Belgian champion Stijn Devolder took the most important victory of his career when he won Sunday's 92nd Ronde van Vlaanderen. But for the man who has worn the leader's jersey in the Vuelta a España and placed just outside the top ten in the same event, could a Grand Tour be in his future? Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé was in Meerbeke to find out.
Stijn Devolder's solo victory in the Ronde van Vlaanderen in the jersey of Belgian champion brought back memories of Eric Vanderaerden's epic win through stormy weather back in 1985. But even more, his win can be compared with the first victory in the Ronde van Vlaanderen from the man who is often referred to as 'the lion of Flanders'. Back in 1993 the lion was still called Johan Museeuw, but just like Stijn Devolder, he is a quiet man from West-Flanders.
Timid and not being known as a chatterer when confronted with the press, Devolder focuses more on the things he excels in. "I have always dreamed of winning the Ronde van Vlaanderen in the jersey of Belgian champion. Today that dream comes true, and I can barely grasp that it really happened," Devolder said at the post-race press conference in Meerbeke, Belgium.
Cyclingnews asked the 28 year-old from Kortrijk what it was like to be riding through a double row of fans when he passed them when riding away from the team bus. The crowd of approximately 15,000 went mad when the Belgian champion passed them towards the start on the medieval-looking market in Brugge, the heart of West-Flanders. An emotional Devolder said, "It's the most beautiful race of the year. I've never suffered as much as today, but with it there are oceans of people along the roads, it is also something to enjoy while you're suffering. You can't compare it with any other race."