Skip to main content

Steegmans and Boonen rule Belgian finish

Image 1 of 99

Gert Steegmans (Quickstep)

Gert Steegmans (Quickstep) (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 2 of 99

Fabian Cancellara grimaces with pain

Fabian Cancellara grimaces with pain (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 3 of 99

Unlucky, George Hincapie (Discovery Channel)

Unlucky, George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 4 of 99

Gert Steegmans looks to his team-mate Boonen after winning the second stage of the 2007 Tour

Gert Steegmans looks to his team-mate Boonen after winning the second stage of the 2007 Tour (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 5 of 99

Tom Boonen happy with his team's win on Belgian soil

Tom Boonen happy with his team's win on Belgian soil (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 6 of 99

Fabian Cancellara grimaces with pain after going down in a big wreck with 2km to go

Fabian Cancellara grimaces with pain after going down in a big wreck with 2km to go (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 7 of 99

The final uphill sprint into Gent was dominated by the Quickstep train

The final uphill sprint into Gent was dominated by the Quickstep train (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 8 of 99

Gert Steegmans (Quickstep) thrills to his first Tour win

Gert Steegmans (Quickstep) thrills to his first Tour win (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 9 of 99

Unlucky, George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) went down in the crash and hurt his arm

Unlucky, George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) went down in the crash and hurt his arm (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 10 of 99

Gert Steegmans (Quickstep) on the podium after his first Tour stage win

Gert Steegmans (Quickstep) on the podium after his first Tour stage win (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 11 of 99

Tom Boonen took over the green jersey from Robbie McEwen

Tom Boonen took over the green jersey from Robbie McEwen (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 12 of 99

Boonen got around to the victory salute before Steegmans could manage one!

Boonen got around to the victory salute before Steegmans could manage one! (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 13 of 99

Tom Boonen and Gert Steegmans (Quickstep) hit the peloton with a one-two punch

Tom Boonen and Gert Steegmans (Quickstep) hit the peloton with a one-two punch (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 14 of 99

Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) picks up his bike to start stage 2

Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) picks up his bike to start stage 2 (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 15 of 99

Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) at the sign in, still waiting for the mountains.

Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) at the sign in, still waiting for the mountains. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 16 of 99

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) lifts his bike out of the 'bike rack' after having signed in.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) lifts his bike out of the 'bike rack' after having signed in. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 17 of 99

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) enjoys another day in yellow.

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) enjoys another day in yellow. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 18 of 99

Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) doing his superstar duty.

Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) doing his superstar duty. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 19 of 99

David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) had only one goal in mind: finish the stage and ensure another day in the leader's jersey.

David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) had only one goal in mind: finish the stage and ensure another day in the leader's jersey. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 20 of 99

Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel) prepares for the stage that started out with heavy rains.

Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel) prepares for the stage that started out with heavy rains. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 21 of 99

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) in a quiter moment before the start.

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) in a quiter moment before the start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 22 of 99

Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) is confident before the start.

Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) is confident before the start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 23 of 99

Belgian Tom Boonen returns from the sign-in.

Belgian Tom Boonen returns from the sign-in. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 24 of 99

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) after the sign-in. German Champ Fabian Wegmann in the background on the podium.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) after the sign-in. German Champ Fabian Wegmann in the background on the podium. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 25 of 99

Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) at the sign-in.

Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) at the sign-in. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 26 of 99

Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) doing his superstar duty.

Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) doing his superstar duty. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 27 of 99

Cancellara in yellow makes last adjustments on his bike.

Cancellara in yellow makes last adjustments on his bike. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 28 of 99

The Swiss rider enjoys another day in yellow.

The Swiss rider enjoys another day in yellow. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 29 of 99

Paolo Savoldelli (Astana) before the start.

Paolo Savoldelli (Astana) before the start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 30 of 99

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) before the start.

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) before the start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 31 of 99

The peloton waits before the roll-out.

The peloton waits before the roll-out. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 32 of 99

Two Agritubel riders are at the back of the field.

Two Agritubel riders are at the back of the field. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 33 of 99

Levi Leipheimer checks to make sure his bike is ready to get to Belgium.

Levi Leipheimer checks to make sure his bike is ready to get to Belgium. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 34 of 99

Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel) happy before the start to the second stage.

Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel) happy before the start to the second stage. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 35 of 99

Gusev and Hincapie posing for the camera.

Gusev and Hincapie posing for the camera. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 36 of 99

Valverde and Pereiro can't wait for the mountains to start.

Valverde and Pereiro can't wait for the mountains to start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 37 of 99

Fabian Wegmann enjoys the Tour in the German Championships jersey.

Fabian Wegmann enjoys the Tour in the German Championships jersey. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 38 of 99

The field is rolling.

The field is rolling. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 39 of 99

Erik Zabel is ready to sign-in.

Erik Zabel is ready to sign-in. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 40 of 99

The few riders who escaped the crash sprint for the win.

The few riders who escaped the crash sprint for the win. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 41 of 99

Boonen celebrates the win of his usual leadout man.

Boonen celebrates the win of his usual leadout man. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 42 of 99

The finish in Gent was quite steep and the sprinters are struggling to get on terms wit it.

The finish in Gent was quite steep and the sprinters are struggling to get on terms wit it. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 43 of 99

Boonen raises his arms but it is the man to his right, teammate Steegmans, who takes the stage.

Boonen raises his arms but it is the man to his right, teammate Steegmans, who takes the stage. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 44 of 99

The two Quickstep celebrate a rare 1-2.

The two Quickstep celebrate a rare 1-2. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 45 of 99

Boonen and Steegmans really enjoyed the ride into Belgium

Boonen and Steegmans really enjoyed the ride into Belgium (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 46 of 99

The two Belgians made sure that they will be the talk of the town for quite some time.

The two Belgians made sure that they will be the talk of the town for quite some time. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 47 of 99

Steegmans (Quickstep) on the right sends his thanks to teammate Boonen, who is usually the man to win.

Steegmans (Quickstep) on the right sends his thanks to teammate Boonen, who is usually the man to win. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 48 of 99

Fabian Cancellara makes a face that sums up his day. He'll hope that his wrist is not badly affected.

Fabian Cancellara makes a face that sums up his day. He'll hope that his wrist is not badly affected. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 49 of 99

American Fred Rodriguez (Predictor-Lotto) also got to experience the Belgian tarmac in a way he didn't expect.

American Fred Rodriguez (Predictor-Lotto) also got to experience the Belgian tarmac in a way he didn't expect. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 50 of 99

Gert Steegmans gets to enjoy the limelight for once.

Gert Steegmans gets to enjoy the limelight for once. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 51 of 99

The yellow jersey and other riders caught in the crash in the last couple of kilometres are crossing the line, not looking happy.

The yellow jersey and other riders caught in the crash in the last couple of kilometres are crossing the line, not looking happy. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 52 of 99

Fabian Cancellara (CSC) hurt his writs in the pileup.

Fabian Cancellara (CSC) hurt his writs in the pileup. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 53 of 99

Gert Steegmans (Quickstep) on the podium.

Gert Steegmans (Quickstep) on the podium. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 54 of 99

Steegmans kisses a well-deserved trophy.

Steegmans kisses a well-deserved trophy. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 55 of 99

Steegmans on the podium is extremely happy.

Steegmans on the podium is extremely happy. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 56 of 99

The Belgian

The Belgian (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 57 of 99

Fabian Cancellara is already in a better mood as he receibed another yellow jersey.

Fabian Cancellara is already in a better mood as he receibed another yellow jersey. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 58 of 99

The leader of the Tour since the prologue.

The leader of the Tour since the prologue. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 59 of 99

Tom Boonen may have 'only' gotten second on the day, but he at least won the green jersey.

Tom Boonen may have 'only' gotten second on the day, but he at least won the green jersey. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 60 of 99

Who-hoo! Gert Steegmans pumps his fists in joy after winning the sprint he was only leading out

Who-hoo! Gert Steegmans pumps his fists in joy after winning the sprint he was only leading out (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 61 of 99

Yeah, baby! Steegmans shows the guns

Yeah, baby! Steegmans shows the guns (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 62 of 99

At the crest of the hill Steegmans takes his first Tour win in Gent

At the crest of the hill Steegmans takes his first Tour win in Gent (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 63 of 99

Quickstep was an indomitable force on the finish in Gent

Quickstep was an indomitable force on the finish in Gent (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 64 of 99

What it feels like to win a Tour stage

What it feels like to win a Tour stage (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 65 of 99

Patrick Lefevere gives a hug to Gert Steegmans

Patrick Lefevere gives a hug to Gert Steegmans (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 66 of 99

Tom Boonen was in high demand with Belgian reporters after the finish

Tom Boonen was in high demand with Belgian reporters after the finish (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 67 of 99

Robbie McEwen congratulates Steegmans on his Tour win

Robbie McEwen congratulates Steegmans on his Tour win (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 68 of 99

Steegmans gives the thumbs up as Boonen tries to resist the crush of reporters

Steegmans gives the thumbs up as Boonen tries to resist the crush of reporters (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 69 of 99

The Tour heads out for stage two from Dunkeque to Gent

The Tour heads out for stage two from Dunkeque to Gent (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 70 of 99

Fans cheer on the peloton

Fans cheer on the peloton (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 71 of 99

Yellow jersey Cancellara is surrounded by the CSC team at the start

Yellow jersey Cancellara is surrounded by the CSC team at the start (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 72 of 99

CSC, Astana and Cofidis lead the neutral roll out

CSC, Astana and Cofidis lead the neutral roll out (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 73 of 99

The peloton rolls out from Dunkeque

The peloton rolls out from Dunkeque (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 74 of 99

Fans mill around waiting for the peloton to come

Fans mill around waiting for the peloton to come (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 75 of 99

Large crowds gathered to see the riders in Dunkerque

Large crowds gathered to see the riders in Dunkerque (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 76 of 99

Fans look to see where the riders are

Fans look to see where the riders are (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 77 of 99

The peloton looking eager to get underway as they swarm around the lead car before being released

The peloton looking eager to get underway as they swarm around the lead car before being released (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 78 of 99

David Millar shows off his KOM jersey

David Millar shows off his KOM jersey (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 79 of 99

Le Tour makes it's way over from Dover

Le Tour makes it's way over from Dover (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 80 of 99

Cancellara sticking out in his yellow jersey and helmet in the peloton

Cancellara sticking out in his yellow jersey and helmet in the peloton (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 81 of 99

CSC on the front, keeping the pace high

CSC on the front, keeping the pace high (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 82 of 99

Cancellara focus' on the road ahead

Cancellara focus' on the road ahead (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 83 of 99

The break makes its way through Belgium

The break makes its way through Belgium (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 84 of 99

Steegmans gets it from fellow team mate and country man Boonen

Steegmans gets it from fellow team mate and country man Boonen (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 85 of 99

Tomas Vaitkus doesn't look happy after his crash

Tomas Vaitkus doesn't look happy after his crash (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 86 of 99

Cancellara nursed his arm as he crossed the line after crashing

Cancellara nursed his arm as he crossed the line after crashing (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 87 of 99

Millar crosses the line after being held up behind the crash

Millar crosses the line after being held up behind the crash (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 88 of 99

Gert Steegmans happy to be on the top step of the podium in his home country of Belgium

Gert Steegmans happy to be on the top step of the podium in his home country of Belgium (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 89 of 99

Cancellara happy to have survived another day in yellow

Cancellara happy to have survived another day in yellow (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 90 of 99

Boonen didn't get the stage but got the green jersey

Boonen didn't get the stage but got the green jersey (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 91 of 99

Millar looking a little shocked on the podium

Millar looking a little shocked on the podium (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
Image 92 of 99

Looks a lot like Tornado Tom thought he had it won, but Steegmans ended up on the podium.

Looks a lot like Tornado Tom thought he had it won, but Steegmans ended up on the podium. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 93 of 99

Cancellara looking very fast all kitted out in yellow.

Cancellara looking very fast all kitted out in yellow. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 94 of 99

Mighty Thor, making some Norwegian fans very happy before the start of the stage.

Mighty Thor, making some Norwegian fans very happy before the start of the stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 95 of 99

Pozzato laughing at a joke en route to 3rd place on the stage.

Pozzato laughing at a joke en route to 3rd place on the stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 96 of 99

The rain came teeming down during the stage, so Vino made his way towards the front.

The rain came teeming down during the stage, so Vino made his way towards the front. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 97 of 99

A lion, came out during the stage to cheer on the break away.

A lion, came out during the stage to cheer on the break away. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 98 of 99

The break heading towards the bad weather in the distance.

The break heading towards the bad weather in the distance. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 99 of 99

The tour always has a festival atmosphere, and with Gent having its yearly festival, it was a big party.

The tour always has a festival atmosphere, and with Gent having its yearly festival, it was a big party. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Gert Steegmans worked with team captain Tom Boonen to deliver his Quickstep team a one-two finish in front of an estimated 75 to 100 thousand spectators in Gent, Belgium. Steven De Jongh led the Belgians to the line and it was 26 year-old Steegmans who was allowed to take his first Tour de France win by Boonen.

A crashed marred the final two kilometres, holding up many sprinters and Maillot Jaune Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC). The Swiss still holds the race lead but will need to be checked for possible injuries. Andreas Klöden (Astana) is in second and David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) in third overall.

"There was no one coming and when there is a chance like that he should be able take it," said 26 year-old Tom Boonen of Steegmans after the finish. "He has done a lot for me in the past."

It is an appropriate reward for the fifth-year professional, who did lead-outs for Robbie McEwen in 2006 before making the switch to rival-Belgian team Quickstep this last winter. Steegmans is a winner of three stages this year (one in Volta Algarve, one in Three Days of De Panne and one in 4 Jours de Dunkerque) but usually does his work for 'Tommeke' Boonen in races like Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix.

"It was sometimes dangerous for us in the finale," a smiling Steegmans noted. "The team told me to wait a long time and then do the lead-out. Steven [De Jongh] pulled so hard it was very hard to follow. I went from long." It was a nice surprise win for Steegmans, and he has paid his dues. "Last year it was me it was a lot of hard work for McEwen."

The Belgian win was extremely important for Quickstep, and the team could have not done any better with Sébastien Rosseler and then De Jongh leading the charge into East Flandrian capital Gent, about eighty kilometres from the hometown of Steegmans. Following in Quickstep's wake were Erik Zabel (Milram), Robert Hunter (Barloworld), Philippe Gilbert and Sébastien Chavanel (both Française Des Jeux), Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas).

Zabel could not hold on to the charge of Quickstep and when he faded, a gap opened, making an obvious chance for Boonen to gift the win. As Zabel lost the wheel of Boonen it was Italian 'Pippo' Pozzato appeared who charged hard on the German's right while South African Hunter bolted up the left side. The duo took third and fourth, respectively. It was a great result for Hunter, who finished third in a stage in 2001 with Lampre, but 2004 stage 7 winner Pozzato will be wanting more.

"I am not going to risk my life to win a sprint," said 'Pippo' Pozzato after his third place.

Romain Feillu (Agritubel) and stage 1 winner Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) took fifth and sixth. "I was second last to avoid the crash, after that I lost some energy getting across," said Feillu. "I missed that [energy] from my sprint. But I feel I can get a good placing again. Twice fifth at the Tour de France and that means my Tour is a success already."

"The crash yesterday had a part to play," noted McEwen, who crashed before yesterday's win. "Both my knees are hurting. I feel like I am sitting a little sideways on the bike. I didn't feel real good, but I tried anyway. I am still in the race, so I will keep trying."

The crash in the final two kilometres held up an estimated thirty riders and most were left watching the sprint on the big monitor mounted just behind. Reviewing the crash, it was in fact Zabel who touched his front wheel with Boonen's rear wheel. Both riders stayed up right but a chain-reaction followed when a Liquigas rider fell to his right, taking down a T-Mobile rider and two Lampres.

In addition race leader Cancellara, there was Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital), Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile), Americans Fred Rodriguez (Predictor-Lotto) and George Hincapie (Discovery Channel).

"I was behind it, with three kilometres to go I started backing off," said Chris Horner after the finish. "Everybody went down. Thor [Hushovd] went down, Cancellara went down, [Francisco José] Ventoso went down, two guys from my team too – Leif [Hoste] and Freddy Rodriguez both crashed. Luckily I was pretty far back so I wasn't involved."

With the second place finish, Boonen took the sprinter's Maillot Vert from Australian sixth place finisher Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto). "I would like to have the green jersey in Paris," noted Boonen.

With no mountains, Millar kept the Maillot Blanc à Pois Rouges and Russian Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel) keeps the Maillot Blanc of best young rider.

How it unfolded

The streets of Dunkerque were slightly damp after morning showers when the peloton rolled out at 13:25 local time, but the skies cleared and the riders were treated to unexpectedly pleasant conditions for the majority of the stage.

The only non-starter of the day was Agritubel's Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez, who crashed through the rear window of the Caisse d'Epargne team car on stage one. All 188 riders departed from the coastal port town at a leisurely pace to face their fast, flat 168.5-kilometre spin to the East Flanders province capital of Gent.

Just as soon as the race left its brief visit to France and crossed into Belgium, the first attack of the day went clear. Milram's Marcel Sieberg was the first aggressor, and surprisingly was able to go clear. He was quickly joined by two riders: Rubén Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Cédric Hervé (Agritubel). The three would form the only break of the day.

With a gap of 1'35 to the field, Pérez, became the 'virtual' yellow jersey as the best placed rider in the overall classification in the breakaway at the 20 kilometre mark.

With nothing to break the level terrain except the occasional highway overpass, the trio built up their lead to just over two minutes at the first intermediate sprint of the day in Boezinge at kilometre 45. The three rolled through the line with Hervé ahead of Pérez and Sieberg.

Riders had been expecting the strong crosswinds that normally characterise the spring races in this part of the country, but they never quite materialized, and the peloton was safe from the dreaded echelons that can split the field to shreds. They gave the breakaway a long leash, and the maximum advantage of 5'55 was reached 65 kilometres into the stage.

When the breakaway approached the second sprint of the day in Westende, just before the midway point of the stage, Hervé attacked to take the points much to the dismay of Sieberg, who seemed to indicate that they should share the bonuses.

Heading inland from the coast, the peloton took advantage of the tailwinds to pick up the pace and close down the gap to the leaders, with the CSC team of GC leader Fabian Cancellara doing most of the pace making for the second day in a row.

Predictor-Lotto's tall Wim Vansevenant took advantage of the parade-like pace of the peloton to ride off the front of the bunch to wave hello to family and friends in his home town of Ichtegem before getting down to business to work for his stage one winning teammate Robbie McEwen.

The going started to get rough when the blue skies turned to grey and then black over the riders and then the rain began to fall as the race entered the final 40 kilometres. With the gap falling steadily thanks to the help of Predictor-Lotto, the leaders held just over two minutes at the final intermediate sprint of the day. Pérez took the sprint ahead of Hervé and Sieberg, and the German took the opportunity to attack immediately after the line, but his two companions weren't giving any ground and quickly caught up.

The hard work of the sprinters' teams brought the gap under two minutes as the field passed through the start town of Gent-Wevelgem, Deinze, and in pouring rain the leaders were desperate to maintain their advantage.

When Quickstep decided to put their weight behind the chase, and sent hard man Steven De Jongh to the front, the writing was on the wall for the escapees. In just ten kilometres, the gap went down a full minute, and as the peloton hit the long, flat, straight road into Gent and had the break in their sights, the time for glory was over for the three men in front. Pérez gave a last minute attempt to get clear just inside three kilometres to go, but Sieberg was straight on his wheel and they all knew it was over.

The peloton hurtled through the final turn and up the 'ring road' into the centre of Gent and breakneck speeds on the newly paved roads, but just a few hundred metres into their flight to the finish a touch of wheels at the very front of the peloton set off a horrendous crash, taking down many of the sprinters who were fighting for the wheel of Tom Boonen, and even bringing the yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara down as well.

Held up behind the crash, the majority of the peloton was left watching the finish on the big screen television, and they were able to witness Quickstep's Rosseler and then De Jongh drop Boonen and his last lead-out man Gert Steegmans off with well-oiled precision. But to everyone's surprise, Boonen was unable to come around the hard-charging Steegmans, but saluted as he crossed the line in joy for the team's win before his surprised teammate could even celebrate his first Tour stage victory.

Latest on Cyclingnews