As usual in the Scheldeprijs the final kilometers were hectic with teams trying to establish some sort of trains to give their captains a smooth ride to the sprint. For the most part though, chaos reigned as the peloton navigated the tricky roads in Schoten on the final lap. Astana briefly looked in control as did Argos but no one had the manpower to dominate the front and maintain order. Instead the front got fractured and re-shaped as wasted leadout riders dropped through the pack and new challengers floated up the outside. Most conspicuously absent was the the Omega Pharma Quick Step team, expected to set the sprint up for Cavendish who was now left to fend for himself for the majority of the final kilometers. Meanwhile the teams that managed to stay a little coordinated where Vacansoleil and above all Argos-Shimano who managed to get Tom Veelers bringing up Kittel on the left hand side in the last hundred meters where he could launch his winning sprint.
Eventhough he was forced out in the wind slightly early the riders behind were never able to threaten the powerful german who has had a mixed season so far. Cavendish came close in the end but coming from a position far back he was never able to engage the famed "second kick" to come around Kittel who had the better inside line in the curved sprint. Markus came out from Kittel's wheel but never had the acceleration to come around . On the other hand he did manage to hold off Andrea Guardini of Astana who got good support from his teammates to be well placed in the sprint. Luckily, this year the race was spared it's customary gruesome crashes that tend to put a damper on the festivities as there always seem to be some riders going away with serious injuries. Biggest hiccup of the day was when massive favorite for Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, Fabian Cancellara was involved in an early crash that left him with a big scrape on his left thigh. He was able to finish the race and the team seem confident that the bruising won't interrupt his preparations for Roubaix
The most interesting conclusions from watching the was the impact of the team support. Comparing the two dutch teams Argos and Vacansoleil is interesting as Argos, even in the hectic finale, managed to maintain some cohesion and put their man in perfect position. Vacansoleil on the other hand threw a handful of fast sprinters riding for themselves into the mix and only came away with some honorable placings. One can't help but wonder what the outcome might have been if they had gone in with an effort as focused as Argos? Today showed that sprinter support isn't all about classic trains, it's hard to see even an HTC or Cannondale at their prime taking full control of the race today. But some teams managed to get it right even under the chaotic conditions, Katusha for example managed to pilote Kristoff up at a late stage and get the timing right .
Biggest topic after the race was undoubtedly the question marks around Omega Pharma it has to be said. The post race interview with Cavendish was a painful affair with the man, not used to being relegated to second place in races he has targeted, desperately trying to avoid the sensitive topic of his missing support in the final 5 kilometers. Is this the team he opted to got to in order to find better support than he found at Sky? Post race comments from his manager were scathing when it came to the performance of the support riders and while I would have guessed that he would come out swinging in order to prop up his star rider mentally I hadn't expected such a miserable shitstorm. The reality of course is that this is a group of riders at the end of a rough classics campaign and it doesn't take many seconds looking at the team lineup to realize that the effort today might be a little halfhearted. There's a guy like Keisse who did his first Ronde just a few days ago and has been doing a lot of hard races recently. And above all you have guys like Maes , van Keirsbulck and Vandenbergh who have the chance of a lifetime on Sunday, doing Roubaix on a Boonen-less OPQS. Vandenbergh, who is having the season of his life, now has the chance to do the race that he is practically built for with a little bit of free reigns. Is that guy going to go headfirst into the most stupidly crashprone loon-fest on the entire calendar? On the Wednesday between the two probably biggest races in his life so far? Yeah, that's going to happen....
Same could be said for pretty much all of the team. Never mind that the spring hasn't delivered the results OPQS were hoping for. That is hardly the fault of the riders called on to support Cav today, they've all had splendid seasons, it's the captains that haven't been able to deliver for assorted reasons. So maybe Lefevere should direct his anger in a more constructive direction?
As for whether Cav should be worried about his leadout for the bigger goals ahead that question is probably already answered here. When those races come around he will have a crew of fully focused guys,not a gang of overworked cobbles-specialists on a miserable Wednesday distraction. Cavendish is still looking golden for 5+ stagewins in July.
TOP 10 SCHELDEPRIJS:
|10.||TSV||Michael Van Staeyen|