TROFEE VAN HASPENGOUW - AALST-ST.-TRUIDEN
Dean Downing scored his 2nd victory of the 2006 season in Belgium on Sunday. The 160km race was part of the season long Interclub series, with 189 starters in 33 teams. The day started off with a lot of wind on the opening 125km rolling loop back towards the finish line in Aalst-St Triuden, the riders then had to tackle 5 small circuits of 7km with a 1km cobbled section and 400m climb directly after the finish.
The race started fast as ever in Belgium but in a stiff headwind nothing was staying out there, the Profel team tried there best at splitting the big bunch up with no avail, onto a very fast tail wind section and speeds of 65 to 70 kmph were reached by a very fast moving bunch. The right hander at the end of the long road was looking ominous, as the riders hit the cross wind section teams went to the front and put the race in the gutter, racing along at 55kmph the race was starting to sort its self out behind, well in so many echelons to be precise.
10 riders surged of the front, this included Downing. Teammate Bernie Sultzberger was the last rider not to make the cut. With the bunch in pieces the leaders quickly gained 30 seconds, Beveren/ Quickstep team had missed the split and started to work hard on the front to bring it back, but in the next tail wind section the break was doing speeds of 65 kmph, the gap hovered around 30 seconds until they brought it back to 15 secs into a block head wind. The break reacted to this and pushed the speed back up, the race was now in the twisty lanes of Limburg province lots of uphill drags and a few cobbles throw in for good measure, the time gap had risen to 1min 12 sec which was to be the maximum. The finishing circuits came along quickly for the leading 10 riders, and with 3 half laps remaining 10 chasers were coming close to the leaders, Downing attacked along with ex-Pro Geoffrey De Meyer and the Finnish rider from Team Profel. Another lone figure was also coming across too, a teammate of Downing's, Sultzberger.
The 4 worked well together to keep the remaining chasers at bay. 1 and half laps out from the chequered flag and Downing tested his legs on the climb, he had a 50 m gap but the other were quickly on him as Sulzberger lost contact. The last time up the climb with 5 km to go and all 3 riders put in brief attacks. Downing was 20 metres off the pace into the tail wind section to the finish with 3 km to go. The other 2 hesitating and watching each other as Downing went over the top Full gas for the win, 50 m then 100 m. Downing came round the last corner with 400m to go, looked over his shoulder with 200m to go, with a 100m gap now the race was his. He straightened up his team DFL/cyclingnews/Litespeed jersey and took in his 2nd Victory salute of the season. Interviewed on the podium in Flemish Downing seemed quite at home in speaking the local lingo, to the crowds delight said the Team Director afterwards. Dean said (in English for us!):
“ That hurt my legs, the last few km’s. I think I attacked them in the 11, I was doing 60 kmph to start with, I know De Meyer was the strong man of the 3 of us, so I had to go as hard as I could, I had a quick look back when I got into the twisty bit behind the finish, a relaxed a bit when I saw I had bout 100m, and they were looking at each other. It was a nice feeling to cross the line solo and win my first big interclub race here in Belgium, I had 2 second places over here when I was here last with John Saey Team, but this has to be my biggest win for a long time, actually I can't remember winning any big race like this one. There were loads of people out watching too, It was great getting my hands in the air again. It’s a big race too, see if I get any interest from this win."
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