By Brecht Decaluwé in Meerbeke, Belgium
Some within the sport say that Stijn Devolder is untouchable; others that he's a pure attacker, while some go so far to say that he's the strongest man on a bike when it comes to racing Flanders. One year after claiming his first victory in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, "Volderke" managed to pull off another glorious solo ride to Meerbeke.
After last year's win in Flanders, the 29-year-old Belgian had high hopes of claiming a top-ten in the Tour de France, being one of the few riders in the peloton who can combine strength on the pavé and a good pedigree at the Grand Tours. The outcome wasn't quite as good as hoped for and Devolder pulled out before reaching Paris.
Still, Devolder didn't want to change his season's schedule for 2009, and he again aimed to be in top form this April. The quiet Belgian showed that there's no reason to give up his beloved Spring Classics and the result is that he's probably as popular, if not more popular than teammate "Tommeke" Boonen on home soil. He plans to visit the pub in his hometown where his die-hard fans will celebrate their hero's victory.
But the real celebration will follow later, just like last year, when Devolder grabbed frites with mayonnaise together with his wife and kid. More than anything else, that shows what sort of person Stijn Devolder really is: a Flandrien, someone who does his talking with his legs. At the post-race press conference in Meerbeke Devolder did an effort to add some comments to what he said on the bike.
Cyclingnews: Stijn, it seemed like you had doubts over your own chances during the week before Flanders. Then again a few weeks earlier, during the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race you were gaining morale every day. Was that a key moment during your build-up and why did you hesitate?
Stijn Devolder: Tirrenno is very important to me. I started the race without form but I improved every day and in the end, things were looking good for me. During the last week, stress played a huge factor as there are only two chances of winning a Classic for me - this race and Paris-Roubaix.
Cyclingnews: Are you a different rider compared to the Belgian champion who crossed the line last year? And how do you rate this victory compared last year's win?
SD: Last year gave me the confidence. From then on I knew that I could make the difference in tough, long races. In 2008 it was special with the jersey [Devolder was Belgian champion] and also because it was my first win here. This second time it's just as special though.
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