Bad luck for Boonen
By Brecht Decaluwé in Meerbeke
When Swiss strong man Fabian Cancellara started an impressive attack with 30km to go in Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen, Quick Step's Gert Steegmans was glued to his wheel. The move looked promising, and while Wim Vansevenant (Predictor-Lotto) couldn't hold their pace and Stijn Devolder was too late with his counterattack, Cancellara kept pounding forward. However, Cancellara didn't receive any help from Steegmans; only Maarten Tjallingii (Skil-Shimano) - from the earlier breakaway which was caught by the duo - helped him a little.
"It's normal that Steegmans didn't pull," Cancellara said of the Belgian's tactics. Nevertheless, the CSC rider kept pulling the group as if he was a suicide mission. Just before the Muur van Geraardsbergen, his group was brought back by the peloton, but Cancellara chalked up the failed attempt as experience. "This is just another experience," he said, "just something I tried ... but it was harder than I thought. It motivates me as it was a totally new experience."
Like Tom Boonen, the Swiss was unable to convert his role as a favourite into a good result, but he wasn't too disappointed. "Nobody ever heard me say that I needed to win this race; I only needed this race to be ready for next week [Paris-Roubaix]," Cancellara commented.
Super favourite Boonen was clearly unable to answer the attack from Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) and Leif Hoste (Predictor) on the Muur van Geraardsbergen. The Belgian star's chances of a third consecutive victory were impacted by a massive crash in the bunch near Kortrijk after only 60km; apparently there was water on the road due to works next to the road, making it a slippery affair for the peloton. The Belgian fell heavily, suffered a bruised knee and wrist, but he continued the race, eventually finishing 12th.
"I said it before that you must be extremely lucky to survive crashes three years in a row. It's clear that you can't win the Ronde at 99 percent of your possibilities," Boonen said on Sporza. "Still, I was beaten at my best," he added, not wanting to take away from Ballan's win.
When the finale was looming, Boonen's team-mate Kevin Hulsmans rode up to his captain to ask how he was feeling, but Boonen didn't answer his question. "I said: 'don't ask, just do'; because when you're thinking about it, doubts arise quickly," explained Boonen, whose participation in Gent-Wevelgem was already uncertain and now looks even less realistic with Paris-Roubaix coming up in just one week.
"I don't know if I'll be able to start, we'll have to examine the wrist first," he said.
A good move for Leukemans
The winning duo - Ballan and Hoste - got away on the Muur van Geraardsbergen and on the final climb of the Ronde, the Bosberg, a Belgian duo tried to chase them down. Actually only one of the Belgians was chasing, since Björn Leukemans (Predictor) wouldn't work with Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis) because his team-mate Hoste was up ahead.
World champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step - Innergetic) bridged up to them, but virtually the entire peloton was right behind. Leukemans was disappointed about the result as a top five position would have been within reach if he had helped his compatriot during that breakaway.
"I was sitting a little too far at the back when we were hitting the Muur. After that I knew I was in a bad position, but that's my own fault as I could have been in front as well," Leukemans said to Cyclingnews. The breakaway he supported made it to the finish, but team-mate Hoste was surprised on the line by Ballan. "Hoste is like that; if he knows that he's faster, then he thinks he's certain of the win," Leukemans said.
With his performance, Leukemans could show his team's management that he's able to live up to their expectations. "I had to do it here, and I did it; from now on I'll show everybody what I'm capable of," Leukemans said. "The next objective is the Amstel Gold Race but Gent-Wevelgem [next Wednesday] is a goal as well."