The sun shines for the Swiss champion in Flanders

Cancellara out-powers Boonen on the Kapelmuur

The skies may have been dark everywhere else in Belgium, but a ray of light shone on Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) as he rode to the victory in the Tour of Flanders. The world time trial champion showed his huge power advantage by dropping Tom Boonen (Quick Step) on the Kapelmuur climb and then riding away to glory with more than a minute's lead by the line.

Flashing his lucky charm for the camera as he pulled into Meerbeke en route to his the third Monument victory, the Swiss champion, who won Paris-Roubaix in 2006 and Milan-San Remo in 2008, had ample time to celebrate with team director Bjarne Riis and grab a Swiss flag from the fans to wave as he crossed the line.

Boonen and Cancellara broke free of the lead group on the Molenberg more than 40km before the finish, and thanks to a strong tailwind were able to distance a group of chasers which was whittled down to Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) by the top of the Kapelmuur.

Cancellara chose the steepest part of the climb to put in a bid to drop Boonen, and the effort was a success. By the famous chapel at the top of the climb in Geraardsbergen, the Swiss had a dozen seconds on the fading Belgian champion. With his world-renowned time trialing abilities, Cancellara steadily added time to his lead in the final 20km. Boonen came across the line, head bowed, in second place 1:14 later. Gilbert easily out-sprinted Leukemans to claim the final podium spot, while not far behind Americans Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) and George Hincapie (BMC) were fastest in the bunch sprint.

"It wasn't easy knowing I was the favourite but that was more of a weight on my shoulders in the build-up to the race rather than today," Cancellara said immediately after winning.

"I suppose it was a perfect race. Even my attacks were perfectly timed. Going on the Molenberg was the right moment and then I had to try on the Muur because that's where the legend and history of this race are made. When I realised I'd dropped Boonen it was like having wings on my feet and kept going all the way to the finish."

"Winning big races like this isn't easy and I have to thank my family and my team for the support they always give me. My next objective? There are still two monuments I haven't won…."

Boonen admitted that he was up against a tough rival today, but said things will be different next Sunday in Paris-Roubaix.

"Battling up against Fabian as a team is ideal. I'm already happy that I was able to keep up with him. I don't fear him. I've got a simple plan. If he goes I have to stay with him. You can't give him a few meters or he's gone," Boonen said after the race.

"Cancellara and I started co-operating without saying a word. It was a beautiful race. I liked the new course a lot. In the past riders were able to come back and attack, but now that was impossible. The Molenberg didn't make the difference. It's the part just before and after the Molenberg that makes it very hard."

It was Boonen's third runner-up finish after Milan-San Remo and the E3 Prijs, but the Belgian champion had a positive view on his latest result. "It makes me the best regular rider of the peloton."

A fast start from Brugge

The first attacks of the race were launched right after leaving Brugge. The first five riders to get a gap over the peloton were Michele Merlo, Nicolas Rousseau, Joost van Leijen, Floris Goesinnen, and veteran José Vicente Garcia Acosta. When arriving at the coast after half an hour of racing the five had a gap of one minute over the peloton. Three riders then made a counter-attack, with Olivier Bonnaire, Mikhail Ignatiev and natural attacker David Boucher setting off in pursuit of the five.

After sixty kilometres of early racing the three chasers bridged up with the leaders, creating an eight-man leader's group. The peloton let them go and were soon thirteen minutes behind them, with Quick Step, Team Sky, Saxo Bank and Astana all helped controlled the gap.

On the first climb called Den Ast, the gap had dropped below the ten minutes. The speed increased in the peloton as the roads were getting more technical and narrow. Several crashes occurred and ruined several riders' chances, although no favourites were included. However Lars Boom and Sergey Ivanov were caught behind and had to work hard to get back to the peloton, using a lot of energy to get back near the front of the peloton where Saxo Bank was driving the pace.

When the race reached the Kluisberg, the second climb of the day, the huge gap had fallen to just four minutes and the race between the big teams was on.

Saxo Bank controlled the peloton, with eight men on front of the peloton. Saxo Bank put the hammer down as the race headed towards the first real testing climb, the Oude Kwaremont. Again, the peloton split apart, with about hundred riders were in the first peloton that trailed the leaders by two minutes.

After the Oude Kwaremont there were only four leaders left from the early break: Van Leijen, Garcia Acosta, Goesinnen and Ignatiev. In the peloton Stuart O'Grady led the group at a steady pace over the 2200 metre-long cobbled stretch. Once again, the peloton reduced in number, with Stijn Devolder being the most important absentee.

The first selection on the Paterberg

On the Paterberg climb, with 80km to go, Matti Breschel upped the pace and this time the favorites had to move. Only nine men survived this selection, indicating what would happen later in the race. Breschel, Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen, Lars Boom, Juan Antonio Flecha, George Hincapie, Steve Chainel, Leif Hoste and Thor Hushovd were all there.

The rest of the peloton wasn't too far away and got back just before tackling the Koppenberg but then the pace went up yet again. Breschel and Boonen impressed on the famous cobbled climb. Cyclo-cross rider Chainel had to stop and put his foot down, blocking other riders and forcing him to run up the climb on the 22% part of the Koppenberg.

Up front Garcia Acosta got dropped and the three remaining leaders had about forty seconds on a leading peloton of about forty riders that also including Lance Armstrong. There was no organisation in the peloton and on climb eight, the Taaienberg, several riders managed to bridge back up to the first peloton, including Devolder and Sergey Ivanov. This was the quiet before the decisive attacks.

On the next climb, the Eikenberg, 60km kilometres from the finish, Team Sky closed the gap on Ignatiev, Goesinnen and Van Leijen. Behind the Saxo Bank team had a scare as both Cancellara and Breschel were forced to switch bikes. For Breschel the mechanic couldn't seem to find the right bike and the Danish champion lost a lot of time and was forced to chase amongst the long line of team cars. The problem definitely compromised his race.

The door swings open on the Molenberg

Due to the hesitations in the peloton Mathew Hayman sneaked away and on the cobbles and for a moment, it was Armstrong who led the chase. Then before the important Molenberg climb, with 45km to go, Bernhard Eisel, Daniel Oss, Matthew Lloyd and Maarten Wynants carved out a small gap but they were no match when Cancellara and Boonen blasted past them near the summit. It was the key moment of the race.

Boonen and Cancellara quickly opened a gap of fifteen seconds on a group with Flecha, who narrowly missed the attack. On a crosswind section Philippe Gilbert blew the chase group apart but was marked by Bjorn Leukemans, Hoogerland, Chainel, Hoste, David Millar, Sebastian Langeveld, Hincapie, Iglinsky, Flecha and the Quick Step duo Wynants and Devolder who neutralized the attacks.

Meanwhile Boonen and Cancellara were sharing pulls in front, opening a gap of half a minute. Millar attacked the chase group after climbing the Leberg but the Brit didn't get any closer on the leading duo. On the Berendries climb he received help from Gilbert and Leukemans who had left the rest of the original chase group behind but even the trio failed to get close to Boonen and Cancellara.

With less than thirty kilometers the race seemed to be between Boonen and Cancellara, with Millar, Gilbert and Leukemans at fifty seconds, and a nine-man chasing group with Devolder, Wynants, Langeveld, Iglinsky, Flecha, Chainel, Hoogerland, Hincapie and Hoste at little over a minute. On the thirteenth climb, the Tenbosse, the leaders had 54 seconds on the three chasers and 1'20" on the other chasers.

A moment in time and one good line...

At the foot of the famous Muur in Geraardsbergen the gap for the leaders was down to 43" but everything seemed to be under control for the Belgian and Swiss national champion. The Kapelmuur would see the shown down between the two.

Both look strong but on the last section of the Muur, Cancellara had something extra - a bit more power and a slightly better line over the cobbles - and he surged away from Boonen. Over the top of the Kapelmuur, Cancellara already had a gap over ten seconds and Boonen seemed to have thrown in the towel.

He tried to chase but lost time all the way to the finish. Cancellara used his time trialing skills to open a huge margin and then began celebrating as soon as he entered the long finishing straight in Merebeke. He showed a special good luck charm he had kept in his pocket and celebrated with Saxo Bank team Bjarne Riis manager in the team car. He then collected a Swiss flag before slowly rolling over the line in celebration. Despite racing for 262km and over six hours, he hardly seemed out of breath.

Boonen also rolled home, just over a minute behind, while Philippe Gilbert beat Bjorn Leukemans to take third place.

The USA's Tyler Farrar won the sprint for fifth, with George Hincapie sixth.

Full Results
1Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank6:25:56 
2Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step0:01:15 
3Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:02:11 
4Bjorn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team0:02:15 
5Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Transitions0:02:35 
6George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team  
7Roger Hammond (GBr) Cervelo Test Team  
8Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana  
9Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
10William Bonnet (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom  
11Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team  
12Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Team Katusha  
13Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
14Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
15Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank  
16Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team HTC - Columbia  
17Steve Chainel (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom  
18Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
19Maarten Wynants (Bel) Quick Step  
20Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team  
21Roy Sentjens (Bel) Team Milram  
22Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank  
23Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia  
24Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step  
25Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step  
26Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
27Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radioshack  
28Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
29Leif Hoste (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
30Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
31Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha  
32David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions  
33Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
34Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
35Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:02:48 
36Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil - Shimano0:05:13 
37Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
38Dimitri Muravyev (Kaz) Team Radioshack  
39Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
40Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
41Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
42Dominique Rollin (Can) Cervelo Test Team  
43Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
44Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom  
45Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram  
46Grégory Rast (Swi) Team Radioshack  
47Frederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas-Doimo  
48Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
49Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank  
50Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus) Team Katusha  
51Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
52Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step  
53Kurt Asle Arvesen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
54Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team  
55Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin - Transitions  
56Daniel Lloyd (GBr) Cervelo Test Team  
57Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team  
58Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom0:06:58 
59Koen Barbe (Bel) Landbouwkrediet0:10:33 
60Bobbie Traksel (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team  
61Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
62Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
63Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step0:13:20 
64Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Astana  
65Javier Aramendia Lorente (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
66Allan Davis (Aus) Astana  
67Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana  
68Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Team HTC - Columbia  
69Floris Goesinnen (Ned) Skil - Shimano  
70Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team  
71Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
72Frédéric Amorison (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
73Tiziano Dall'antonia (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
74Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Team HTC - Columbia  
75Hayden Roulston (NZl) Team HTC - Columbia  
76Yoann Offredo (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
77Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank  
78Michael Barry (Can) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
79Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom  
80Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quick Step  
81Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Team Radioshack  
82Tom Veelers (Ned) Skil - Shimano  
83Roy Curvers (Ned) Skil - Shimano  
84Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
85Gustav Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo Bank  
86Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank  
87Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
88Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Team Katusha  
89Christopher Sutton (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
90Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin - Transitions  
91Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Team HTC - Columbia  
92Kasper Klostergaard Larsen (Den) Team Saxo Bank  
93Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team  
94Frank Hoj (Den) Team Saxo Bank  
95Joost Van Leijen (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team  
DNFKevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quick Step  
DNFJulien Berard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFBen Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFKristof Goddaert (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFAnthony Ravard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFNicolas Rousseau (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFScott Davis (Aus) Astana  
DNFValeriy Dmitriyev (Kaz) Astana  
DNFEnrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana  
DNFValentin Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana  
DNFLuis Pasamontes Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
DNFArnaud Coyot (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne  
DNFMathieu Drujon (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne  
DNFImanol Erviti (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
DNFRui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Caisse d'Epargne  
DNFJosé Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
DNFJosé Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
DNFAndres Sergio De Lis (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
DNFJonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
DNFAitor Galdos Alonso (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
DNFInaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
DNFGorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
DNFRomain Sicard (Fra) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
DNFPablo Urtasun Perez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
DNFFabio Felline (Ita) Footon-Servetto  
DNFErmanno Capelli (Ita) Footon-Servetto  
DNFManuel Antonio Leal Cardoso (Por) Footon-Servetto  
DNFVidal Celis Zabala (Spa) Footon-Servetto  
DNFThomas Patrick Faiers (GBr) Footon-Servetto  
DNFJohnnie Walker (Aus) Footon-Servetto  
DNFMichele Merlo (Ita) Footon-Servetto  
DNFDavid Gutierrez (Spa) Footon-Servetto  
DNFOlivier Bonnaire (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
DNFSébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
DNFMikael Cherel (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
DNFAnthony Geslin (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
DNFYauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Française Des Jeux  
DNFAlfredo Balloni (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
DNFMarcin Sapa (Pol) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
DNFVitaliy Buts (Ukr) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
DNFMirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
DNFDaniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
DNFJacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
DNFAliaksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas-Doimo  
DNFMickael Delage (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
DNFAdam Blyth (GBr) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
DNFSebastian Lang (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
DNFRick Flens (Ned) Rabobank  
DNFThomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank  
DNFNick Nuyens (Bel) Rabobank  
DNFTom Stamsnijder (Ned) Rabobank  
DNFGreg Henderson (NZl) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
DNFJulian Dean (NZl) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFMatthew Wilson (Aus) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFSteven Cozza (USA) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFSvein Tuft (Can) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFMark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC - Columbia  
DNFMartin Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia  
DNFMarco Bandiera (Ita) Team Katusha  
DNFMaxime Vantomme (Bel) Team Katusha  
DNFRobbie Mcewen (Aus) Team Katusha  
DNFMikhaylo Khalilov (Ukr) Team Katusha  
DNFWim De Vocht (Bel) Team Milram  
DNFMarkus Eichler (Ger) Team Milram  
DNFThomas Fothen (Ger) Team Milram  
DNFServais Knaven (Ned) Team Milram  
DNFPeter Wrolich (Aut) Team Milram  
DNFPaul Voss (Ger) Team Milram  
DNFTomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Team Radioshack  
DNFMarkel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team Radioshack  
DNFYaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Team Radioshack  
DNFSebastien Rosseler (Bel) Team Radioshack  
DNFBaden Cooke (Aus) Team Saxo Bank  
DNFAnders Lund (Den) Team Saxo Bank  
DNFStuart O'Grady (Aus) Team Saxo Bank  
DNFMathieu Claude (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom  
DNFYohann Gene (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom  
DNFDamien Gaudin (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom  
DNFMartin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
DNFJackson Stewart (USA) BMC Racing Team  
DNFDanilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
DNFJeremy Hunt (GBr) Cervelo Test Team  
DNFMartin Reimer (Ger) Cervelo Test Team  
DNFBrett Lancaster (Aus) Cervelo Test Team  
DNFGabriel Rasch (Nor) Cervelo Test Team  
DNFDavid Boucher (Fra) Landbouwkrediet  
DNFDavy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
DNFBert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
DNFKevin Neirynck (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
DNFGeert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
DNFMitchell Docker (Aus) Skil - Shimano  
DNFSteve Houanard (Fra) Skil - Shimano  
DNFJob Vissers (Ned) Skil - Shimano  
DNFPiet Rooijakkers (Ned) Skil - Shimano  
DNFJohan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
DNFThomas De Gendt (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
DNFPieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
DNFKlaas Lodewyck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
DNFGeert Steurs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
DNFMaarten Neyens (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
DNFSteven Van Vooren (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
DNFWouter Mol (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team  
DNFJens Mouris (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team  


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