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Boonen wins 2012 Tour of Flanders

By:
Brecht Decaluwé

Glory on the cobbles for Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider

Local favourite Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won the 2012 Tour of Flanders on Sunday afternoon, holding off Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) and Alessandro Ballan (BMC) in a three-man sprint to the line to secure his third win in the popular Belgian race. Boonen became the fourth rider in cycling history to win the Tour of Flanders three times.

"I was worried about heading to the finish with those Italians. They know each other well and I feared that they would kill me, but the strong headwind was my ally," said Boonen. "I had to count on my sprint. I started too early and didn't have much left but it was enough."

With his third win in the Tour of Flanders, the Belgian joins Achiel Buysse, Fiorenzo Magnie and Eric Leman as a triple winner of the cycling Monument. "That is fantastic. I never expected that."

The much-anticipated battle between Boonen and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) failed to materialise after the Swiss rider crashed out dramatically with 62km to go. Cancellara broke his collarbone.

"I didn't see it. It's sad because with Fabian it would've been much nicer," Boonen told Sporza.

Boonen, Pozzato and Ballan were left to provide the finale's drama in front of fanatical and generous crowds. The trio made a decisive move by pulling clear with 18km left, and the Belgian prevailed in the end, continuing in the brilliant form that he has sustained so far in 2012.

In the final kilometers, the efforts of the three riders resembled a three-up match sprint on a velodrome as they played cat and mouse games toward the finish.

The two Italians who flanked Boonen on the podium were left disappointed, especially Pozzato who felt that he was the strongest man in the race. "I had the impression that Boonen was tired and that I could beat him but in the last five kilometers he proved the opposite. In the sprint he can build on his explosive skills," Pozzato told Sporza.

Ballan, as the slowest rider of the three in a sprint, tried to get away several times in an effort to repeat his 2007 Tour of Flanders victory. "The finale was tough. On the final ascent of the Paterberg we had a gap on Boonen, and I thought we would head to Oudenaarde with the two of us but he held on," said Ballan. "On the way to the finish, Tom was super. I couldn't wait for the sprint but he kept catching me."

The sprint for fourth place was won by Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) ahead of Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and the rest of the large first chase group. "The strongest three were ahead. We had Ballan in front, so it wasn't up to me to chase. I'm happy with fourth place," Van Avermaet told Sporza.

Action from the gun

Immediately after leaving Bruges, the breakaway attempts started. On the first wide roads, nobody got away but the altered route through Zerkegem, the town where 1935 Tour de France winner Romain Maes was born 100 years ago, made a difference. After going through Zerkegem's tiny roads, a group of 15 riders representing 14 teams got away.

The group included high-profile riders like sprinter Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda), triple Grand Tour stage winner Pablo Lastras Garcia (Movistar) and several breakaway specialists like David Boucher (FDJ-Big Mat), Anders Lund (Saxo Bank), Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank) and Gert Dockx (Lotto-Belisol). The other names in the group were Manuel Belletti (AG2R La Mondiale), Peio Bilbao (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Sven Vandousselaere (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator), Baptiste Planckaert (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony), Massimo Graziato (Lampre-ISD), Vladimir Isaichev (Katusha) and Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano). NetApp was represented by two riders: Daniel Schorn and Andreas Schillinger.

Despite the efforts from the Omega Pharma - Quick Step team on behalf of top favorite Boonen, the 15 leaders gained time on the peloton. Boonen's men switched the pace up a notch without going full gas and as they approached the first pavé sections near Kruishoutem after 85km of racing, the leaders' gap was up to nearly six minutes.

The Garmin-Barracuda team moved to the front at the cobbles of the Huisepontweg and Doorn, later joined by the GreenEdge team and others, who brought the gap down to 5:30 as they passed through the finish town Oudenaarde after 100km of racing.

At the third climb of the day, the Molenberg, Cancellara flatted and the peloton split up with six riders setting up a counter-attack. A six-man chase group trailed the lead group by four minutes and included Matthew Hayman (Sky), Tomas Vaitkus (GreenEdge), Lars Boom (Rabobank), Aliaksandr Kyuschinski (Katusha), Alexandre Pichot (Europacar) and Kris Boeckmans (Vacansoleil-DCM). Boonen wouldn't let them get away and they were caught before they hit the next climb, the Rekelberg.

Due to more accelerations from Hayman, Björn Leukemans, Thor Hushovd, Johan Vansummeren, Stijn Vandenbergh and Daniele Bennati, the gap dropped further to just three minutes as the leaders rode over the Berendries and the Valkenberg. When they started on the first of the loops with the dual ascents of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, the speed went up another notch although there were no specific attacks in the peloton.

The Koppenberg awaited the riders. In front, only nine men survived it, and they finished off the tough cobbled climb with a gap of two minutes on the peloton. At the feed zone after the Koppenberg - 64km from the finish - bad luck struck Cancellara. The 2010 winner and favorite coming into this edition somehow hit the deck and didn't get back up after he fractured his collarbone in three places.

A large peloton entered Ronse for the first time and powered towards the Kruisberg/Hontond at less than a minute from the leaders. On the Kruisberg, there was an acceleration from Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC). Several men followed the Belgian champion, but a little later they were caught by the peloton while at about the same time, the leaders were also caught. Only David Boucher managed to sneak away just before the regrouping in front. On the descent towards Kluisbergen, there was a high-speed crash in which Sebastiaan Langeveld (GreenEdge) collided with a startled spectator after he tried to move up in the peloton by taking the bike lane to the far right of the road. It appeared as if Langeveld hurt his collarbone or shoulder and he had to abandon.

At the foot of the Oude Kwaremont, upon starting the second loop, Boucher was also caught, bringing the peloton all together. Vanmarcke led on the first stretches of the Kwaremont until Chavanel accelerated. The pace from the French champion caused damage in the peloton and on the following section towards the Paterberg, he didn't look back.

A definitive split

About 25 riders survived this selection, although Flecha, Luca Paolini (Katusha) and Vincent Jérôme (Europcar) anticipated the next steep hill at 34km from the finish. In the sharp corner coming into the Paterberg, there was a crash in the main group, taking down men like Vansummeren and hindering outsiders like Matti Breschel and Peter Sagan. The latter recovered soon and bridged back up with the group of leaders featuring Boonen, Niki Terpstra and Chavanel, Pozzato, Ballan, Vanmarcke, Jérôme, Paolini and Maxim Iglinsky (Astana).

Ballan then applied pressure and seemed to ride away easiliy off the front with 18km to go. Not happy with this development, Boonen and Pozzato bridge up to him. This was the racing-winning split.

The tactical games with the three men started in the final kilometers. Ballan launched a few attacks that Boonen closed each time, and when the Italian former world champion went for the last time, Boonen blasted around him toward the finish line. Pozzato tried to charge up and overtake Boonen, but was not strong enough to over take the Belgian favorite, who won his third Tour of Flanders.

Full Results

# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 6:04:33  
2 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia    
3 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:00:01  
4 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:38  
5 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale    
6 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quickstep    
7 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team    
8 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar    
9 Matti Breschel (Den) Rabobank Cycling Team    
10 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep    
11 Grégory Rast (Swi) Radioshack-Nissan    
12 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Katusha Team    
13 Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
14 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
15 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha Team    
16 Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat    
17 Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Katusha Team    
18 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team Saxo Bank    
19 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling    
20 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Procycling    
21 Hayden Roulston (NZl) RadioShack-Nissan    
22 Elia Favilli (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia    
23 Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana Pro Team    
24 Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan    
25 Maarten Wynants (Bel) Rabobank Cycling Team    
26 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar    
27 Vincent Jerome (Fra) Team Europcar    
28 Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team    
29 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
30 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin - Barracuda    
31 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) GreenEdge Cycling Team    
32 Steve Chainel (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat    
33 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
34 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre - ISD    
35 Egidijus Juodvalkis (Ltu) Landbouwkrediet    
36 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team    
37 Leif Hoste (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
38 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia    
39 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team    
40 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep    
41 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
42 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
43 Francesco Failli (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia    
44 Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team    
45 Oscar Gatto (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia    
46 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep    
47 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:48  
48 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Garmin - Barracuda    
49 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Garmin - Barracuda 0:01:06  
50 Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:18  
51 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator 0:03:26  
52 George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team    
53 Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
54 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Sky Procycling    
55 Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC Racing Team    
56 Davy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
57 Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Procycling    
58 Christian Knees (Ger) Sky Procycling    
59 John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos-Shimano    
60 Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
61 Kristof Goddaert (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:43  
62 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
63 Andy Cappelle (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
64 Jack Bauer (NZl) Garmin - Barracuda    
65 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat    
66 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
67 Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team    
68 Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre - ISD    
69 Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Katusha Team    
70 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team    
71 Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Team NetApp    
72 David Veilleux (Can) Team Europcar    
73 Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team    
74 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Team Europcar    
75 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team    
76 Mickael Delage (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat    
77 Edward King (USA) Liquigas-Cannondale    
78 Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team    
79 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Procycling    
80 Wouter Mol (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
81 Dennis Van Winden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
82 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) RadioShack-Nissan    
83 Andreas Klier (Ger) Garmin - Barracuda    
84 Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Argos-Shimano    
85 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) GreenEdge Cycling Team    
86 David Boucher (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat    
87 Baptiste Plackaert (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
88 Vladimir Isaichev (Rus) Katusha Team 0:15:34  
89 Luke Roberts (Aus) Team Saxo Bank    
90 Peio Bilbao (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
91 Aliaksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Katusha Team    
92 Gert Dockx (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team    
93 Kris Boeckmans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
94 Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan    
95 Manuel Belletti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale    
96 Jacob Rathe (USA) Garmin - Barracuda    
97 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
98 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar Team    
99 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Barracuda    
100 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale    
101 Jaroslaw Marycz (Pol) Team Saxo Bank    
102 Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
103 Anders Lund (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
104 Dominique Rollin (Can) FDJ-Big Mat    
DNF Kasper Klostergaard Larsen (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
DNF Michael Morkov (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
DNF Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team    
DNF Nikolas Maes (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep    
DNF Gert Steegmans (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep    
DNF Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep    
DNF Gaetan Bille (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team    
DNF Sander Cordeel (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team    
DNF Kenny De Haes (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team    
DNF Jonas Vangenechten (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team    
DNF Frederik Willems (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team    
DNF Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Sky Procycling    
DNF Christopher Sutton (Aus) Sky Procycling    
DNF Gregor Gazvoda (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale    
DNF Romain Lemarchand (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
DNF Steve Houanard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
DNF Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team    
DNF Baden Cooke (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team    
DNF Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) GreenEdge Cycling Team    
DNF Stuart O'grady (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team    
DNF Svein Tuft (Can) GreenEdge Cycling Team    
DNF Matthew Wilson (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team    
DNF Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team    
DNF Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team    
DNF Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Astana Pro Team    
DNF Valentin Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team    
DNF Simone Ponzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team    
DNF Pierre Cazaux (Fra) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
DNF Ricardo Garcia Ambroa (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
DNF Miguel Minguez Ayala (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
DNF Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
DNF Adrian Saez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
DNF Pablo Urtasun Perez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
DNF William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat    
DNF Anthony Geslin (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat    
DNF Alexander Porsev (Rus) Katusha Team    
DNF Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Vitaliy Buts (Ukr) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Massimo Graziato (Ita) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Yuriy Krivtsov (Fra) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Davide Vigano (Ita) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
DNF Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Cannondale    
DNF Alan Marangoni (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
DNF Jesus Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team    
DNF Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Movistar Team    
DNF José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Movistar Team    
DNF Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team    
DNF Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team    
DNF Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
DNF Jos Van Emden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
DNF Thomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
DNF Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
DNF Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin - Barracuda    
DNF Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan    
DNF Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan    
DNF Jesse Sergent (NZl) RadioShack-Nissan    
DNF Stijn Devolder (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
DNF Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
DNF Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
DNF Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Eliot Lietaer (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Stijn Neirynck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Sven Vandousselaere (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Frédéric Amorison (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
DNF Koen Barbe (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
DNF Kurt Hovelynck (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
DNF Jonathan Breyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
DNF Arnoud Van Groen (Ned) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
DNF Kevin Van Melsen (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
DNF Stefan Van Dijk (Ned) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
DNF Rob Goris (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
DNF James Vanlandschoot (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
DNF Luca Ascani (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia    
DNF Pier Paolo De Negri (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia    
DNF Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia    
DNF Roy Curvers (Ned) Argos-Shimano    
DNF Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Argos-Shimano    
DNF Tom Veelers (Ned) Argos-Shimano    
DNF Dominic Klemme (Ger) Argos-Shimano    
DNF Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Argos-Shimano    
DNF Ronan Van Zandbeek (Ned) Argos-Shimano    
DNF Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Team Europcar    
DNF Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar    
DNF Yohann Gene (Fra) Team Europcar    
DNF Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Team NetApp    
DNF Daniel Schorn (Aut) Team NetApp    
DNF Blaz Jarc (Slo) Team NetApp    
DNF Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Team NetApp    
DNF André Schulze (Ger) Team NetApp    
DNF Timon Seubert (Ger) Team NetApp    
DNF Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Team NetApp