Skip to main content

Devolder shines in Belgian driekleur

Image 1 of 87

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) in disbelief

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) in disbelief (Image credit: AFP)
Image 2 of 87

George Hincapie had a great day and came in fifth, showing he is ready for Paris-Roubaix

George Hincapie had a great day and came in fifth, showing he is ready for Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
Image 3 of 87

Nick Nuyens left the group of favourites, caught Flecha and managed second

Nick Nuyens left the group of favourites, caught Flecha and managed second (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
Image 4 of 87

Flecha was visibly marked at the finish by his solo effort to catch the Belgian

Flecha was visibly marked at the finish by his solo effort to catch the Belgian (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
Image 5 of 87

Patrick Lefevere was anxiously waiting for his rider to get to the finish

Patrick Lefevere was anxiously waiting for his rider to get to the finish (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
Image 6 of 87

Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval-Scott) had a spectacular crash and had to leave thew race with a broken arm

Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval-Scott) had a spectacular crash and had to leave thew race with a broken arm (Image credit: Stijn Vercaemer)
Image 7 of 87

The crowd was out in forces, as always. They are really nuts about their Ronde, with one guy counting the cobbles (66240)!

The crowd was out in forces, as always. They are really nuts about their Ronde, with one guy counting the cobbles (66240)! (Image credit: Stijn Vercaemer)
Image 8 of 87

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) in disbelief after taking the biggest win of his career in the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) in disbelief after taking the biggest win of his career in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 9 of 87

Devolder shows the joy of winning Flanders' finest.

Devolder shows the joy of winning Flanders' finest. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 10 of 87

Belgians Nick Nuyens and Stijn Devolder with Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha made up the 92nd Ronde van Vlaanderen podium.

Belgians Nick Nuyens and Stijn Devolder with Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha made up the 92nd Ronde van Vlaanderen podium. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 11 of 87

Stijn Devolder, the Belgian champion gets the biggest win of his career.

Stijn Devolder, the Belgian champion gets the biggest win of his career. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 12 of 87

Devolder holds up the trophy - one of the most coveted mantle decorations in Belgium.

Devolder holds up the trophy - one of the most coveted mantle decorations in Belgium. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 13 of 87

Quick Step had a two-pronged attack with Devolder taking the lead when Boonen was unable.

Quick Step had a two-pronged attack with Devolder taking the lead when Boonen was unable. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 14 of 87

Bellegem is Village of the Ronde and the hometown of 1958 winner Germain Derijcke.

Bellegem is Village of the Ronde and the hometown of 1958 winner Germain Derijcke. (Image credit: Stijn Vercaemer)
Image 15 of 87

Some young fans are waiting for the riders.

Some young fans are waiting for the riders. (Image credit: Stijn Vercaemer)
Image 16 of 87

Look at the amazing crowd in the Tour village Bellgem.

Look at the amazing crowd in the Tour village Bellgem. (Image credit: Stijn Vercaemer)
Image 17 of 87

Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step

Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step (Image credit: Stijn Vercaemer)
Image 18 of 87

Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval-Scott)

Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval-Scott) (Image credit: Stijn Vercaemer)
Image 19 of 87

Watching the tense final kilometres on one little screen.

Watching the tense final kilometres on one little screen. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 20 of 87

Nick Nuyens beat Flecha in the sprint for second place.

Nick Nuyens beat Flecha in the sprint for second place. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 21 of 87

Flecha had a great race but couldn't close the gap with Devolder and eventually finished third.

Flecha had a great race but couldn't close the gap with Devolder and eventually finished third. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 22 of 87

George Hincapie and Bernhard Eisel were happy with the racing.

George Hincapie and Bernhard Eisel were happy with the racing. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 23 of 87

George Hincapie and Bernhard Eisel are also very worn out.

George Hincapie and Bernhard Eisel are also very worn out. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 24 of 87

Filippo Pozzatto had dirty shoes after the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Filippo Pozzatto had dirty shoes after the Ronde van Vlaanderen. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 25 of 87

Filippo Pozzatto had a good race and eventually finished sixth.

Filippo Pozzatto had a good race and eventually finished sixth. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 26 of 87

Juan Antonio Flecha at the post race press conference.

Juan Antonio Flecha at the post race press conference. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 27 of 87

Stijn Devolder seems to say : "Bad question. Get out of here!".

Stijn Devolder seems to say : "Bad question. Get out of here!". (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 28 of 87

Stijn Devolder talks with the press after the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Stijn Devolder talks with the press after the Ronde van Vlaanderen. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 29 of 87

Stijn Devolder talks about his fantastic victory.

Stijn Devolder talks about his fantastic victory. (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 30 of 87

Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld) fights up the cobbled monsters in Flanders.

Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld) fights up the cobbled monsters in Flanders. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 31 of 87

Luciano Pagliarini (Saunier Duval-Scott) had his ears covered as well as the attacks.

Luciano Pagliarini (Saunier Duval-Scott) had his ears covered as well as the attacks. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 32 of 87

Carlo Scognamiglio (Barloworld) 'enjoys' the Tour of Flanders.

Carlo Scognamiglio (Barloworld) 'enjoys' the Tour of Flanders. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 33 of 87

Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) crests over the top of one of the hellingen.

Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) crests over the top of one of the hellingen. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 34 of 87

Ballan tackles the first 'cobbles' in Brugge, but they are rather laughable in light of what's to come.

Ballan tackles the first 'cobbles' in Brugge, but they are rather laughable in light of what's to come. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 35 of 87

Fabian Cancellara couldn't wait to get started.

Fabian Cancellara couldn't wait to get started. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 36 of 87

Marco Corti (Barloworld) signs autographs for some happy kids.

Marco Corti (Barloworld) signs autographs for some happy kids. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 37 of 87

Frederik Willems (Liquigas) doesn't really need any pushes.

Frederik Willems (Liquigas) doesn't really need any pushes. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 38 of 87

The Molenberg is the first difficulty of real importance.

The Molenberg is the first difficulty of real importance. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 39 of 87

And when the going gets tough the tough get, errh, walking.

And when the going gets tough the tough get, errh, walking. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 40 of 87

The start in Brugge where there is always a big crowd hanging out.

The start in Brugge where there is always a big crowd hanging out. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 41 of 87

Cristian Murro (Lampre) struggles on the cobbles.

Cristian Murro (Lampre) struggles on the cobbles. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 42 of 87

Claudio Corioni (Liquigas) flies along the bad roads.

Claudio Corioni (Liquigas) flies along the bad roads. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 43 of 87

Fabio Baldato (Lampre) has a lot of experience in these kinds of races.

Fabio Baldato (Lampre) has a lot of experience in these kinds of races. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 44 of 87

Leaving the start house.

Leaving the start house. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 45 of 87

Make a left if you want to climb or a right to back out of the mess.

Make a left if you want to climb or a right to back out of the mess. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 46 of 87

Michele Bartoli was on hand with expert advise.

Michele Bartoli was on hand with expert advise. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 47 of 87

Fabio Baldato (Lampre) takes a left-hander at good speed, and not showing signs of slipping.

Fabio Baldato (Lampre) takes a left-hander at good speed, and not showing signs of slipping. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 48 of 87

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) was aggressive all day and separates himself from Flecha et al right here.

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) was aggressive all day and separates himself from Flecha et al right here. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 49 of 87

Tom Boonen had a strong team-mate and in the end it was a perfect day for Quick Step, even though 'Tommeke' may have liked to win himself.

Tom Boonen had a strong team-mate and in the end it was a perfect day for Quick Step, even though 'Tommeke' may have liked to win himself. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 50 of 87

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) shows first signs of dirt and exhaustion.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) shows first signs of dirt and exhaustion. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 51 of 87

Michele Bartoli has won the race in 1996 and placed in the top 10 several times.

Michele Bartoli has won the race in 1996 and placed in the top 10 several times. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 52 of 87

Ballan tries to bring the group back together and up to Devolder, but big brother Boonen was watching behind.

Ballan tries to bring the group back together and up to Devolder, but big brother Boonen was watching behind. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 53 of 87

Quinziato on the Koppenberg hoping that the Flag of Flanders won't get caught in his drive system.

Quinziato on the Koppenberg hoping that the Flag of Flanders won't get caught in his drive system. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 54 of 87

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) storms up the Koppenberg, with the new shoes carefully protected.

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) storms up the Koppenberg, with the new shoes carefully protected. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 55 of 87

Simon Spilak (Lampre) did a great race and was in the Boonen group in the end.

Simon Spilak (Lampre) did a great race and was in the Boonen group in the end. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 56 of 87

The podium with Nuyens, Devolder, Flecha from left to right.

The podium with Nuyens, Devolder, Flecha from left to right. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 57 of 87

Pat McQuaid enjoys the racing and hopefully all the differences with ASO can be sorted out soon.

Pat McQuaid enjoys the racing and hopefully all the differences with ASO can be sorted out soon. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 58 of 87

Fabio Baldato (Lampre) celebrates another Ronde finished.

Fabio Baldato (Lampre) celebrates another Ronde finished. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 59 of 87

Devolder with the trophy.

Devolder with the trophy. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 60 of 87

Walking is certainly an option.

Walking is certainly an option. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 61 of 87

A Saunier Duval rider realises that it is true what they told him: "The roads are different in Belgium."

A Saunier Duval rider realises that it is true what they told him: "The roads are different in Belgium." (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 62 of 87

Devolder is hugged by staff right after the race.

Devolder is hugged by staff right after the race. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 63 of 87

These bikes are collected when the cobbles do them in...

These bikes are collected when the cobbles do them in... (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 64 of 87

Paolo Fornaciari (Lampre) before the start.

Paolo Fornaciari (Lampre) before the start. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 65 of 87

A smiling Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) poses for a memory shot.

A smiling Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) poses for a memory shot. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 66 of 87

The start was a mad house with all kinds of activities going on.

The start was a mad house with all kinds of activities going on. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 67 of 87

Early on the elements were in their element and throwing challenges and snow on the riders.

Early on the elements were in their element and throwing challenges and snow on the riders. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 68 of 87

A hail storm cooled off everyone, but it didn't prevent an early four-man break.

A hail storm cooled off everyone, but it didn't prevent an early four-man break. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 69 of 87

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) was very strong on the cobbled climbs.

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) was very strong on the cobbled climbs. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 70 of 87

Devolder celebrates his biggest win to date.

Devolder celebrates his biggest win to date. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 71 of 87

Devolder used the ramp of the Eikenmolen to make his winning move and thoroughly enjoyed celebrating on the finish line.

Devolder used the ramp of the Eikenmolen to make his winning move and thoroughly enjoyed celebrating on the finish line. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 72 of 87

Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) chased in vain, as Tom Boonen behind him was happy to discourage such kinds of behaviour.

Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) chased in vain, as Tom Boonen behind him was happy to discourage such kinds of behaviour. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 73 of 87

The Koppenberg gives opportunity to test the robustness of cleats. Magnus Backstedt rides up through the mess, though.

The Koppenberg gives opportunity to test the robustness of cleats. Magnus Backstedt rides up through the mess, though. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 74 of 87

Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) attacks the Muur.

Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) attacks the Muur. (Image credit: hellingen)
Image 75 of 87

Erik Zabel (Team Milram) doesn't look to be having much fun.

Erik Zabel (Team Milram) doesn't look to be having much fun. (Image credit: hellingen)
Image 76 of 87

Italian and Flemish fans await their heroes.

Italian and Flemish fans await their heroes. (Image credit: hellingen)
Image 77 of 87

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre - Fondital) had a crash earlier in the race and the results can be seen here.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre - Fondital) had a crash earlier in the race and the results can be seen here. (Image credit: hellingen)
Image 78 of 87

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) found it tough being the big favourite.

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) found it tough being the big favourite. (Image credit: hellingen)
Image 79 of 87

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) made a dream come true today.

Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) made a dream come true today. (Image credit: hellingen)
Image 80 of 87

Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank) flanked by team-mate Bram Tankink.

Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank) flanked by team-mate Bram Tankink. (Image credit: hellingen)
Image 81 of 87

Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) came in the big group that sprinted for fourth.

Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) came in the big group that sprinted for fourth. (Image credit: hellingen)
Image 82 of 87

Ralf Grabsch (Team Milram) finished over 9 minutes down.

Ralf Grabsch (Team Milram) finished over 9 minutes down. (Image credit: hellingen)
Image 83 of 87

Kurt Hovelynck (Topsport Vlaanderen) rode well to finish 28th

Kurt Hovelynck (Topsport Vlaanderen) rode well to finish 28th (Image credit: hellingen)
Image 84 of 87

Serguei Ivanov (Astana) riding with Christophe Mengin (Française des Jeux).

Serguei Ivanov (Astana) riding with Christophe Mengin (Française des Jeux). (Image credit: hellingen)
Image 85 of 87

The Muur after the action took place.

The Muur after the action took place. (Image credit: hellingen)
Image 86 of 87

Alexandre Pichot (Bouygues Telecom) riding here in the last group on the road to finish.

Alexandre Pichot (Bouygues Telecom) riding here in the last group on the road to finish. (Image credit: hellingen)
Image 87 of 87

Marcel Sieberg (Team High Road) was part of the same group.

Marcel Sieberg (Team High Road) was part of the same group. (Image credit: hellingen)

92nd Ronde van Vlaanderen - ProT

Belgium, April 6, 2008

Solo move pays off for Belgian Champ, Nuyens nabs second over Flecha

Stijn Devolder pulled off a coup in the 92nd Ronde van Vlaanderen, attacking and winning solo in the driekleur jersey of Belgian Champion. The 28 year-old Quick Step rider from Kortrijk put in the winning blow at 25 kilometres to go, on the Eikenmolen. Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) mounted a chase out of the group of favourites, including Devolder's team-mate Tom Boonen and 2007 winner Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), but – despite closing to some nine seconds – he could not catch Devolder.

Belgium's Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) caught and passed Flecha in the final three kilometres. The duo finished second and third respectively.

Italian Ballan finished in fourth, followed by USA's George Hincapie (Team High Road), Italian Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Norwegian Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Team CSC).

"It was always my dream to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen as Belgian champion, and now that dream has come true. I still can't believe it," remarked Devolder after the 264-kilometre race from Brugge to Meerbeke – a race that was marked with light snow, hail and rain despite finishing in sunshine.

Devolder launched for the first time on the Leberg in the footsteps of Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux). Not satisfied with the five-man move that was eventually formed – with Hincapie, Ballan, Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank) and Karsten Kroon (Team CSC) – and wanting to truly weaken the rest of the competition for his designated team leader, Boonen, he essentially countered his own move.

He made the winning move when he powered forward on the Eikenmolen, leaving only the Kapelmuur and Bosberg climbs to cover. Over the following 25 kilometres leading to Meerbeke he maintained his lead, hitting a maximum time gap of around 20 seconds over the chase. Past the church at the top of the Kapelmuur, Devolder had 17 seconds on the chase with Flecha, Boonen, Ballan, Nuyens, Gregory Rast (Astana) Rast and Niki Terpstra (Team Milram).

Over the Bosberg, leaving 12 kilometres to go, he held nearly the same time – 16 seconds – over a now solo Langeveld. Despite the change in chasers to Flecha and then Nuyens, Devolder kept his advantage to arrive victorious on the Brusselsestraat. He had finished 21st in 2004, and 43rd in last year's running.

"I attacked because I knew it was a tailwind until the Muur," Devolder recalled. "When I had 15 seconds, after the Muur, I thought that they would fly past me on the Bosberg, but apparently they weren't that fresh behind me," Devolder, winner of a stage and overall in this year's Volta ao Algarve, continued.

He had come very close to losing the race of his dreams. "I did not know [Flecha] was at nine seconds. I looked back a few times and only saw motorbikes. They always told me I had 15 seconds."

Cofidis' Nuyens, who also finished second in the Omloop Het Volk, closed to 15 seconds of Devolder and showed an impressive step forward from last year's seventh place.

Rabobank showed extremely well in the race's finale even if they did not get the eventual win. Three-time World Champion Oscar Freire went on a solo flyer that set up the moves by Langeveld and then Flecha. Once the Spaniard was brought back on the Leberg, at 47 kilometres remaining, Langeveld was active at the front until Flecha's chase with six kilometres remaining.

"Don't ask me what went wrong because everything went perfect. Thanks to Sebastian Langeveld I could set back and just follow. And when he was brought back, I attacked," explained 30 year-old Flecha. On Devolder's move, he added, "I just could not close it down."

Last year's winner, Ballan, was compromised by his crash 85 kilometres into the race, which ripped the side open on his shorts. Despite the incident, the 28 year-old from Castelfranco Veneto made the finale with the favourites. "I was very tired," he noted of the day. "Devolder went very, very strong, and I hoped that someone would have helped organise the chase to pull him back; however, it came to nothing."

Ballan's group was eventually joined by others, including team-mate Simon Spilak. "I was with the others up until three kilometres to go, when Spilak arrived in our group; he went right up to the front to pull. Unfortunately, we were not organised in our efforts. Anyway, Devolder went very, very strongly," concluded Ballan.

Hincapie flew High Road's colours by forming part of the earlier move with Devolder. He re-joined the main chase to end the day with fifth, behind Ballan. "I was just pulled back on the Muur, and from that moment I had to recover," he noted of the early escape of five. After the capture "it was very hectic, with a lot of attacks, I could not do anything but hold on."

How it unfolded

It was a fast race right from the start in Brugge, as the riders got underway on the Ronde under unexpected sunshine. In the first hour of racing, 49,5 kilometres were covered. Even during the second hour, the bunch didn't calm down significantly, doing an average of 47,4 km/h on their way down South towards the first berg of the day, the Kluisberg, the first of a long list of hellingen to be mastered.

Unfortunately, April held all its promises and the cold, the rain and even hail caught up with the riders soon enough. The 'break of the day' got away at kilometre 111: Janek Tombak (Mitsubishi), Tom Veelers (Skil Shimano), Sven Renders (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Vincent Jérôme (Bouygues Telecom) opened up a 40-second gap, with Raul Alarcon Garcia of Saunier Duval going after them.

After the second climb of the day, the Nokereberg, the front group had a two-minute advantage over the bunch, with the Spaniard still caught in between. After 129 kilometres ridden, Garcia was caught again by the bunch.

The peloton kept the escapees on a short leash, not letting them get more than 2'15 minutes away, while the favourites were tucked safely inside the bunch. By kilometre 135, the sky cleared up again a little.

As the front men hit the Molenberg after 157 kilometres, the peloton was only 37 seconds behind. But with the climb being very narrow, the road got jammed and the break could gain a few seconds again, extending it to 1'16 after the climb. Robert Wagner (Skil-Shimano) tried to bridge up to the leaders as the difficult parcours took its toll and formed several little groups.

The weather deteriorated again between the Molenberg and the Wolvenberg, and the cobbles were really slippery with a mix of rain and snow. The breakaway split up, and Jérôme and Tombak took off on their own.

After 175 kilometres raced, the lead was still 1'14 minutes for the four front men, which had reformed, with Wagner also making it to the front in a solid solo effort.

Approaching the Oude Kwaremont at kilometre 185, the peloton used the long straight road to Kluisbergen to put an end to the break and get down to business. On the climb, Andreas Klier (High Road), Tomas Vaitkus (Astana) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) made a nice showing, but couldn't hold their advantages after the descent. Johan Van Summeren (Lotto) made sure the pace was high and the bunch hit the Paterberg (kilometre 189) together.

No damages were done in the ascent, but towards the next helling, the famous Koppenberg, the race really started going and tore the peloton apart. A front group of about 20 riders formed, including Leif Hoste (Lotto), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), Tom Boonen and team-mate Stijn Devolder (Quick Step), the Belgian champion and eventual winner of the race.

As the leaders hit the Koppenberg, the mad weather continued with snow making the riders surely feel comfortable. Boonen tested his rivals, some of whom had to unclip and walk up the slippery cobbles. In the descent, the Belgian got the company of about 10 riders, including Devolder, Hoste, Ballan, Fabian Cancellara (CSC), Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) and Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank).

But on the Steenbergdries (kilometre 200), Hoste had a mechanical. Bad luck for the favourite! Van Summeren stood by his leader but a long chase back to the front began.

Langeveld and Hushovd went clear from the front just before the Taaienberg (kilometre 203), with the Dutch rider first on top of the climb. But riders came back together after the climb, until Oscar Freire (Rabobank) decided to make a move with 53 kilometres to go. George Hincapie (High Road) went after him, but didn't succeed. Freire still had an advantage of 23 seconds over the chasers with 50 kilometres to go.

But the multiple world champion was caught by a Quick Step-driven chase group at the foot of the Leberg, where eventual winner Devolder put on such a high pace that even his team leader Boonen couldn't follow. Devolder kept going and got the company of fellow Belgian Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux), as well as Langeveld.

Devolder, Gilbert and Langeveld were then joined by George Hincapie (High Road), Karsten Kroon (CSC) as well as Ballan, Cancellara and Boonen. After the Berendries (kilometre 221), the sun came out on the riders again, and Langeveld gave it a go solo. But with Cancellara in the chase group, the Dutch rider had to give in...

As the race hit the Valkenberg, five riders emerged: Ballan, Devolder, Langeveld, Hincapie and Kroon. They maintained some 20 seconds over the main group entering the final phase of the event with 30 kilometres to go. Fortunately, the weather god had some mercy and the sun came out to dry the roads for the finale.

Liquigas and Cofidis led the chase group of about 40 riders, hunting the lead quintet. They eventually got caught at the foot of the Eikenmolen (25 kilometres to go), where Devolder counter-attacked immediately to make his winning move.

Hushovd, Tombak (who was in a much earlier break), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) and Manuel Quinziato peeled off the front to try and chase Devolder down. With 18 kilometres to go, Devolder had 26 seconds over the Hushovd group and 35 over the main bunch, in which his leader Boonen didn't move.

The Muur of Geraardsbergen made the main bunch catch up with the first chase group, but Devolder held onto his lead. A new chase group formed including Ballan, Flecha, Boonen, Langeveld, Gregory Rast (Astana), Nuyens and Niki Terpstra (Milram) flying down the descent, some 15 seconds behind Devolder.

On the Bosberg, the last climb of the day, it looked like Devolder was going to get caught by Langeveld, but the Belgian managed to keep the infatiguable Dutchman at bay. With 10 kilometres to go, Devolder had about 15 seconds to Langeveld, and 30 seconds to the group.

Seven clicks to the line, Flecha, Rast and Tombak closed in on Langeveld. As Nuyens jumped, Boonen followed, and the chase group was back together, 19 seconds adrift of the solo leader.

But the Spaniard did not give in with victory so near. He attacked again with four kilometres to go, this time followed by Nuyens, who joined him two kilometres off the finish line. Devolder was still at large, 13 seconds away, riding the time trial of his life.

Devolder took the Ronde victory after 25 kilometres alone at the front. While the Belgian champion was being celebrated by his homeland public, Nuyens fought down Flecha for second.

Latest on Cyclingnews