ squad came up empty handed on Sunday, when Boonen crashed out of the race, a small group decided the placings without Cavendish, and Vandenbergh’s attack in the finale went unrewarded.

Boonen comes in to the week before the Ronde van Vlaanderen on increasingly good form, after animating the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke on Friday. According to the Belgian champion, he had shaken up the early portions of Gent Wevelgem as well, helping to cause the early 25-man group that got away in the crosswinds and contained many of the overall favourites.

But prior to the first ascent of the Kemmelberg, Boonen was caught between the swollen peloton and an approaching curb on the right side of the road, and found himself in a position where he could not hop over it. He caught his front wheel and went down hard on his right side.

“Everybody was looking for good position before the Kemmelberg. I was waiting in the group for the right and last moment to go to the front so I didn't spend so much energy,” Boonen explained on the team website. “At the moment I thought 'OK, this is the time to go,’ another rider passed me from the right [on the sidewalk], so I had to wait for a few seconds. In those few seconds the curb went from zero to ten centimeters. The rider in front of me didn't see it and he wanted to go. So, I had to react and didn't have enough room to jump on it.

“I touched it with my front wheel and went down pretty hard. I landed first on my knee and then on the rest of my body. My knee is swollen, it hurts, but we'll see how it reacts tomorrow. Now is important to keep calm and don't try to run before we can walk.”

Boonen also explained what happened after the race’s late start in Gistel. “We started straight away very hard. I was the first guy to put the speed up high and make it very hard,” he added. “It split into five groups straight away. It was a tough day for everyone. Actually, at the moment of the crash we had the race perfectly under control. We wanted to have someone in the break after the Kemmelberg for sure. We tried to be there with one or two guys and then we could make a decision what to do. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side today.”

Cavendish was his team’s obvious option for the bunch sprint, although it never happened thanks to the efforts of race champion Peter Sagan’s escape group.

“It was a very cold day, a very fast day,” Cavendish said. "I felt good today but we were a little bit unlucky when we lost Tom in a key moment of the race. With Tom in the race we could have done something good after the Kemmelberg. Anyway, we had Stijn in the front, and he had a great race once again. But Sagan is a machine. He deserved to win today.”

With Boonen out and Cavendish unavailable in the final five kilometres, Vandenbergh was again his squad’s best option in the finale. Having done no work for nearly 60 kilometres in his breakaway, Vandenbergh made his attempt with 4km to go, but the sprinting prowess of Sagan, Borut Bozic (Astana), and Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) was too much for the tall Belgian to escape.

“I just attacked in the final, as it was my only chance, so when they reacted and got on my wheel, they were a little bit fresher," Vandenbergh said of Sagan and his fellow escapees. "There was no chance for me to react to Sagan's move.”

“Tom and Cavendish were the leaders today. I just followed on the Kemmelberg but I did nothing because we had Cavendish in the back. To get a top 10 result is still good for the team, as we always want to try to go for a good result regardless of the race situation.”


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