The issue of weather for Het Nieuwsblad (or Gent – Gent as the locals still call it) is a dichotomy: if it’s wet it’s a proper man’s race but you get frozen and soaked whilst spectating; but if it’s a nice day and you’re not near-death when you stumble into your favourite bar to watch the finale then you end up watching 100-plus riders contesting the finish.

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Wet and cold then, Ed?

I’ll go for wet and cold – bike racing is an epic sport, it’ll be a while before I forget Traksel winning in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne last year and a while too before I forget Sebastian Langeveld’s ride on Saturday.

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
We’re in Lotto country.
Het Nieuwsblad 2011
VeloVeritas offer to drive the lead car, but are politely asked to step aside.

Langeveld bolted with more than 50 K to go in the most appalling conditions and and out-foxed the toughest of old Argentinean carnivores to win.

Langeveld is 26 and had strong amateur palmares – a good cyclo-cross rider, he’s been Netherlands under 23 rr champ and won a stage in the Olympia Tour.

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Seb Langeveld gives Rabobank another great day.

He’s been a pro since 2006 when he rode for Skil-Shimano; he dazzled with a win in the GP Pino Cerami, was second in the Netherlands elite RRchamps and was snapped up by Rabobank.

Season 2007 saw him win the Ster Elektrotoer; in ’08 he was second at Kuurne; in ’09 he won the GP Jeff Scherens but last year was a tad flat, top tens at Kuurne and the E3 perhaps being the highlights.

He showed strongly in Mallorca earlier this year and Gent was a quality result; even when Flecha caught him he still looked like the winner – and so it proved.

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
The savvy riders know which climb is next.
Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Wouter Weylandt chats before the start.

Out pal Viktor didn’t attend Het Nieuwsblad 2011 on the grounds that it’s becoming too commercialised – he has a point, the ViP thing is almost at Pro Tour level and there’s a gloss about proceedings that makes old school boys like us feel uneasy.

The ‘Flanders Classics’ are being marketed collectively with a ‘templated’ poster for each of the races, combined web site (which is, admittedly pretty nice), and a big hospitality suite; whilst I can see how this makes sense from a commercial point of view it’s actually contrary to what these races are all about – each one has it’s own definite character and history, they should not be ‘lumped together.’

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Which race is it today?

Nonetheless, it was a great race.

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
These are angular Times.

It wasn’t a good day for bike skeking or ‘sound bites’ – there was too much rain, too many brollies.

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Bretagne-Schuller KTM’s.

But the Bretagne-Schuller KTM’s caught our eye, as did the mega decals on the TIME’s; Dave didn’t like them but I thought they were different – neither of us were sure about the new LOOK chainsets or stems, though.

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
The new Look chainset.
Het Nieuwsblad 2011
And the new Look stem.

Nor were we daft about the Leopard Treks, the pale blue is just too pale.

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
But we did like the built-in sensors in the chain stays.

Our chum Dirk Van Hove was our guide for the day, he’s a man obsessed with all things Australian and looks after the Drapac-Porsche team when they come over to race in the summer – he’s also obsessed with riders’ ‘hero cards’ and at last count had 37,000 of them.

Respect!

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Heading to the vantage point.
Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Molenberg – not the easiest to ride up in the wet.

The early part of the race out through the suburbs is very technical; it’s testament to the pros skill and lightening reactions that there aren’t ten crashes before the race gets to the green bits.

Dirk’s driving to get us ahead of the race was crazy; the traffic chaos these races cause has to be seen to be believed but no one seems to mind – it’s just part of living in Belgium.

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Can I stop, boss?
Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Thor’s rainbow isn’t so shiny white today.

We saw the race five times, including once on the Haaghoek cobbles and once on the Molenberg – the surface on the Molenberg is wild, you can see why there’s a mad fight to be first on to the bergs so as you can pick your line, if you’re in a group and get forced to the right hand side you might as well be riding a mountain bike race.

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Here it comes.
Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Early move.
Het Nieuwsblad 2011
The bunch are well wrapped up.

That there are so few punctures is testament to how remarkable tubular tyres are.

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Yoann Offredo digs in for a quality fourth place.
Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Matt Hayman heads for third place.
Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Tommy Voeckler.
Het Nieuwsblad 2011
The bunch pursue Langeveld.
Het Nieuwsblad 2011
The tail end.

It was a joy to find a bar to watch the finale in, we were soaked and frozen – but it’s worth it to be there with the splashes of mud from Langeveld’s tyres on your trousers.

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
Langeveld solos past, to be joined shortly by Flecha.

But again, no Belgian’s on the podium, with the best being former Belgian Elite champion Jurgen Roelandts (Omega-Pharma Lotto) in ninth spot – we were hoping for better things at Kuurne.

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
We’re cold and wet, in a bar with a beer, watching the finale – perfect.
Het Nieuwsblad 2011
This paper ought to get the story correct!

Het Nieuwsblad 2011 Result

1 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 5:18:03
2 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Procycling
3 Matthew Hayman (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:01:01
4 Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJ 0:01:04
5 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team 0:01:21
6 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:01:24
7 Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:01:30
8 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team
9 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
10 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
11 Frédéric Amorison (Bel) Landbouwkrediet 0:01:34
12 John Degenkolb (Ger) HTC-Highroad 0:01:39
13 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Leopard Trek 0:05:05
14 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
15 Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Katusha Team
16 Dominique Rollin (Can) FDJ
17 Maarten Wynants (Bel) Rabobank Cycling Team
18 Russell Downing (GBr) Sky Procycling
19 Koen Barbe (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
20 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
21 Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Katusha Team
22 Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team
23 Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
24 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
25 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team
26 Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Leopard Trek
27 Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Procycling
28 Leif Hoste (Bel) Katusha Team
29 Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
30 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
31 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar
32 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
33 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo
34 Andreas Klier (Ger) Team Garmin-Cervelo
35 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
36 Nikolas Maes (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
37 Hayden Roulston (NZl) HTC-Highroad
38 Jan Ghyselinck (Bel) HTC-Highroad
39 Gianni Meersman (Bel) FDJ
40 Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
41 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
42 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team
43 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
44 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
45 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Veranda’s Willems – Accent 0:09:22
46 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) HTC-Highroad 0:10:41
47 Kristof Goddaert (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
48 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
49 Bert De Backer (Bel) Skil – Shimano
50 Alex Rasmussen (Den) HTC-Highroad
51 Jean-Luc Delpech (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
52 Arnaud Labbe (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
53 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
54 Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
55 Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
56 Bram Schmitz (Ned) Veranda’s Willems – Accent
57 Roy Curvers (Ned) Skil – Shimano
58 Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil – Shimano
59 Wim De Vocht (Bel) Veranda’s Willems – Accent
60 Michael Barry (Can) Sky Procycling
61 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
62 Anthony Geslin (Fra) FDJ
63 Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ
64 Johan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
65 Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team
66 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
67 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Katusha Team
68 Jos Van Emden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
69 Dominic Klemme (Ger) Leopard Trek
70 Vincent Jerome (Fra) Team Europcar
71 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
72 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Team Europcar
73 Rick Flens (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
74 Roger Hammond (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo
75 Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
76 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar
77 Geert Steurs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator 0:14:29
78 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
79 Dieter Cappelle (Bel) Veranda’s Willems – Accent
80 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Omega Pharma-Lotto
81 William Clarke (Aus) Leopard Trek
82 Vladimir Isaichev (Rus) Katusha Team
83 Dominique Cornu (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
84 Alessandro Donati (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
85 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo
86 Bobbie Traksel (Ned) Landbouwkrediet
87 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
88 Johan Le Bon (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
89 Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Team Netapp
90 Timon Seubert (Ger) Team Netapp
91 Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
92 James Vanlandschoot (Bel) Veranda’s Willems – Accent
93 Arnoud Van Groen (Ned) Veranda’s Willems – Accent
94 Damien Gaudin (Fra) Team Europcar
95 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) HTC-Highroad
96 Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo
97 Tristan Valentin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne

Het Nieuwsblad 2011
“That was braw”, or something like that.