Three time Tour of Flanders winner Johan Museeuw believes that Sunday's race was one of the most open and exciting in recent years. He praised Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) for making the race but pointed out that winner Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank) was the smartest in the race.
"It was a very open race from the beginning until the end and there were about five times when I thought the race was over. First when Sylvain Chavanel and Fabian Cancellara went away and then when Gilbert went on the Bosberg I thought the same thing. The situation kept changing in the run in as well," he told Cyclingnews at the finish in Ninove.
Nuyens played a tactical race, latching onto various moves throughout the day rather than attacking himself, saving his energy while rivals like Cancellara, Gilbert and Tom Boonen took turns at attacking each other. In the finale Nuyens broke away with Cancellara and Chavanel in the winning move and won in a close sprint.
"We didn't have the winner that we expected, but he's always there. Nuyens is a guy who always races his own race, and has his own tactics. He was a little bit behind at times when compared to Cancellara and Boonen but they're usually on another level. But Nuyens is a good rider. He's won some good races and he's won the Tour of Flanders on his terms today, Museeuw pointed out."
"He was the smartest rider. He has to ride this way because he's not as strong as some of the others. He can't attack from 30 kilometres out. He has to play poker with his strength."
Museeuw, who now works for Belgian television, followed the race on motorbike, sending his comments and insight back to a television studio throughout the race. He was a first-hand eye witness when Cancellara attacked on the Valkenberg and then watched as the Swiss rider faded and was reeled in by a strong team effort from BMC.
Asked if he thought Cancellara attacked too soon, Museeuw was quick to respond: "What's too soon if you saw Cancellara last Saturday at E3 when he controlled the race? But I was behind him when he was in the break with Chavanel and he kept asking for food and bottles and that was a moment I thought to myself that he was in a little bit of trouble. He opened up the race though. He made it what it was."
Museeuw's only criticism over race tactics was pointed towards Quick Step, although he did admit the value of hindsight when forging his post-race opinion.
"Maybe you can look at the tactics of Quick Step," he said.
"I would have let Chavanel ride with Cancellara. He was stronger than Boonen and you saw him beat Cancellara in the sprint. After it's easy to say though, I know this. For me Chavanel was the strongest rider in the race so that's why I think they played the wrong tactics. But we don't know what they were saying in the radios. Chavanel isn't the leader of the team but today he was stronger than his leader.”
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