3/21/2013 12:00:00 AM - TEAM NEWS!

Gatto wins Dwars door Vlaanderen

Dwars door Vlaanderen 2013

Voeckler's solo attack falls metres short

Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) claimed a dramatic victory at Dwars Door Vlaanderen after his powerful sprint saw him overhaul late breakaway Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) in the dying centimetres in Waregem.

Voeckler had gone clear from the winning break of 10 riders with a canny attack after the final climb of the Nokereberg with seven kilometres to go, opening out a lead of 16 seconds with a little over one kilometre to go.

The Frenchman began to flag in the closing kilometre, however, while Ian Stannard (Sky) and Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) put in powerful turns in the break to slash his advantage.

Voeckler still had a narrow lead as he entered the finishing straight, but there was an air of grim inevitability as the fluorescent figure of Gatto opened his sprint and emerged from the gloom behind. The Italian swept past Voeckler inside the final 50 metres, and won the race ahead of Borut Bozic (Astana) and Mathew Hayman (Sky), while Voeckler came home in 5th.

“Coming into the last kilometre, I thought Voeckler would make it to be honest,” Gatto said. “I took Stannard’s wheel because I had seen how strong he was at Milan-San Remo on Sunday. He went to the front inside the final kilometre which meant that I had to launch my sprint from a long way out."

Voeckler, meanwhile, was suffering a thousand agonies in front and when the chasers began to swirl around his rear wheel, he had nothing left to fend them off. "I started getting cramps in the last 100 metres," Voeckler said. "I thought I was going to make it, but I could see Stannard pulling in the last kilometre. It's a pity but that's racing."

How it happened

Under grey skies and persistent rain Dwars Door Vlaanderen re-started the Belgian road calendar with a rather low key start in Roeselare. After Sunday’s demands at Milan-San Remo and with three WorldTour events in the next fortnight a number of one-day specialists opted to recover or train rather than brave the near freezing temperatures.

Ahead of the peloton lay 199 kilometres of racing through some of Belgium’s most illustrious cycling terrain, and despite the conditions riders showed little desire in tapping out a gentle tempo and there were a number of attacks in the opening sectors.

The first significant move occurred when Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma QuickStep), Assan Bazayev (Astana), Steele Von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp), Luka Mezgec (Team Argos-Shimano), Nico Sijmens (Cofidis, Solutions Credits), Jonathan Breyne (Crelan – Euphony), Matthew Brammeier (Champion System Pro Cycling Team), Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team), Eloy Teruel (Movistar Team),Maarten Neyens (Lotto Belisol), Mattia Pozzo (Vini Fantini), Marko Kump (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) and Blaz Jarc (Team NetApp - Endura) escaped from the bunch.

They were afforded little room to manoeuvre by the aggressive peloton, which was keen to keep any move in close quarters.

However, soon the majority of riders who made the first split were at it again, slipping clear before the Nieuwe Kwaremont and establishing a 45 second lead.

Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma QuickStep) and Tom Stamsnijder (Argos Shimano) escaped with Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Belisol), Romain Zingle (Cofidis, Solutions Credits), Christopher Juul Jensen, Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team), Yohann Gene (Europcar), Danilo Napolitano (Accent Jobs - Wanty), Wouter Mol (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team), Assan Bazayev (Astana), Nico Sijmens (Cofidis, Solutions Credits), Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM Cycling, Matthew Brammeier (Champion System Pro Cycling Team) Mathew Hayman (Team Sky).

Romain Zingle pushed on ahead and briefly led the race as the break reached the Berendries after 123km. The lead on the peloton was still under a minute, the size of the break a clear disadvantage. Hayman led small group that included Steegmans up to Zingle’s wheel on the climb.

Voeckler attempted a counter attack from within the main field but his effort merely served to eliminate a few more seconds from the break’s lead.

Up ahead the lead group was reduced to Hayman, Zingle, Bazayev, Steegmans, Brammeier, Veuchelen, Saramotins and Mol.

On the Valkenburg the leaders still had a gap of 45 seconds with Bazayev conducting much of the pace setting.

When the gap moved out to 1:38 and the race approached a crucial phase with 70 kilometres to go the peloton saw a number of counter attacks go clear. With no one team taking up the chase and the race’s two strongest teams – Sky and Omega – both represented in the break, Europcar became the main instigators.

A number of minor crashes in the peloton slowed the chase as a general reforming of the main initial break took place on the Eikenberg as a seven man counter attack that included Chainel, Lund, and Cousin.

The strength of Steegmans and Hayman began to tell as the break reached the 60km to go mark, the pair swapping repeated turns as their companions showed sign of weakness. With the chasers at just 49 seconds it was imperative that the leaders remained clear as any merging of the two packs would likely see a lull in pace and even likelier regrouping with the main field.

Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp) crashed heavily with 58 kilometres to go, the Garmin-Sharp laying motionless on the ground for several minutes.

Up ahead Steegmans launched his inevitable, yet decisive attack on the Steenbeekdries, with Hayman and then Saramotins joining him.

With the strongest riders from the break going clear it was only a matter of time before the two breaks merged on the flat, exposed roads leading to the Knoteberg. The leading trio had 35 seconds with peloton 54 seconds back.

The peloton were soon on the heels of the break though, latching onto all but Bazayev and Björn Thurau, who had attacked on his own from the bunch.

As the leaders approached the Knokteberg for the second time Vacansoleil began to orchestrate a consistent chase. Hayman used the gradient to good effect, distancing his two companions as Thurau dispatched of Bazayev on the same pitch.

Maxim Iglinskiy, fresh from his showing at Milan-San Remo used the same climb to make his move, stringing out the peloton and ending Thurau and Bazayev chances and leaving Hayman with 38 seconds advantage with 40 kilometres to go.

Iglinskiy’s surge caused the peloton to rupture, with Voeckler, Maes, Stannard and Devolder all part of a group.

Up ahead, Vandenbergh bridged up to Hayman, but he had closed down the Australian's lead, and soon Gatto was with them and a bit later a 9-man group had assembled at the front with Hayman, Stannard, Maes, Keukeleire, Bozic, Iglinskiy, Gatto, Voeckler, Vandenbergh and Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil).

With 14km to go the leading group had 29 seconds on the chase group including defending champion Terpstra, and all riders were swapping pulls.

On the final climb with 9km remaining, it was Keukeleire who put in the first dig, but he could not distance the rest. Stannard had the next go, but was pulled back by Vandenbergh, leaving the door wide open for Voeckler to launch one of his signature counter-attacks.

Voeckler pulled out a solid 10 second lead with 6 kilometers of flat roads between himself and the finish line. A quick glance over his shoulder with 3km to go gave Voeckler hope as his previous companions grew smaller in the distance, now 17 seconds in arrears, with the bright aqua of Iglinskiy's Astana kit a diminishing bright spot in the dreary Belgian landscape.

Vandenbergh used up the last of his energy to pull the Frenchman back to a slim 9 second lead before being shed from the move, and then a surge from Stannard closed down another few handful of seconds, breaking Voeckler's spirit just 10m before the line. The sprint was then taken by Gatto ahead of Bozic, Hayman and Selvaggi, as a devastated Voeckler finished fifth.

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Photo credit © Roberto Bettini

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