Vaitkus takes Ronde van Het Groene Hart

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24.03.2008/ Astana's Tomas Vaitkus won yesterdays second edition of the Ronde van het Groene Hart. Vaitkus won the mass sprint, last years winner Wouter Weylandt came in second.

On a cold day 139 riders on 18 teams started the race which took the peloton through the countryside known as the 'green heart', an area preserved for sport and recreation between The Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. 

The weather conditions made it to a though race, the riders faced rain, snow flurries and a strong wind as they made their way from Zoetermeer to Woerden.

An early escape of four riders gained a time advantage of more than two minutes but the bunch didn't like the break with Jens Mouris (Mitsubishi-Jartazi), Dennis Smit (Dutch National Team), Eelke Van Der Wal (Krolstone) and Maurice Vrijmoed (Van Vliet-EBH Elshof) and after 50 kilometres the group was all together. As the weather worsened and the pace remained high, the peloton split into several groups as the riders formed echelons to fight the wind and continue their race toward Woerden.

Numerous attacks followed with Gustav Larsson (CSC) managing a nice gap of over 40 seconds after the fifth and final sprint zone. The move brought Larsson on the podium as the most attacking rider in the race.

"We didn't have any sprinters in this race so we had to try something else. It looked really good for Gustav, when he first escaped, but all of a sudden the sprinter teams had more riders at the front and it didn't work out for him after all, but it was a decent and gutsy attempt," said CSC sports director Torsten Schmidt after the race.

Finally the weather improved and the roads continued to dry as Astana, Quick Step, Rabobank and High Road kept the pace high and brought Larsson back into the fold. With 5 kilometres to go the peloton was all together. Quick Step's Steven de Jongh jumped but the Astana squad shut down his effort.

Coming into the final 3 kilometres Team Astana moved forward and ramped up the speed, stringing out a long line of riders behind them. Making several right turns just before the red kite signaling 1000 meters to go the riders were spread wide across the road as each fought for position. Nico Eeckhout (Topsport Vlaanderen) opened the sprint but the Belgian veteran didn't stand a chance. Sitting patiently three or four men back, at 200m to go Vaitkus swung wide and powered up his sprint, easily beating last year's winner Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step) with more than a bike length. Dutch rider Bobbie Traksel (P3 Transfer - Batavus) came in third.

"The entire Astana Cycling Team worked hard the whole day", said a happy Astana sports director Viatcheslav Ekimov after the race. "Michael Schär was the first attacker of the day. In the last kilometers, René Haselbacher and Schär neutralized an escape of Steven de Jongh. Our seven riders were very attentive during the day, as the peloton broke constantly in many parts. Tomas's win is a real team victory."

Vaitkus continued, "I was really motivated but I had a good feeling, the whole day long. I'm a bit surprised that I felt this well since I had to travel by car from Spain to Holland. I think this confirms that I'm ready for Waregem and Harelbeke."

Vaitkus said he is used to cold weather: "I am used to it." Vaitkus added: "At home in Lithuania its even more cold and we often have strong wind."

Quicksteps Wouter Weylandt came in second. The Quickstep rider won the race last year and said Vaitkus was the strongest rider at this years edition of the race. Weylandt said: "Its never fun to be second but I saw the sprint on tv again and Tomas is the right winner."

Weylandt added: "He started early with the spint and I never could come over him. The weather conditions made it a tough race, but for me that's not a problem."

Results Ronde van het Groene Hart 2008

1 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Astana                               4.34.44 (44,683 km/h)
2 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick Step
3 Bobbie Traksel (Ned) P3Transfer - Batavus
4 Niko Eeckhout (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen
5 Elia Rigotto (Ita) Team Milram
6 Stefan Van Dijk (Ned) Mitsubishi-Jartazi
7 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence - Lotto
8 Tom Veelers (Ned) Skil-Shimano
9 Kristof Goddaert (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen
10 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank

Watch the video of the race (Dutch comment) at:

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