Boonen and Ballan blow the bunch apart
Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Innergetic) has followed on from his past two successes in the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, winning it for the third time in a row today in Harelbeke. The last rider to do that was Dutchman Jan Raas, who did it between 1979 and 1981, although the all time record is still held by Rik van Looy, who won it four times. And just like last year, the World Champion demolished his breakaway companion Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital) in a two man sprint, after the pair had escaped on the Paterberg with 40 km to go. The best of the rest was Aart Vierhouten (Skil-Shimano), who turned a bad couple of days into a nice result with a podium place.
"Winning on home ground and wearing this jersey is just fantastic," said Boonen, who then described the non-premeditated winning move: "I knew things would happen on the Paterberg. Robbie McEwen rode up front and dropped the pace. I didn't want to attack but nothing happened. Then Ballan was blasting besides us on the cobbles. Immediately, I jumped on his wheel. The pace was very high on that last section of the Paterberg. Arriving on top, we kept a high pace and apparently the others couldn't come back to us."
Boonen was then very confident that he would win. "Ballan was also very strong but suddenly, after a cobbled section, he had problems with his saddle. He spoke to me about it. I said that he shouldn't bother about it and keep riding hard, because I would beat him in the sprint anyway."