Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) already won the Omloop Het Volk in 2006 after a solo ride but this time he broke
off with 50 kilometres to go. Nick Nuyens (Cofodis) came in second and Norwegian rider Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) completed
Silence - Lotto's Robbie McEwen had to abandone the race after only 20 kilometres and shortly after that Aleksandr Kuschynski
(Liquigas), David Boucher (Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner), Michael Friedman (Slipstream Chipotle - H30), Sébastien Minard (Cofidis),
Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Arnaud Gerard (Française des Jeux) broke away. The breakaway of the day was born and
had a maximum lead of almost 8 minutes.
Quickstep controlled the race and was always at the front of the bunch. The Belgian Pro - Tour squad started wih a stong
team with riders like Tom Boonen, Paolo Bettini, Stijn Devolder and Gert Steegmans. Quickstep accelerated before the
bunch arrived at the Kruisberg and Bettini and Devolder rode full gas on that cobble stone climb.
The Cofidis team came to the front as well and the French team and Stijn devolder demolished the peloton. Only 30 riders
were in the first main group.
With 50 kilometres to go Phillipe Gilbert attacked at the Eikenberg. Nobody was able
or willing to follow the 25 year old Belgian rider.
Meanwhile the early breakaway group fall apart as more and more riders were dropped. Only Krivtsov and Minard were left
of the original front group. Gilbert catched one after the other during his impressive solo ride. The winner of two
stages at this years Vuelta a Mallorca was chased by a group with Leif Hoste (Silence - Lotto), Nick Nuyens (Cofidis), Fabian
Cancellara (CSC) and Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole).
As Gilbert picked up his teammate Gerard (who was part of the eary breakaway group), Gerard gave all
he had one more time to bring Gilbert to the two race leaders. On the 2600 metres long cobblestone section De Lange Munte
Gilbert dropped Krivtsov and Minard.
Behind Gilbert the Nuyens group rode full gas to catch Gilbert but the Francaise
des Jeux rider rode like Eddy Merckx in his best days. Gilbert arrived solo in Gent and won the traditional Belgian opener
Omloop Het Volk.
Gilber was really happy with his second victory at Het Volk. Gilbert said: "This is the most beautiful
day of my life." The race winner added: "I had incredible legs today and I could capitalise on that today. It was a very strange
race. In the beginning it was all very nervous. But I noticed very early that I was stronger as the others."
Gilbert continued by saying: "I took off at the Eikenberg and did not look back to anybody. As I was
still riding alone after 10 kilometres, I only thought: I have to pedal as strong as I can until the finish."
Nick Nuyens came in second and could have lost the race after he decided not to follow Gilbert as he
was thinking Gilbert took off to early. Nuyens said: "I think I was the best of the rest. I was in Gilberts wheel when he
took off. He rode really fast. I don't know if I would have been able to follow, but I decided not to do it."
Nuyens continued: "The finish was still far away and with the storm. The others thought it was to early
as well. I also didn't understand what Quickstep was doing. But if you can do this, you proof that you are the best. My respect
goes to Gilbert, the best rider won today."
Quickstep dominated the race for a long time but did not play a role in the final part of the race.
Stijn Devolder said: "After the Kruisberg only Tom Boonen, Kevin Hulsmans and me were left in the main group. We hesitated
and then a group took off. We didn't jump with them and were not able to catch them again.
Quickstep sports director Wilfried Peeters said: We want to dominate the final and we didn't succeed.
Of course we are dissapointed. Maybe we were to agressive at the Kruisberg."
According to Rabobank's sports director Erik Dekker, the Dutch team rode the as planned until the Kruisberg.
Dekker praised Phillipe Gilbert and said the strongest rider had won. Dekker said: "My general mood is dominated by disappointment.
We arrived at the start with more ambition than this, but every rider has his explanation as to why he could not do it. Some
were just not good enough, and, even though I do not want to make excuses, sometimes we just experienced bad luck. Gerben
and Bram kept up with the pace, but then were hindered by that crash."
Tankink was the best Rabo-man in the 'extremely pesky and difficult' - according to Dekker - race. "He had to come
from a long way, but nearly managed to join that pursuit group." The same goes for Langeveld. "But, I am not quite sure why
he did not make it."
Allan Johansen (CSC) tried to grap the second spot but was cathed by Nuyens and Hushhovd. CSC Sports
Director Lars Michaelsen said: "The whole team did really well. I was actually quite impressed by how fit they all were. And
great to see Allan Johansen still going strong."
"We got through the day without any accidents – the only mishap
was when Matti Breschel damaged his bike. That was unfortunate because he was having a really good day before that, which
is was all the others said as well after the race was over. Too bad of course, but also encouraging for him with the immediate
future in mind," concluded Michaelsen.
Tomorrow the second Belgian race will take place. We will publish a race report of Kuurne - Brussels