By Brecht Decaluwé in Meerbeke, Belgium
Although Quick Step's Tom Boonen was in the winning camp for Ronde van Vlaanderen, the Belgian couldn't hide his frustration when talking to the press after the race. All day the top favourite had the same rider on his wheel, Italy's Filippo Pozzato, or as Boonen described him "the shadow".
"I understand that one wants to get in the front, but in the end it was ridiculous. We both couldn't get rid of each other, but the difference was that he stopped pulling once we were away. Pozzato probably sensed that if he would work he wouldn't win. He predicted a duel but in the end we didn't have the opportunity to battle each other seriously. Of course I prefer to get away with someone who rides first before he starts calculating," Boonen said, adding that he had plenty of cards left to play.
"Those accelerations on the Berendries, Koppenberg and Taaienberg meant nothing. That was just to make the race hard, and it was a hard race for me, but I was unlucky that I couldn't drop him. It's frustrating but that's just how it is." When asked whether he talked or indicated to Pozzato that he was unhappy with his racing style Boonen denied it. "We didn't have to talk; I didn't even look angrily at him. Everybody saw that we were killing each other and they could exploit that. If only he had worked together in that group of six."
When two dogs fight for a bone, quite often a third one runs away with it and as Tornado Tom Boonen and Pippo Pozzato were racing each other, Stijn Devolder headed for his second consecutive win in Flanders. "Our team was living up to the expectations placed on it. I was caught, but that made it easier for the others. The door was closed for me but at the same time it opened the door for my teammates," Boonen said. "That's sport at the highest level and it doesn't take anything away from Stijn's performance. It's well deserved as we always had two or three guys in front during the finale."
For the Belgian rider who won the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2005 and 2006, another opportunity to join Achiel Buysse, Eric Leman, Fiorenzo Magni and Johan Museeuw on the list of record holders with three victories in Flanders has disappeared. Though since Boonen is only 28-years-old, there's time left for him to join those legendary winners. "There will be more chances in the future, and next week there's Paris-Roubaix. Though Stijn won today the pressure will be the same for me in Roubaix."