Long awaited by millions of cycling fans – On Sunday the Tour of Flanders took place. The race started at 9.45 sharp from the “Grand Place” in Bruges and was run over a total distance of 262 kilometres. At about half distance the main field was all together when it reached “Den Ast”, which was the first of 14 traditional Flemish hills. Further highlights included the trio Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg and Koppenberg. The final climbs were the “Wall”, commonly known as the Muur at Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg. There were also six cobblestone sections which served to provide that little extra touch of flair.
Shortly after the neutralised section an 8-man breakaway succeeded in opening up a 13-minute gap on the main field. However, in the hills the favourites made short work of the breakaway and the lead dwindled progressively.
However, it wasn’t only the breakaway riders who displayed weaknesses in the hills. The peloton also dwindled in size and one rider after another was no longer able to maintain the pace. On the Eikenberg the last rider in the original breakaway was finally swallowed up. A 60-strong group now took over the lead. This group included Leif Hoste, Philippe Gilbert, Greg Van Avermaet, Staf Scheirlinckx and Jürgen Roelandts. The master of disaster this year was Jürgen Roelandts, who after puncturing took up the chase and while trying to make contact with the leaders was hit by a supply vehicle.
One of the most important changes in comparison to last year’s race was the repositioning of the Molenberg climb, which this year came much later on in the race. Tom Boonen attacked on this climb and only a 12-man group including Leif Hoste and Philippe was able to follow.
Philippe saw Boonen and Cancellara progressively pulling away. He countered twice and at the Berendries, he attacked with David Millar and Bjorn Leukemans. However, on this day there was little he could do against the two leaders. At the “Muur”, the Swiss Cancellara jumped Boonen on the 19.8 % drag and made Boonen look like he was standing still. Cancellara’s lead grew to around 1 minute at the Bosberg. The time-trial specialist then left nothing more to chance and sealed his first victory in the Tour of Flanders ahead of Tom Boonen.
Philippe snatched third place in the sprint thereby scooping a place on the podium in the race, which for Belgians, is the most important of the year.
Tour of Flanders: The final standings
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) | Team Saxo Bank
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) | Quick Step 1’15”
3. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 2’11”
29. Leif Hoste
39. Greg Van Avermaet 5’13”
41. Staf Scheirlinckx
87. Jurgen Roelandts 13’20”