Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) stunned Robbie McEwen (Predictor) and Erik Zabel (Milram) with a late acceleration to win the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen race in Flanders on Wednesday.
The 21 year-old British rider came around Zabel and then McEwen in the final metres of the bunch sprint to give T-Mobile another important win in the Belgian classics. Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) finished third, with other big-name sprinters such as Graeme Brown (Rabobank) and Baden Cooke (Unibet.com) well beaten.
“I realize I’ve beaten a “monument” (McEwen) in the sprint. It’s my first success with the pros and what a win!” Cavendish said immediately after the race.
“I knew I could do it. I was by far the fastest amateur in the sprints in the last three years. I grew up respecting Robbie, and I just hope I can be the next Robbie McEwen.”
The Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen or GP de l’Escaut, as it is known in French, is one of the oldest classics on the calendar, and Cavendish won the hundredth anniversary edition, following on from Tom Boonen in the list of former winners.
The 197-km course is almost completely flat, finishing with three 16-km circuits. The only real break of the race was created Kevin Van Impe (Quick Step), Niko Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques) and Koos Moerenhout (Rabobank). They gained more than minute but were gradually pulled back and eventually caught with 10km to go thanks to some strong chasing by most of the sprinters teams, including the British DFL squad.
Nico Mattan (DFL) had a dig in the final three kilometres with Gorik Gardeyn (Unibet.com) and Steven De Jongh (Quickstep), but they were also pulled back by the Predictor and Milram teams who were working for Zabel and McEwen. Cavendish let the two experienced sprinters go early and then beat them to the line with a late surge.
Cavendish won four races with Team Sparkasse in 2006 but his impressive win at Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen, is his first major win since signing for T-Mobile.
RESULTS: SCHELDEPRIJS VLAANDEREN
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) T-Mobile Team 197km
2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Predictor-Lotto
3 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic
4 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic
5 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank
6 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
7 Baden Cooke (Aus) Unibet.com
8 Daniel Musiol (Ger) Team Wiesenhof-Felt
9 Steven Caethoven (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport
10 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld all same time
Official race site: www.scheldeprijs.be
Photo by Luc Claessen