STAGE 5: HOWARD SCORES SECOND STAGE WIN IN STER ZLM TOER FOR HTC-HIGHROAD
HTC-Highroad started the Ster ZLM Toer in Holland on Wednesday with a win for Patrick Gretsch. On Sunday, the team ended it with another victory in the final stage when Leigh Howard blasted to his first win of the 2011 season. Howard came through a very technical final kilometer to cross the finish line at Leur in first place from a bunch sprint. Overall, Philippe Gilbert of Belgium claimed the victory.
"Our goal for today was to work for Leigh in the sprint, but it was a very difficult stage with a lot of rain, wind and storms," said HTC-Highroad sports director Jan Schaffrath.
"The run-in was not easy either, I counted five speed bumps in the last couple of kilometers and other 'road furniture' too, but Leigh came through well."
"He was protected from the wind when he needed to be then given the perfect lead out and the rest he could handle for himself."
"It's a great way to complete the event for him, and for the team too. We've had victories at both ends of the race and we led overall for the first three days too. It's difficult to ask for more."
STAGE 1 : HTC-HIGHROAD'S GRETSCH CLAIMS FIRST PROFESSIONAL WIN IN STER ZLM TOER
Germany's Patrick Gretsch has claimed his first ever professional win today, when the HTC-Highroad rider blasted to victory in the opening prologue of the Ster ZLM Toer.
Rounding off a perfect start to the five-day stage race, Gretsch's team-mate Alex Rasmussen was second, three seconds back.
Twenty five year old Gretsch completed the flat, seven kilometer, evening time trial in Alblasserdam, Holland in a time of eight minutes and thirty seconds with Rasmussen in second and Great Britain's Alex Dowsett in third.
"Patrick did a perfect job, taking a lot of risks on the corners but using his time trial skills very well, too," said HTC-Highroad sports director Jan Schaffrath, "He really pushed it in the first two kilometers, which were very technical, had lots of corners and even a few cobbled sections, and I think that's where he made the difference."
"Alex rode really, really well, but he was already a couple of seconds down on Patrick right from the start and it stayed like that all the way through."
A silver medalist in the Worlds U-23 Time Trial back in 2008, Gretsch was delighted to kick-start his professional palmares with a victory in the race against the clock.
"Everybody knows he's a good time triallist, and he really did a lot of hard work to get this one right," Schaffrath said, "We took a bit of a risk deciding that all our top riders should have late starts, but finally everybody had the same weather conditions and the best riders won."
HTC-Highroad took the same race outright last year, but Schaffrath was cautious about their chances of repeating an overall victory.
"We're in a good position and tomorrow's [Thursday's] stage should finish in a bunch sprint, which would be good for Alex. After that we're into the hilly stages and we'll take it on the day-by-day."