Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) added a second Tour of Flanders victory to his immense palmares in emphatic fashion, soloing to victory in Oudenaarde.
Cancellara dispatched breakaway companions Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) on the final ascent of the Paterberg and had plenty of time to savour his win on the home stretch, having extended his lead to over a minute in the closing kilometres.
Sagan easily out-kicked Roelandts for second place while Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) led in the chase group for 10 seconds later.
Cancellara pointed to the sky as he crossed the line and then hugged is wife. He was the big favourite but managed to distance all his rivals and win alone.
"The goal was to win. You can't always predict how but it's amazing to win. A year ago I was on the ground. It's never easy but I'm really happy," he said.
"It was a strange race. It was fast at the beginning. There weren't many riders left at the end but I did the right tactic. Everyone expected me to go and I tried to make the first selection on the Kwaremont. I love the cobbles and so after that I did what I had to do."
How it happened
At exactly 10 o’clock, 205 riders left the crowded market in Bruges to kick off the 100th edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Temperatures barely reached freezing point, though the sun tried hard to warm up the riders’ spirits. Belgian champion and triple Ronde winner Tom Boonen received most support when he rode through the massive crowds in the medieval-looking town of Bruges.
However after just 19km of fast racing, Boonen was also the first rider to be named on race radio when the race passed through Lichtervelde. Boonen rode into some traffic furniture and injured his knee, hip and back. He was left lying at the side of a big road outside the town centre and clearly suffering from a lot of pain. For a brief moment the triple winner of the Ronde tried to get back on his bike but that turned out to be impossible. His race was over and he left in an ambulance to undergo further investigation in the hospital. Fortunately x-rays showed he did not suffer any fractures but his spring could be over.
Back in the race, it turned out to be extremely hard to create the breakaway move. There was an attack by nine riders which got more the three minutes once the race entered the hill zone. However some chasing from Team Europcar and later the Radioshack team brought the gap down again.
Counter-attacks in the peloton turned the situation around. Approaching the three loops through the hilly part of the race route, only Jetse Bol (Blanco) and Laurens De Vreese (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) survived from the early move. They were joined by André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Michael Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Maarten Tjallingii (Blanco) and Marcel Sieberg (Lotto-Belisol).
The six leaders worked well together and arrived at the foot of the long cobbled climb with a one minute lead on the peloton. Bol quickly lost contact with his companions but the ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg and Koppenberg didn’t change the race situation up front. The steepness of the Koppenberg forced many riders to put their foot on the ground, blocking the racing and then forcing a huge chase. One minute ahead of the peloton the five remaining leaders reached the feed zone where Cancellara crashed last year. Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Sébastien Minard (AG2R La Mondiale) profited from the cease-fire to bridge across to the lead group. Behind it was still a waiting game, with the big favourites watching each other carefully.
The leaders hit the second loop with less than half a minute advantage on the peloton. On the first slopes of the second climb of the Oude Kwaremont, Sieberg and De Vreese quickly got dropped. The peloton rushed to the Paterberg at high speed but the resulting waves concluded with a crash for Geraint Thomas (Sky).
Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) lost contact with the peloton due to a mechanical on the Paterberg. After this nasty duo of climbs, there were only two riders left in front: Selvaggi and Kwiatkowski.
With 32km to go Yoann Offredo (FDJ), Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol), Sébastien Hinault (IAM) and Sébastien Turgot (Europcar) anticipated accelerations from the big guns, with an attack on the section between the Paterberg and the Hotond. Once over the Hotond only Kwiatkowski was able to keep up with these men. When diving back towards Berchem and the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, the peloton trailed the five leaders by just 30 seconds, mainly thanks to the work from Stijn Devolder (Radioshack). The race was still wide open.
Cancellara makes his move
Roelandts and Hinault distanced their companions, just before hitting the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont. Roelandts then went alone once he reached the cobbled section. Behind Cancellara finally made is move. Everyone was expecting it but his immense power allowed him to distance all the other riders, except for Peter Sagan, who just managed to hold his wheel. As expected, they would fifth for victory.
Roelandts still had a lead when reaching the top of the 2200m long climb. Cancellara and Sagan trailed the Belgian by fifteen seconds as the rest of the break was caught. The rest of the field was blown away.
Roelandts tried to recover as he waited for Cancellara and Sagan. The trio hit the Paterberg with a 15-second lead over a 25-man strong chase group which was led by Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Luca Paolini (Katusha) and Sebastiaan Langeveld (Orica-GreenEdge). However it was all about Cancellara and Sagan.
Cancellara led the trio on the steepest, cobbled part of the Paterberg. He looked back as Roelandts was gapped and then blasted away. Roelandts cracked and then just before reaching the top Sagan bowed his head in a sign of defeat and the gap opened. Cancellara did not hesitate and switched to time trial mode, tucked low over his bike, pushing a huge gear.
The race was over. Cancellara’s experience and power had defeat Sagan’s youth and speed.
|1||Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack Leopard||6:06:01|
|2||Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling||0:01:27|
|3||Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Belisol||0:01:29|