In the absence of Trek Factory Racing's Classics specialist Fabian Cancellara at Dwars door Vlaanderen, Belgian champion Stijn Devolder was motivated to bring home a good result for the team. While the 34-year-old Belgian figured prominently in the race finale, his strong outing was tempered by a hard crash earlier in the day.
After 110km of racing Devolder crashed hard but managed to get back in the peloton. With 20km remaining to the finish Devolder attacked on the Vossenhol climb and tried to bridge across to solo race leader Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step). The Belgian was soon joined by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Nicki Sorensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) but the chase could draw no closer than 15 seconds to Terpstra before they began losing time. The quartet would ultimately be swept up by the peloton inside of two kilometres remaining with Terpstra holding off his pursuers for the solo victory.
After the 200km-long race Devolder reached Waregem knowing he had good form but without a result and with a lot of worries about his right knee.
"A the foot of the Kattenberg (second climb of the day in Mater halfway through the race) a rider in front of me collided with a car and he took me down with him," Devolder told Cyclingnews at the finish. "My right knee worries me a lot. If you're riding there's enough blood circulation but after a night of sleep it can be all swollen. I've had a bursa membrane inflammation on my knee before and I fear that it's a bit similar now. I hope it will not affect the upcoming races. Hopefully I can start on Friday [for E3 Harelbeke]."
Devolder will undergo further investigation in the hospital on Wednesday evening, director sportif Dirk Demol confirmed to Cyclingnews.
"The form is good but that crash gave me a big knock," Devolder said. "I had to switch both of my shoes and my right knee still hurts a lot. My gears kept shifting, too, but there was no time to switch bikes as we were approaching the hill zone. Coming back cost me a lot of energy. We tried to make the best of it. I went flat out but it was with a hurt knee and a broken derailleur; those are small things that matter."
Five kilometres after the attack on the Vossenhol climb the four-man chase group was as close as fifteen seconds to Terpstra but then the gap started growing again.
"We were with three really strong men but we didn't come any closer. Terpstra was too strong for us. Before that I hoped for the victory but as we weren't getting any closer with the peloton on our heels we lost faith," Devolder said.
Last year Devolder bounced back from a two-year long struggle when riding for the Vacansoleil team as he re-found his mentor Dirk Demol at the RadioShack-Leopard squad. Devolder was the ideal lieutenant for Fabian Cancellara at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix and later surprised many when he crowned himself as Belgian champion in La-Roche-En-Ardennes. This year Devolder flanks Cancellara again, gunning to keep the wins at the big Classics in the Trek camp but surely hoping to get a third win at the Tour of Flanders himself, too.