Cancellara Scores Third Tour of Flanders Victory
Fabian Cancellara (Trek) has joined Achiel Buysse, Fiorenzo Magni, Eric Leman, Johan Museeuw, and Tom Boonen as a three-time winner of the Tour of Flanders. The man called Spartacus took a four-up sprint to win the rugged, 259.1-km Ronde Van Vlaanderen ride from Brugge to Oudenaarde in 6:15:18. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) finished second, and Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) finished third.
Rain greeted the riders at the start in Brugge. The field rode about 40 km before a break formed. Stig Broeckx (Lotto-Belisol), Davide Appolonio (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Daryl Impey (GreenEdge), Raymond Kreder (Garmin-Sharp-POC),Wesley Kreder and James Vanlandschoot (both from Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Alexander Kuchynski (Katusha), Andrea Palini (Lampre-Merida), Taylor Phinney (BMC), Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), and Romain Zingle (Cofidis) jumped clear, and the 11 riders quickly forged a four-minute lead over the peloton.
Behind, a nervous peloton dealt with crashes. In separate incidents, Luke Durbridge (GreenEdge) and Simon Le Bon (FDJ.fr) crashed out early, and Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Sharp-POC) struck a pedestrian at an unmarked traffic island, with the collision sending the 2011 Paris-Roubaix champion and the spectator to a hospital. Vanmarcke crashed but remounted and got back into the action.
When the peloton passed through Oudenaarde for the first time, the break led the bunch by six minutes. On the first ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, the bunch shaved a minute off of the escapees’ lead. Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol), who finished third last year, crashed and abandoned.
On the approach to the Paddestraat, more mayhem occurred. A large crash took down Luca Paolini (Katusha) and two-time Tour de Flanders champion Stijn Devolder (Trek) and split the peloton. Omega Pharma-Quick Step went to the front of the lead group and began to hammer.
The crashes continued. Yaroslav Popovych (Trek) went down and abandoned when he struck a pedestrian, and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) crashed at a bus stop platform. Attrition took its toll, and on the pave at the Haaghoek, the break was down to seven riders. The fugitives led the field by three minutes.
On the run up to the Kanarieberg, the peloton accelerated, and the escapees’ advantage narrowed to two minutes. Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Manuel Quinziato (BMC) attacked, and Bernhard Eisel (Sky Pro Cycling) joined the pair. At the base of the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, only Impey, Phinney, and Broeckx remained in front. Another crash took down Devolders, along with four Tinkoff-Saxo Bank riders.
As the race approached the Koppenberg, Impey, Broeckx, and Phinney led a 40-rider chase group by about 0:30, with Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp-POC) in a second group and Van Avermaet in a third group nearly a minute off the pace. Impey breasted the climb with a small lead over a group consisting of Niki Terpstra, Stijn Vandenbergh, Zdenek Stybar, and Tom Boonen (all from Omega Pharma-Quick Step); Cancellara; Peter Sagan (Cannondale); Vanmarcke; Geraint Thomas (Sky); John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano); and Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida), among others. Vandenbergh, Dries Devenyns (Giant-Shimano), and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) attacked.
On the Taaienberg, Boasson Hagen and Devenyns dropped Vandenbergh. The lead group was just seconds behind the pair and reeled them in with 33 km left. Devenyns attacked, and Van Avermaet countered and took Vandenbergh with him. The lead group did not chase immediately, and the pair forged a 25-second lead.
Sagan and Cancellara took turns accelerating to animate the chase. Vanmarcke attacked but could not get clear. With 25 km left, a group containing Bradley Wiggins and Thomas (both from Sky), Pozzato, and others joined the lead group. Halfway up the third ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, Cancellara attacked.
Vanmarcke joined the Swiss. The pair joined forces with Vandenbergh with 11 km left and Van Avermaet two km later. Cannondale and Omega Pharma-Quick Step led the pursuit. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) attacked to bridge up to the move, but the Milan-San Remo champion was too late.
With eight km left, the Cancellara group led the first chase group by 0:20. Five km later, Vandenbergh attacked and Van Avermaet joined him. When the pair was caught, Cancellara countered, but he was brought back.
The quartet played cat and mouse as it went under the one-km banner. Van Avermaet led the group. With 300 m to go, Cancellara attacked from fourth wheel and held on for the win.
Cancellara wanted to settle accounts with his companions before the chase group could overtake them. “I tried to ask Dirk [Trek directeur sportif Dirk Demol] through the radio how many seconds we had because the last thing I wanted was the others coming back,” Cancellara said. “That would have been the end of the world. For the spectators at home I am sure it was an exciting track final. It was man against man, and I just kept pushing to the end. I did it for the team and for my wife because I promised to bring the flowers home. I feel sorry for the Belgians. I was against three Belgians at the end…but now I am happy and it’s time to go rock the bus and have a nice evening.”
Cancellara’s third victory was particularly hard because of the team’s misfortunes on the road. “Since I was alone I knew I had to make the selection up the Kwaremont,” the man called Spartacus said. “On the Paterberg I could not go more, I was dead, and then I had to make a gamble to stay with Vandenbergh, Vanmarcke, and Van Avermaet. I wanted to finish alone, but today it was better to wait for the sprint. Winning solo was the goal--I wanted to lift the bike over the line--but I was not afraid to sprint at the end, since then it is each man for himself. I still don’t know how I did it, I just did it.
“The race was quite intense, quite hard. We lost a lot of riders to crashes straightaway. To manage a race like this was amazing. Everyone did his little piece--Jesse [Sergent], Markel [Irazar], Hayden [Roulston], all the team--you need these little pieces to be at the top of the pyramid.
“It was so tough, I almost got dropped two times when they attacked. I don’t know, everything went well in the end. It’s just amazing. Last year, I won in an amazing way here, but to repeat, this is even bigger–I have no words. There is no Monday, we said with the team before the race.”
Next Sunday, Cancellara will attempt to become the first rider to win the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in the same year three times. Will he succeed? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
Buy new gear for your spring rides in our bike shop and follow Roadcycling.com on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.