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"Our team car was busy in the back helping Viacheslav Kuznetsov and couldn’t move up to me on the small roads so I had to wait 3 or 4 minutes, just at the time when Sep Vanmarcke opened up the fight. It’s a pity," Paol...

Photo: Katusha / Tim de Waele




01.03.2014 @ 20:54 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Luca Paolini crashed at the worst possible moment on the run-in to the Taaienberg when he tried to defend his title in today's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. With today's race being a missed opportunity, he has now decided to stay in Belgium to do tomorrow's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.


It was a day filled with rainy, cold weather and plenty of crashes as the cobbled season officially kicked off in the 69th Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday. With defending champion Luca Paolini on the squad, Katusha Team hoped to be part of the final action but an untimely crash ended the hopes of the Italian rider for a repeat performance.


“Everyone was going like crazy on the cobblestones on the descent of the Donderij and some guys went down," Paolini said. "I couldn’t avoid them and fell on my right side. My body felt ok but my bike going down on the cobbles broke the saddle.


"Our team car was busy in the back helping Viacheslav Kuznetsov and couldn’t move up to me on the small roads so I had to wait 3 or 4 minutes, just at the time when Sep Vanmarcke opened up the fight. It’s a pity. Normally I would take a flight home tonight, but now I’ve decided to stay in Belgium and start in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne tomorrow.”


Also going down in the same crash as Luca were teammates Rüdiger Selig and Viacheslav Kuznetsov, both who also had to abandon the race. The best-placed rider for Katusha was Aliaksandr Kuchynski, who was a part of a long-day 8-man breakaway and finished the race at 22nd place.


Aliaksandr Kuchynski had a goal from the start and played his part in the team objectives.


“At the meeting in the morning it was decided that it was my job to control breaks," he said. So I did my job. When I saw that there was a break of six riders without a Katusha rider, I jumped out of the group and bridged the gap to the front. My legs felt good the entire day. I still felt good even when the peloton caught us. Terpstra attacked and I still managed to stay in the front, surviving even a second attack.


"The third one was one attack too much, but when I saw that I could maintain my position in a group not so far behind the front of the race, I decided to give my maximum. I wanted to take care that a Katusha rider finished with a good result.“


After almost five hours of racing, a well-timed two-man sprint gave Britain its first winner in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as Ian Stannard maintained his stalking position and finally came around BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet to win by a wheel length. Rounding out the podium was Stannard’s Sky teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen.


Team director Torsten Schmidt analyzed the racing action.


"The incident with Paolini happened at a really bad moment," he said. "It was the worse place to do a bike change for a race favorite – small roads and big chaos in and behind the peloton. It was such bad luck as Luca was good. He always gave a nice impression, always in the front and looking good until the moment he crashed.


"Today the luck was not on our side. We made no mistakes but our other guys Kuznetsov and Selig were forced out of the race because of crashes in the peloton, too. The good news is that we don’t have anyone in the hospital. They all suffered from the bad weather but are ok.“


More cobbles are still ahead for this opening weekend of Flanders racing when Sunday brings Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. With drier weather predicted, the race should unfold with more strategy playing a part in the finale rather than bad luck leaving her mark on the results. The team is likely to focus on Alexander Kristoff in case of a sprint finish.


You can read our preview of tomorrow's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne here



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