Danish champion Matti Breschel scored an important victory for his Saxo Bank team, riding away solo from a group of favourites including Quick Step's Tom Boonen and then holding off the chase to the line.
The 25-year-old underscored the significance of the win even though the race is a relatively minor event compared to the upcoming Spring Classics.
"To me, it's very important and for the team also. We only have a few wins this season, and the Classics have started. For me and for the team, we needed this for the morale."
Breschel was part of an elite group which brought back two escape groups after the cluster of climbs which came inside the final 40km. With teammate Fabian Cancellara and previous escapee Anders Lund to help, the Saxo Bank team had a decided advantage over Quick Step who had only Boonen and Maarten Wynants.
Their group had 25 seconds over a larger chasing peloton, and Breschel slipped away off the front on the Tiegemberg while the rest of the riders played cat and mouse, with few riders willing or able to work.
"We knew that we had to stay in front there, and we knew that it was me and Fabian - and then Fabian came to me and said he'd do this for me, just sit on my wheel. I didn't really attack, just went easy away, and I got the gap."
Once clear, Breschel faced a strong challenge from the attacking Frenchman Steve Chainel (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) who had been a frequent aggressor. He pulled away Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) and Niki Terpsra (Milram), but the trio could not close the gap to the flying Dane.
"I was dying at the end, had a little cramping, but I had Torsten [Schmidt, sports director] on the radio and he gave me the confidence to believe I could go all the way. . I tried as hard as possible, and yeah - I won!"
Breschel will be a strong ally for Cancellara, who will be the team's undisputed captain for the Classics. He has no problem being a back-up to his Swiss teammate. "There's no problem at all - we're good friends, and we communicate well. It's always good to have more than one card on hand - that's how you win races nowadays as long as you're loyal to each other."
How it unfolded
The 65th running of the Dwars door Vlaanderen set off under decidedly improved weather conditions over the last Belgian races. During the rapid first 120km, the peloton stayed mostly together, saving its energies for the bergs which would pepper the last half of the course.
The first of the climbs, the Kattenberg, came at kilometre 108 and did not force any selections, but by the Berendries with 78km to go, a group of four managed to wrestle themselves clear of the bunch.
Gregory Habeaux (Verandas Willems), Jean Zen (Palmans-Cras), Steven Van Vooren (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) and Lloyd Mondory (AG2R La Mondiale) would stay clear for 50 kilometres over some of the toughest terrain that Flanders has to offer.
Their demise began when attacks from the peloton started with RadioShack's Markel Irizar and Andy Cappelle (Verandas Willems) with 51km to go. The attack did not last, but it provided a launching pad for Bbox Bouygues Telecom's Chainel to counter .
The attack pulled away a large group while most of the favourites decided to sit out the move and wait for the cluster of climbs which came with 40km to go to make a selection.
The group ahead was too big to stay away, although they managed to pull out a minute or so over the group with Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara over the coming kilometres.
The Oude Kwaremont at 35km to go provided a major selection across the board: it split the lead group, with Van Vooren and Mondory dropping Zen and Habeaux for good, while behind both the large chase group and the peloton fractured on the cobbled berg. With two more climbs in the next two kilometres, the action began to intensify.
After the Patersberg the chase group was down to just eight riders: William Bonnet and Chainel (Bbox), Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil), Niki Terpstra (Milram), Anders Lund (Saxo Bank), Geraint Thomas (Sky), Fabio Felline (Footon Servetto) and Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
The climbs had also split up the peloton behind, leaving a group of just 28 riders chasing the two groups ahead.
Fabian Cancellara set a brisk tempo to pull the groups together as the roads leveled out, succeeding in bringing back both the group of eight and the two leaders up the road. But the Swiss champion wasn't happy with the work that the rest of the group was contributing as he tried to keep them clear of the chasing peloton.
With 23km to go, Cancellara sat up to scold his companions for failing to work, and while he lectured them his teammate Matti Breschel slowly rode off the front in a bit of a gamble: the team was clearly saving him for the sprint, but he didn't fancy his chances against the likes of Boonen.
He quickly built up a lead of 20 seconds as the group argued over who should work. Chainel was having none of it and attacked to go after the Danish champion.
Niki Terpstra and Bjorn Leukemans also went after him, but neither would see the Dane before the finish line. The chasing peloton nearly caught the three chasers just before the line, but Breschel was still a few seconds clear and was able to celebrate his victory with a long two-armed salute.
Leukemans was able to nip in ahead of Terpstra to take second on the day, and Chainel held on to finish fourth.
|1||Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank||4:49:37|
|2||Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team||0:00:07|
|3||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Steve Chainel (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Luca Paolini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Wouter Mol (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Tom Veelers (Ned) Skil - Shimano||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Team Katusha||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||William Bonnet (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Nick Nuyens (Bel) Rabobank||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Roger Hammond (GBr) Cervélo TestTeam||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Daniel Lloyd (GBr) Cervélo TestTeam||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||Anthony Geslin (Fra) Française Des Jeux||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Team HTC - Columbia||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil - Shimano||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank||Row 23 - Cell 2|
|25||Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Team Radioshack||Row 24 - Cell 2|
|26||Andreas Klier (Ger) Cervélo TestTeam||0:00:18|
|27||Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Professional Cycling Team||0:00:24|
|28||Fabio Felline (Ita) Footon-Servetto||0:00:52|
|29||Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:01:00|
|30||Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Team Radioshack||Row 29 - Cell 2|
|31||Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Team Radioshack||Row 30 - Cell 2|
|32||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team||Row 31 - Cell 2|
|33||Gert Dockx (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia||Row 32 - Cell 2|
|34||Frantisek Rabon (Cze) Team HTC - Columbia||Row 33 - Cell 2|
|35||Gustav Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo Bank||Row 34 - Cell 2|
|36||Frank Hoj (Den) Team Saxo Bank||Row 35 - Cell 2|
|37||Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team||Row 36 - Cell 2|
|38||Thomas Fothen (Ger) Team Milram||0:01:22|
|39||Koen Barbe (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||Row 38 - Cell 2|
|40||Romain Zingle (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne||Row 39 - Cell 2|
|41||Anders Lund (Den) Team Saxo Bank||Row 40 - Cell 2|
|42||Steven Van Vooren (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator||Row 41 - Cell 2|
|43||Maarten Wynants (Bel) Quick Step||Row 42 - Cell 2|
|44||Stefan Van Dijk (Ned) Verandas Willems||0:04:22|
|45||Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||Row 44 - Cell 2|
|46||Anthony Ravard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 45 - Cell 2|
|47||Giuseppe Palumbo (Ita) Acqua & Sapone||Row 46 - Cell 2|
|48||Martin Reimer (Ger) Cervélo TestTeam||Row 47 - Cell 2|
|49||Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team Katusha||Row 48 - Cell 2|
|50||Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team Radioshack||Row 49 - Cell 2|
|51||Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team||Row 50 - Cell 2|
|52||David Garcia Da Pena (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia||Row 51 - Cell 2|
|53||Rasmus Guldhammer (Den) Team HTC - Columbia||Row 52 - Cell 2|
|54||Egidijus Juodvalkis (Ltu) Palmans - Cras||Row 53 - Cell 2|
|55||Wim De Vocht (Bel) Team Milram||Row 54 - Cell 2|
|56||Roy Sentjens (Bel) Team Milram||Row 55 - Cell 2|
|57||Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Team Radioshack||Row 56 - Cell 2|
|58||Mitchell Docker (Aus) Skil - Shimano||Row 57 - Cell 2|
|59||Andy Cappelle (Bel) Verandas Willems||Row 58 - Cell 2|
|60||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator||Row 59 - Cell 2|
|61||Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia||Row 60 - Cell 2|
|62||Markus Eichler (Ger) Team Milram||Row 61 - Cell 2|
|63||Peter Wrolich (Aut) Team Milram||Row 62 - Cell 2|
|64||Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team||Row 63 - Cell 2|
|65||Nikolas Maes (Bel) Quick Step||Row 64 - Cell 2|
|66||Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step||Row 65 - Cell 2|
|67||Frédéric Amorison (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||Row 66 - Cell 2|
|68||Alessandro Fantini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone||Row 67 - Cell 2|
|69||Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Cervélo TestTeam||Row 68 - Cell 2|
|70||Alexandre Pichot (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom||Row 69 - Cell 2|
|71||Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator||Row 70 - Cell 2|
|72||Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Rabobank||Row 71 - Cell 2|
|73||Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française Des Jeux||Row 72 - Cell 2|
|74||Mathieu Claude (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom||Row 73 - Cell 2|
|75||Sébastien Turgot (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom||Row 74 - Cell 2|
|76||Davy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||Row 75 - Cell 2|
|77||Pieter Ghyllebert (Bel) An Post - Sean Kelly||Row 76 - Cell 2|
|78||Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator||Row 77 - Cell 2|
|79||Ben Hermans (Bel) Team Radioshack||Row 78 - Cell 2|
|80||Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step||Row 79 - Cell 2|
|81||Jos Van Emden (Ned) Rabobank||Row 80 - Cell 2|
|82||Jan Ghyselinck (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia||Row 81 - Cell 2|
|83||Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator||Row 82 - Cell 2|
|84||Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quick Step||Row 83 - Cell 2|
|85||Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank||Row 84 - Cell 2|
|86||Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank||Row 85 - Cell 2|
|87||Leif Hoste (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 86 - Cell 2|
|88||Thomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank||Row 87 - Cell 2|
|89||Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank||Row 88 - Cell 2|
|90||Tristan Valentin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne||Row 89 - Cell 2|
|91||Greg Henderson (NZl) Sky Professional Cycling Team||Row 90 - Cell 2|
|92||Christopher Sutton (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team||Row 91 - Cell 2|
|93||Dominique Rollin (Can) Cervélo TestTeam||Row 92 - Cell 2|
|94||Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team||Row 93 - Cell 2|
|95||Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha||Row 94 - Cell 2|
|96||Mikhaylo Khalilov (Ukr) Team Katusha||Row 95 - Cell 2|
|97||Grégory Rast (Swi) Team Radioshack||Row 96 - Cell 2|
|98||Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Team HTC - Columbia||Row 97 - Cell 2|
|99||Kasper Klostergaard Larsen (Den) Team Saxo Bank||Row 98 - Cell 2|
|100||Dominic Klemme (Ger) Team Saxo Bank||Row 99 - Cell 2|
|101||Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:07:40|
|102||Roy Curvers (Ned) Skil - Shimano||Row 101 - Cell 2|
|103||Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Française Des Jeux||Row 102 - Cell 2|
|104||Nico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne||Row 103 - Cell 2|
|105||Vidal Celis Zabala (Spa) Footon-Servetto||0:08:11|
|106||Floris Goesinnen (Ned) Skil - Shimano||Row 105 - Cell 2|
|107||Gustavo Dominguez Lemos (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia||Row 106 - Cell 2|
|108||Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Française Des Jeux||Row 107 - Cell 2|
|109||Baden Cooke (Aus) Team Saxo Bank||Row 108 - Cell 2|
|110||Iban Mayoz Echeverria (Spa) Footon-Servetto||0:09:15|
|111||Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 110 - Cell 2|
|112||Francisco Jose Pacheco Torres (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia||Row 111 - Cell 2|
|113||Hayden Roulston (NZl) Team HTC - Columbia||Row 112 - Cell 2|
|114||Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Team Katusha||Row 113 - Cell 2|
|115||Servais Knaven (Ned) Team Milram||Row 114 - Cell 2|
|116||Yohann Gene (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom||Row 115 - Cell 2|
|117||Gustavo Rodriguez Iglesias (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia||Row 116 - Cell 2|
|118||James Vanlandschoot (Bel) Verandas Willems||Row 117 - Cell 2|
|119||Tom Van Becelaere (Bel) Palmans - Cras||Row 118 - Cell 2|
|120||Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Team Katusha||Row 119 - Cell 2|
|121||Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||Row 120 - Cell 2|
|122||Fuyu Li (Chn) Team Radioshack||Row 121 - Cell 2|
|123||Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 122 - Cell 2|
|124||Gregory Habeaux (Bel) Verandas Willems||Row 123 - Cell 2|
|125||Kevin Ista (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne||Row 124 - Cell 2|
|126||Reinier Honig (Ned) Acqua & Sapone||Row 125 - Cell 2|
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