Pre-race favourite Fabian Cancellara, forced to settle for third, was isolated late in the race and was left exposed to attacks from other teams – especially Omega Pharma-QuickStep which packed three riders into the final selection. When Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) attacked with 6km to go it went unanswered and the Dutch rider powered away to win solo, 20 seconds ahead of the chasers.
At the team bus after an action-packed 112th edition of the race, director sportif Dirk Demol called out one rider in particular: “We missed a really strong rider there and that would have been Devolder,” he said.
The squad lost Devolder, Cancellara’s right hand man, two days before the race. The team decided not to field the Belgian national champion after injuries from a hard crash in the Tour of Flanders last weekend had made him unfit to start.
The 34-year-old was replaced by Boy Van Poppel and Demol heaped praise on the younger squad which was also beset by crashes – the most notorious being Hayden Roulston’s shortly after the Forest of Arenberg when he misjudged a bunny hop, crashed hard and held up Fabian Cancellara and much of the peloton.
“The team did a really good job today,” Demol said. “The problem was the first crash just after the forest I guess. We lost Roulston who was doing good in the forest. In the forest we had to give a bike to Grégory Rast who must have been going really well because from where he came back I don’t know how."
Late in the race, Demol said he was surprised by some strong pulls from 21-year-old Jasper Stuyven, a former winner of the junior race in 2010. “One for the future,” he said.
But despite the best efforts of Cancellara’s team, the leader was left to fight out the win with no team support in the final kilometres. Ultimately he had to settle for third behind Terpstra and John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano).
“All the other favourites had somebody with them,” said Demol, “but anyway I cannot blame the boys - the opposite: they rode very, very well.”