But solid teamwork indicates good form by two-time Ronde winner
Stijn Devolder had the chance to follow the footsteps of legendary Italian rider Fiorenzo Magni by winning the Tour of Flanders three times in a row, however, the Belgian rider didn't manage to pull off the third win. Neither did his teammate Boonen, who came short of winning his own third Ronde after Fabian Cancellara rode away on the Kapelmuur.
Devolder finished the race in twenty-fifth position from the group that sprinted for fifth place, but in his mind, his performance during the race was a bright spot in a season where he has so far failed to shine.
Coming into this Monument the Belgian had received criticism from not just the media but also from team manager Patrick Lefevre for failing to deliver results in any other races since he recorded last year's win.
When the finale got underway Devolder was spotted at the back of the peloton, but by the time the race hit the Taaienberg he was back up front, playing an important role in protecting teammate Boonen's move with Fabian Cancellara. At the finish line in Meerbeke Devolder expressed his relief for his strong performance.
"I had very good legs and rode a good race," Devolder said at the team bus. "I worked very hard to get at this level of form and it's morale-boosting to keep up with the best again, especially if I take in mind what has been thrown at me the last few weeks. It has been a rough year for me," Devolder said.
"I never doubted myself. I just worked hard to get back. I did it like during today's race, by fighting back. I answered those who criticized me with my legs," Devolder said.
Cancellara was one of the people saying that Boonen and Devolder didn't want to work for each other, or protect each other's moves. In the last two years Devolder was able to exploit his solo attempts, also helped by the presence from Tom Boonen in the chase groups.
"This year the roles in the team were turned around as Tom was in front and I was the one covering his back in the chase group. I kept my promise. I marked several attacks but when Gilbert on the Berendries climb I had to pass," Devolder said.
"I lost a lot of energy early on in the race. Three times I had to return from the back after being held up by crashes. One time after the Kuisberg, then again on the Oude Kwaremont and eventually another time on the Koppenberg. I returned to the front on the Taaienberg but that's how it goes in the Ronde," Devolder concluded.
Next week the Belgian will be back fighting for glory in Paris-Roubaix, another Monument that suits him perfectly but he never managed to win so far.
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