Roger Hammond finished fourth in Le Samyn this afternoon after escaping in a five man group in the closing 20km. With a strong wind neutralising the first half of the 191km race, the racing started proper when the peloton hit the finishing circuit.
The T-Mobile rider escaped on the final circuit along with Philippe Gilbert (FDJ), Bas Gilling (Wisenhof), team mate Adam Hansen, and eventual winner, Jimmy Casper (Unibet). The group of five held off the bunch, but despite Hammond and Hansen attacking to break the group up and neutralise danger man Casper, the T-Mobile pair were unable to escape alone to win.
Jimmy Casper?s win was a much needed boost for his Unibet team, and further proof that, on merit alone, they deserve to be at Paris Nice. Local favourite Gilbert finished second while Gilling just edged ahead of Hammond to take third.
Hammond was laid low in Het Volk and Kuurne Brussells Kuurne at the weekend after all the T-Mobile riders came down with a stomach bug, but is now getting back to form, ?I was OK, but not good enough,? Hammond said.
?We tried to break it up to get rid of Casper, but Gilbert kept bringing us back, then Gilling just came over me in the sprint. I?m not happy with fourth, but if I?m being realistic I am happier,? he said. ?I felt like I was racing again today, but it?s too early for me to be really pinging.?
The result repaid T-Mobile?s faith in Hammond after he only asked to be in the team for Le Samyn (formerly Fayt le Franc) on Sunday, when he started to feel better following his illness. Hammond headed home straight after the race and will travel to Paris on Saturday for the start of Paris Nice.
Mark Cavendish made his return to racing in Le Samyn after a lengthy lay off, ?I?m a bit tired but it wasn?t too fast for the first 80km,? he said after catching a quick nap in the team bus. ?It was just a case of finishing today. It?s my fifth day on a bike after having thirteen days off the bike, ten of those I was in bed. I couldn?t have gotten in a break but I was able to hold my position in the bunch.?
Cavendish was disappointed to miss Kuurne at the weekend but now travels to northern Belgium for the Three days of West Flanders that starts in Kortrijk on Friday and finishes in Ichtegem on Sunday. After that, Cavendish heads to Baden Baden in Germany for a mini training camp with his T-Mobile team mates that aren?t riding Paris Nice.