Marcel Kittel defends Scheldeprijs title in photo finish sprint
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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Marcel Kittel defends Scheldeprijs title in photo finish sprint

by Ben Atkins at 11:32 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
German holds off late surge from Mark Cavendish to take sprinters’ Classic

marcel kittelMarcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) successfully defended his Scheldeprijs title as he sprinted to victory at the end of the 204km Belgian semi-Classic. The German’s victory was almost as close as it could have been, however, as he held off a late charge from three-time race winner Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who came from a long way back in the final metres and threw his bike across the line less than a wheel’s width behind the German.

Having started his sprint behind Kittel, but unable to come out of the German’s slipstream, 21-year-old Dutchman Barry Markus (Vacansoleil-DCM) took third.

“Full-gas, all out, and then trying to reach the finish line first,” was how Kittel described his victory to the TV cameras immediately after the race. “It was pretty hectic. I was really lucky that Tom Leezer could bring me down the left side to the front, and then from 200 - I don’t know - fifty, thirty metres I just went full-gas on the left side.

“There was a little bit of headwind, but I managed to reach the line first,” he smiled. “Super-happy about it.

“I have to say a big thank you to my team,” he added. “They did a lot of work to try to keep me in front, and it’s awesome to win again.”

The main break of the race - which started in in Antwerp’s city centre and finishing in the eastern suburb of Schoten - came from Matt Brammeier (Champion System), Stefano Borchi (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) and Sven Vandousselaere (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), who escaped just before the halfway point after a previous nine-man group had been closed down.

The breakaway trio was able to get a little over three and a half minutes clear, before behind steadily reeled in by the sprinters teams, and caught with just over 25km to go. From that point on the different sprinters’ teams competed for the head of the peloton, with Kittel coming out on top of a slightly chaotic sprint.

Nine men are chased down and three more get away

Following the start in the centre of Antwerp the race took in a long, 155km loop to the north and east of the city, before completing three 16.4km finishing circuits. The peloton rolled out under overcast skies, with a few light flakes of snow in the air, but the race was to stay dry - and cold - for its duration.

The first break of the race got away after just eight kilometres, with Borchi, Arman Kamyshev (Astana), Grégory Rast (RadioShack-Leopard), Jacobus Venter (MTN-Qhubeka), Kenneth Van Bilsen (Tpsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Mart Ojavee (Champion System).

The six-rider group was chased and joined by Brammeier, Chris Juul Jensen (Saxo-Tinkoff) and David Veilleux (Europcar) after 18km.

By the 35km point the nine-rider group was 4’05” ahead, but the peloton was beginning to accelerate into the crosswinds behind. Echelons splitting the bunch into six pieces, with the Omega Pharma-Quick Step-led front part rapidly closing the gap to the breakaway group.

After 84km the first part of peloton caught up with the nine leaders, with the rest regaining contact after 88km. Just a few kilometres later, however, Borchi and Brammeier escaped again, with Vandousselaere

Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Blanco Pro Cycling were keeping control of the peloton, but quite happy to allow the three leaders a little freedom.

With 92km to go there was a crash involving several riders, including Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Fabian Cancellara. The Swiss rider was quickly back in the race - although he then had to stop to change his bike - and, aside from a large graze on his left buttock, appeared to be unhurt.

As the peloton eased up a little to allow the crashed riders to catch up, the leading trio’s advantage rose to more than three minutes. Garmin-Sharp moved up to join the front of the peloton, but the gap rose to 3’30” with 80km to go; it was to peak at 3’38” at the 75km to go point, before Argos-Shimano became the latest team to sent a man forward, and the chase began. At 70km to go the gap was down to three minutes, while at 60km it was 2’10”.

The finishing laps begin as the breakaway’s days look numbered

Across the finish line for the first time, with the three laps of 16.4km - a total of 49.2km - to go, Borchi and Brammeier and Vandousselaere were just 53 seconds clear, with Blanco Pro Cycling now at the front of the peloton in numbers. The Dutch team was in no hurry to catch the trio - although it upped the pace on the Broekstraat cobbles to keep the peloton under control - but, at the end of lap one, the gap was just 21 seconds.

Vacansoleil-DCM, Europcar and Omega Pharma-Quick Step had taken over from Blanco by now, and the final seconds of the gap were steadily beginning to tick downwards.

With 30km to go the three riders had just 17 seconds left and began to look over their shoulders at the peloton behind them. None was giving up, however, with each moment they were in front giving their teammates a free ride behind; there was little commitment in the trio’s efforts now though, and, with 27km to go, Vandousselaere sat up and drifted backwards. Brammeier lasted a little longer, while Borchi persisted stubbornly, but was caught just before the 25km banner.

It was Blanco Pro Cycling that pushed itself to the front in the opening corners of the lap, however, although Omega Pharma-Quick Step joined in with the Dutch team’s train. It was all too soon for either team to burn out its sprint train, however, and the peloton widened as the pace dropped.

Blanco stopped pacing as Lars Boom’s leadout man, Graeme Brown stopped with a puncture, allowing Team Sky and Saxo-Tinkoff to move forward.

Astana and Omega Pharma-Quick Step led onto the Broekstraat, keeping the pace high to prevent attacks and shelling several riders out the back. Shortly before the five kilometre banner though, Team Sky moved up in force. With Brown having rejoined the peloton, and moved back up to the front, Blanco was trying to get ahead of the British team, while Argos-Shimano was accelerating on the other side of the road.

Blanco and Team Sky took over, but once again it was Argos-Shimano that took the front into the final kilometre as it brought Kittel forward. Kenny Dehaes (Lotto-Belisol) was the first rider to start his sprint, but the Belgian had gone far too early and was passed by Kittel as he began his own dash for the line.

Theo Bos and Markus were forced to go around Dehaes as he came back through the sprinting pack, and and the two of them came together slightly. This put the Blanco rider off his stride, and saw him also drift backwards as the line approached.

Cavendish meanwhile, was a long way back, and had to go the long way around Andrea Guardini (Astana) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp). The Manxman was soon up to his sprinting speed, but the line was approaching too quickly for him to be able to deny Kittel, and he hit the finish less than the circumference of his wheel behind the German.

1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Argos-Shimano
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
3. Barry Markus (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM
4. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Team Astana
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha Team
6. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp
7. Kenny Dehaes (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
8. Theo Bos (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling
9. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM
10. Michael Van Staeyen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise


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