Carlos Sastre (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) honoured his Tour de France yellow jersey by winning the first post Tour criterium in Aalst, Belgium. The Spaniard finished alone at the front of the field.
The sprint for second was won by Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia) ahead of Tour green jersey Oscar Freire (Rabobank). Belgian national champion Jürgen Roelandts (Silence-Lotto) was fourth, while Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) filled out the top five.
"I couldn't come to the finish with the fast men like Cavendish and Freire," Sastre told Sports Wereld. "So I have to try and force it while the pace was high in the finale. Belgian champion Jürgen Roelandts was the perfect spring board."
A huge crowd of over 70,000 people assembled in the small Belgian town to cheer on their favourite riders from the 2008 Tour. Sastre, along with Freire, four time Tour stage winner Cavendish, Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) and Roelandts where presented to the crowd during a procession before the race. Due to the large number of fans and the time it took to get present the riders, the race had to be shortened by six laps, to 40.
Cavendish was one of the main attractions of the race, with many fans seeking his autograph. Even Belgian cycling star Freddy Maertens was eager to have the Manxman's signature on a Columbia jersey he brought along.
When Cavendish realised who it was standing in front of him his eyes lit up. "You have a fantastic set of results, man! I want your signature on my shirt," he said.
Kelly faster than De Wolf, Jansen
In the gentlemen's race for ex-professionals and famous Flemish men, Sean Kelly was too fast for Dirk De Wolf and Jan Janssen. "I still have fast legs," the Irishman explained. "That's because I still regularly ride my bike."