Bernhard Eisel started the Tour of Flanders in the form of his life after winning Gent-Wevelgem last week, but crashes and having to chase at the wrong time in the race meant the HTC-Columbia leader finished in 18th place, 2:35 down on winner Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank).
Eisel was distanced after the first major selection with around 80 kilometres to go but fought back soon after. He then went on the offensive, attacking with Matt Hayman (Sky), Daniel Oss (Liquigas) and Maarten Wynants (Lotto) with 50 kilometres to go. The foursome had a small lead heading onto the crucial Molenberg but they were caught and then blown away by Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) and Tom Boonen (Quick Step).
“I though, I’d better let this motorbike come by but when I turned around and looked it was Cancellara,” Eisel said. “Then Boonen came passed me on the left but I couldn’t go anywhere with them so I just waited for Flecha, as he was in good form, but it cost me too much.”
Eisel had good legs but a succession of chases and problems sapped him of crucial energy and although he had no qualms with admitting Boonen and Cancellara were the strongest in the race, he was left thinking of what might have been.
“It wasn’t my day. My legs were good and I fought. I was always at the front staying out of the crashes but Sven Tuft (Garmin-Transitions) crashed in front of me after I stopped for a toilet break and he took me out. I landed on both of my knees and my hands.”
With skin taken from his hands and mechanical problems from the crash, Eisel was forced to chase. “It wasn’t a problem, even though I had to change my wheel but I was going back and forth in the bunch and it cost me too much power but Sky and Saxo did an awesome job.”
With the two leaders away, a chase and then the battle for third began. But as Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) attacked, Eisel found himself alone in the crosswinds. “I got dropped in a crosswind and I was a little far back,” he admitted.
Eisel will head to Scheldeprijs on Wednesday, where he’ll hope he can use his form to good effect. After that it’s Paris-Roubaix, where he’ll also be the leader for HTC-Columbia. “I’ve got a really big chance to win it but I’m looking forward to waking up with some pain tomorrow,” he said, raising a smile, despite having raced for 262 kilometres.