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Nuyens makes his big break through

Brecht Decaluwé

Cancellara, Chavanel out-foxed in Flanders

Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank-SunGard) pulled off a perfectly executed win at the Tour of Flanders, finally proving to his Belgian supporters that his second here in 2008 was no fluke.

The Belgian got away with Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) and Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) in the final five kilometres, took advantage of being in a decisive move and then beat them in the sprint to the line. Tom Boonen (Quick-Step) finished fourth at short distance.

Right after finishing Nuyens couldn't realize what he had just accomplished. "I'll need some time before it sinks in. It's special because I didn't have a great day and ran into a lot of bad luck," Nuyens said. "I know that I'm not the best rider of all, but I also know that if I have a good day, they have to take me into account."

In one of the most unpredictable editions of the Tour of Flanders in years, the action changed continuously. Cancellara tried an audacious attack some 60km from the finish and joined Chavanel who was already up the road since the Oude Kwaremont. Cancellara didn't get any help from Chavanel and suddenly he faded when approaching the famous Muur in Geraardsbergen. On the Kapelmuur they were caught by a group of race favourites and the race was wide open again.

"It showed that superman can have weak moments too. I had cramps," Cancellara said. "Probably I didn't drink enough. This was like a summer day in Flanders and everybody expected rain. I asked Sylvain to help me. If he helped me we could go to the finish line, but they played for Boonen."

In hindsight Chavanel regretted he didn't support last year's winner. "I'm sorry that I didn't work with him. I have a good sprint so I had my chances but we have Tom for the sprint," Chavanel said.

A group of twelve riders including previous winners Boonen, Cancellara and Ballan battled for the win on the flat roads towards Meerbeke. The attacks were flying around but when Cancellara went again within the final five kilometres only Chavanel and Nuyens were able to stay with him and the Saxo Bank rider played it perfectly. Cancellara lead out the sprint but Nuyens came through on the line, struggling to believe he had won.

"They say I'm good in that sort of stuff. There was a little bit of time to gamble in the sprint. I knew I could beat Cancellara but I was unsure about Chavanel," Nuyens said. "I was on a too small gear. I saw something blue on my right and for a brief moment a Hoste-scenario [Leif Hoste defeated by Alessandro Ballan in 2007] flashed through my head. When I shifted up I felt I had dash left and I think I rode a professional sprint."

In the sprint Chavanel had to hold his legs still twice but the French rider didn't blame his sprint rivals. "Cancellara started the sprint and I followed. I came back but had to stop once to move right. Then I come back but I have to stop again. That's when I knew it was over. I've never been so good for the Spring Classics. Finishing on the podium isn't bad," Chavanel stated.

The early action

The race was fast and aggressive from the start. Numerous riders tried to get in the early breakaway but the peloton didn't allow anything to get away, thus the average speed during the first hour reached almost 50km/h.

Eventually a group of five riders was allowed some distance: Mitchell Docker (Skil-Shimano), Stefan van Dijk (Veranda Willems-Accent), Roger Hammond (Garmin-Cervélo), Sébastien Turgot (Europcar) and Jeremy Hunt (Sky). They built up a lead of almost eight minutes but the gap came down near Zwalm when several new attacks followed in the peloton.

When a sizable group of about twenty riders escaped the peloton, Cancellara's Leopard Trek teammates were forced to do the work in the peloton. The front group included Maarten Tjallingii, André Greipel, Bernard Eisel and Gert Steegmans but was brought back just before the fourth climb of the day, the Kaperij.

he five leaders only had three minutes left on the peloton at this point and the race was wide open. While heading to the important trio of climbs, the Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, and Koppenberg, Jurgen Roelandts, Joost Posthuma plus BMC's Marcus Burghardt and Karsten Kroon all crashed, while world champion Thor Hushovd and Sep Vanmarcke punctured.

Chavanel anticipates the attacks

On the Oude Kwaremont Sylvain Chavanel accelerated away and quickly bridged up to Simon Clarke (Astana) who had moved clear of the peloton just before. The duo caught up with the remaining three leaders (Hammond, Van Dijk and Turgot) while heading to the Koppenberg. The peloton trailed by only half a minute on the leaders, thanks to a surge from Philippe Gilbert.

At the second feed zone after 185km, Chavanel and Clarke were the only riders left in front, with the first peloton trailing by just twenty seconds. Before the Taaienberg climb, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) attacked and his move was marked by Boonen, Langeveld and Flecha, but on the climb Hushovd brought the peloton back to the high-quality group of four.

Two riders then bridged up to the leaders: First Edvald Boasson Hagen sneaked away, then on the Eikenberg it was Lars Boom who then powered away from the peloton. For the second time Leopard Trek was forced to work and Martin Mortensen emptied his tank for Cancellara.

Former Paris-Roubaix winner Fréderic Guesdon (FDJ) accelerated on the pavé section of Mater and he was joined by Greg Van Avermaet and watchdogs Hayman and Leezer. On the Molenberg, where Boonen and Cancellara attacked last year, Chavanel went clear alone, with Boom and Boasson Hagen the closest chasers. Right after the Molenberg there was a tactical move from outsider Bjorn Leukemans who slipped away with Baden Cooke. However this duo caught with Hayman, Van Avermaet and Leezer.

Cancellara makes his move

The race amongst the favourites heated up with 45km to go on the cobbles of Haaghoek. Hushovd led the peloton but then suddenly Boonen blasted past the world champion. Cancellara and Pozzato followed him as the trio quickly passed Van Avermaet, Hayman, Leezer, Leukemans and Cooke.

On the Leberg climb, Cancellara took over and turned on the turbo, causing panic and pain behind. Only Boonen and Pozzato were able to go with him but then he accelerated again and blew them off his wheel. On the steepest part of the Leberg, Cancellara blasted past Boom and Boasson Hagen and was away alone.

Chavanel still had a 40 second gap on Cancellara, but he had already gained twenty seconds on the first chase group that included Boonen, Pozzato, Boasson Hagen, Van Avermaet, Leukemans and Boom. The race seemed over.

On the fifteenth climb of the day, the Valkenberg, Cancellara caught up with Chavanel while the first chasers were at 40 seconds. In between the Valkenberg and the climb of the Tenbosse, Cancellara increased the gap on the chasers to a minute while the BMC team tried to organise an impressive seven-rider chase.

At the top of the Tenbosse, four BMC riders were still in front and the gap was only ten seconds smaller. Cancellara didn't get any help from Chavanel but he managed to keep the peloton at a minute as the Geraardsbergen climb approached.

Cancellara cracks

The race seemed over but then the biggest turnaround in the history of the Tour of Flanders unfolded in just a few kilometres. All of a sudden the gap between Cancellara and Chavanel and the peloton plummeted. Cancellara seemed in trouble and lost his sparkle.

On the famous Muur in Geraardsbergen the pair were caught by an aggressive Gilbert, followed by Leukemans, Ballan and the rest of the peloton. Cancellara accelerated in the second half of the Muur to stay at the front but the race was suddenly wide open again where it is usually decided.

After the Muur, five men were leading the race: Cancellara, Gilbert, Ballan, Leukemans and Chavanel. At the foot of the last climb of the day, the Bosberg, Flecha, Nuyens, Boonen, Langeveld, Thomas, Hincapie and Staf Scheirlinckx bridged up too. On the Bosberg, Gilbert attacked while the group splintered.

Gilbert opened a small lead on the rest on the flat and fast road to the finish. But it was not to be and he was pulled back as Thomas did a lot of work to bring Flecha back to the first chase group. At eight kilometres from the finish, twelve men were battling for the win in the Ronde.

Cancellara decides the race

Attacks from Ballan, Nuyens, Thomas and Flecha were neutralized while Cancellara seemed to have recovered from his efforts. A move from Langeveld at four kilometres from the finish was neutralized by Ballan but then Cancellara managed to pull off one final attack that was only followed by Chavanel and Nuyens.

At two kilometres from the finish the trio had about ten seconds on the nine chasers. It was a breathtaking finish.

Inside the last kilometre, Boonen tried a counter-attack from but it was just a little too late. After the final corner, Cancellara started the sprint early to hold off Boonen. Nuyens took over but struggled to hold on until the line. Both Cancellara and Chavanel came back at him but both fell short and Nuyens hit the line first and began to celebrate.

Chavanel could only wave his arm in disappointment and anger, while Cancellara took a tired and disappointed third. Boonen finished fourth just a few metres behind. The chase group filled the top-ten a few seconds further back, while Farrar won the bunch sprint 1:24 behind Nuyens, the new hero of Flemish cycling.

Full Results
1 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Saxo Bank Sungard 6:01:20  
2 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team    
3 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard Trek    
4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:00:02  
5 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:05  
6 George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team    
7 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
8 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent    
9 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
10 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling    
11 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Procycling    
12 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:00:09  
13 Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:01:24  
14 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) HTC-Highroad    
15 Dominique Rollin (Can) FDJ    
16 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre - ISD    
17 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
18 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team    
19 Leonardo Fabio Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
20 Maarten Wynants (Bel) Rabobank Cycling Team    
21 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Procycling    
22 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team    
23 William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ    
24 Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
25 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team    
26 Dennis Van Winden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
27 Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard    
28 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar    
29 Vincent Jerome (Fra) Team Europcar    
30 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Saxo Bank Sungard    
31 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
32 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team    
33 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
34 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) HTC-Highroad    
35 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Pro Team Astana    
36 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) FDJ    
37 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
38 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Katusha Team    
39 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Katusha Team    
40 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling    
41 Arnoud Van Groen (Ned) Veranda's Willems - Accent    
42 Grégory Rast (Swi) Team RadioShack    
43 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Katusha Team    
44 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Team RadioShack    
45 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
46 Thomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:02:37  
47 Kristof Goddaert (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:29  
48 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
49 Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team    
50 Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Procycling    
51 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Team Europcar    
52 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team    
53 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo    
54 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
55 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
56 Leif Hoste (Bel) Katusha Team    
57 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team 0:08:02  
58 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Saxo Bank Sungard    
59 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team    
60 Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team    
61 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Team Garmin-Cervelo    
62 Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:09:14  
63 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team RadioShack 0:12:37  
64 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Pro Team Astana    
65 Martin Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad    
66 Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team    
67 Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team    
68 Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team    
69 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Leopard Trek    
70 Simon Clarke (Aus) Pro Team Astana    
71 Kevin Ista (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:13:30  
72 James Vanlandschoot (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent 0:15:28  
73 Geert Steurs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
74 Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
75 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
76 André Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
77 Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
78 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar    
79 Davy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
80 Maxim Gourov (Kaz) Pro Team Astana    
81 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar    
82 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
83 Jan Ghyselinck (Bel) HTC-Highroad    
84 Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
85 Jaroslaw Marycz (Pol) Saxo Bank Sungard    
86 Steve Chainel (Fra) FDJ    
87 Baden Cooke (Aus) Saxo Bank Sungard    
88 Arnaud Labbe (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
89 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
90 Michael Mørkøv (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard    
91 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
92 Bert De Backer (Bel) Skil - Shimano    
93 Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Team RadioShack    
94 John Degenkolb (Ger) HTC-Highroad    
95 Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Cannondale    
96 Frédéric Amorison (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
97 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
98 Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team    
99 Borut Bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
100 Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil - Shimano    
101 Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Leopard Trek    
102 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Veranda's Willems - Accent    
103 Steve Houanard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
104 Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team    
105 Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Movistar Team    
106 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
107 Nico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
108 Roger Hammond (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo    
109 Dominic Klemme (Ger) Leopard Trek    
110 Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad    
111 Ben Swift (GBr) Sky Procycling    
112 Tom Veelers (Ned) Skil - Shimano    
113 Andreas Klier (Ger) Team Garmin-Cervelo    
114 David Boucher (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:17:51  
115 Javier Francisco Aramendia Lorente (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi    
116 Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
117 Carlos Oyarzun (Chi) Movistar Team    
118 Yuriy Krivtsov (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
119 Bram Schmitz (Ned) Veranda's Willems - Accent    
120 Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Team RadioShack    
121 Dominique Cornu (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
122 Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
123 Dmytro Krivtsov (Ukr) Lampre - ISD    
124 Steven Van Vooren (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
125 Romain Zingle (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
126 Yohann Gene (Fra) Team Europcar    
127 Kasper Klostergaard Larsen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard    
128 Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Pro Team Astana    
129 David Veilleux (Can) Team Europcar    
130 Romain Lemarchand (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
131 Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Pro Team Astana    
132 Martin Reimer (Ger) Skil - Shimano    
133 Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi    
134 Andreas Stauff (Ger) Quickstep Cycling Team    
135 Ronan Van Zandbeek (Ned) Skil - Shimano    
DNF Joost Posthuma (Ned) Leopard Trek    
DNF Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Leopard Trek    
DNF Martin Mortensen (Den) Leopard Trek    
DNF Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Leopard Trek    
DNF Daniel Lloyd (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo    
DNF Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Team Garmin-Cervelo    
DNF Matthew Wilson (Aus) Team Garmin-Cervelo    
DNF Jens Mouris (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
DNF Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
DNF Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
DNF Davide Malacarne (Ita) Quickstep Cycling Team    
DNF Adam Blyth (GBr) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
DNF Rick Flens (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
DNF Coen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
DNF Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad    
DNF Gatis Smukulis (Lat) HTC-Highroad    
DNF Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team    
DNF Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Sky Procycling    
DNF Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Sky Procycling    
DNF Elia Viviani (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
DNF Tiziano Dall'antonia (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
DNF Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
DNF Edward King (USA) Liquigas-Cannondale    
DNF Alan Marangoni (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
DNF Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale    
DNF Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Team RadioShack    
DNF Manuel Antonio Leal Cardoso (Por) Team RadioShack    
DNF Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team RadioShack    
DNF Anthony Ravard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
DNF Allan Davis (Aus) Pro Team Astana    
DNF Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Pro Team Astana    
DNF Vladimir Isaichev (Rus) Katusha Team    
DNF Aliaksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Katusha Team    
DNF Mikhail Ignatyev (Rus) Katusha Team    
DNF Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Vitaliy Buts (Ukr) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Vitaliy Kondrut (Ukr) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Balint Szeghalmi (Hun) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Jesus Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team    
DNF Luis Pasamontes Rodriguez (Spa) Movistar Team    
DNF Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi    
DNF Pierre Cazaux (Fra) Euskaltel-Euskadi    
DNF Miguel Minguez Ayala (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi    
DNF Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi    
DNF Daniel Sesma (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi    
DNF Koen Barbe (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
DNF Bart Dockx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
DNF Egidijus Juodvalkis (Ltu) Landbouwkrediet    
DNF Bobbie Traksel (Ned) Landbouwkrediet    
DNF Stijn Neirynck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Steven Caethoven (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent    
DNF Rob Goris (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent    
DNF Stefan Van Dijk (Ned) Veranda's Willems - Accent    
DNF Tristan Valentin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
DNF Olivier Bonnaire (Fra) FDJ    
DNF Mickael Delage (Fra) FDJ    
DNF Anthony Geslin (Fra) FDJ    
DNF Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ    
DNF Roy Curvers (Ned) Skil - Shimano    
DNF Mitchell Docker (Aus) Skil - Shimano    
DNF Roger Kluge (Ger) Skil - Shimano    
DNF Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Team Europcar