Philippe Gilbert takes his first Belgian road title with solo move
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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Philippe Gilbert takes his first Belgian road title with solo move

by Bjorn Haake at 12:15 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, National Championships
Attack two kilometers from the line leaves Boonen, Devolder, others behind

philippe gilbertPhilippe Gilbert used a timely attack on a slightly rising cobble section two kilometers from the line to become Belgian road race champion. Gianni Meersman was second and Jelle Wallays third. Tom Boonen (seventh) and defending champion Stijn Devolder (sixth) were unable to match Gilbert's trademark attack in the 241km race.

But Boonen and Devolder, with the help of a teammate, gave Gilbert the run for his money. "I believed it only in the final meters," Gilbert said on Belgian television. Gilbert has had an incredible season, with wins in Montepaschi Strade Bianche, Liège - Bastogne - Liège, Flèche Wallonne, the Amstel Gold Race and the Brabantse Pijl, among others. "This is certainly the best year of my career. It will be hard to do better," he said.

Gilbert read the race perfectly. "When [Bart] Wellens had five minutes, something needed to be done." It was Landbouwkrediet which went after the solo cyclocrosser at the front. "When I saw that Landbouwkrediet was cooked, I wanted to make the course hard." Eventually, a group of 12 emerged, with Quick Step and Omega Pharma-Lotto well represented.

Gilbert had Francis De Greef and Sven Vandousselaere as support, Boonen counted on Kevin Seeldraeyers and Kevin Van Impe. The group worked well together and had a comfortable two minutes on the peloton with 30 kilometers remaining.

Preben van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) gave it a desperate go on a slight rise eight kilometers from the finish, but his attempt was quickly ended by the almighty Quick Step and Omega Pharma-Lotto teams.

In the final, Gilbert took a good look around. "I saw the others were struggling," he said about his strong attack. Boonen reacted immediately, but was no match for Gilbert's burst of speed.

Hard times for a break at close to 50km/h

The first hour was raced at 50 km/h, making it difficult for breaks. Mario Aerts, in his last season and in his first race after his heart problems, was the first who couldn't follow the speed.

Bart Wellens, the cyclocross specialist, was finally allowed to go. He quickly built a lead of five minutes, with over 150km remaining. Around ten riders went after Wellens, including fast men Kris Boeckmans, former champion Niko Eeckhout and Frederik Veuchelen. It was Landbouwkrediet, which put all its effort into getting the race under control again.

It was then that Wellens was caught and a large group formed, with 100 kilometers to go. The move contained five Omega Pharma-Lotto racers, which put the pressure on Quick Step. But Boonen and three teammates had made the cut. Notable riders to be left behind were Nick Nuyens and Greg Van Avermaet.

After working together until a little more than 30 kilometers to go, Van Hecke was the first to give it a go. He realized quickly he wouldn't go anywhere and was back in the group.

Van Hecke's second move was as fruitless as his first one. It was up to Gilbert to make the difference.

1. Philippe Gilbert 241 km 
2. Gianni Meersman at 3 seconds
3. Jelle Wallays s.t.
4. Edwig Cammaerts  
5. Pieter Vanspeybroeck  
6. Stijn Devolder  
7. Tom Boonen  
8. Kurt Hovelijnck  
9. Preben Van Hecke  
10. Fabio Polazzi

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