Cancellara Wins Tour of Flanders for Second Time
Fair, cold conditions greeted the riders. The first major race news concerned Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). Twenty km into the race, the defending champion crashed into a road sign and suffered a contusion to his left hip, an unspecified injury to his left elbow, and a gash to his right knee. X-rays showed that the Belgian champion had no broken bones, but Boonen might not start Paris-Roubaix next Sunday.
A nine-rider move forged a three-minute lead before the peloton, led by Europcar, began to chase. Attrition took its toll, and when the break reached the hilly part of the course it was down to three members--Jetse Bol (Blanco) and Laurens De Vreese (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise). A counterattack consisting of Andre Greipel and Marcel Sieberg (both from Lotto-Belisol), Michael Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), and Maarten Tjallingii (Blanco) bridged up to the break and led the field by one minute at the base of the Oude Kwaremont. Bol was dropped on the climb, but the remaining six riders stayed together on the Oude Kwaremont, the Paterberg, and the Koppenberg. Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Sébastien Minard (AG2R La Mondiale) bridged up to the move at the feed zone.
At the beginning of the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, the break was only about half a minute ahead of the bunch. Sieberg and De Vreese were dropped. By the top of the Paterberg, only Selvaggi and Kwiatkowski were still in the lead.
With 32 km left, Yoann Offredo (Francaise des Jeux), Roelandts, Sebastien Hinault (IAM Cycling), and Sebastien Turgot (Europcar) attacked. Kwiatkowski followed. The escapees led the bunch by 0:30, but RadioShack-Leopard was chasing hard.
On the approach to the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, Roelandts and Hinault pulled away from their companions. On the climb, Roelandts dropped Hinault. Behind, Cancellara attacked, and only Sagan could stay with him. Roelandts waited for the pair.
At the base of the Paterberg, Roelandts, Cancellara, and Sagan led a 25-man chase group by 0:15. On the steepest part of the ascent, Roelandts was dropped. Cancellara attacked, and Sagan fell back. The race was decided.
Sagan waited for Roelandts. With 10 km remaining, the man called Spartacus led the pair by 0:30 and pulled further away with every pedal stroke. With 300 m to go, the four-time world time trial champion began to celebrate. Sagan outsprinted Roelandts for second, and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) took the bunch sprint for fourth at 1:39.
Cancellara stated that he owed the victory as much to planning and sacrifice that dated back to last year’s crash that ended the Swiss star’s classics campaign. “This was an amazing team job,” Cancellara said. "Everyone was against us and we just stayed focused. We came on the Oude Kwaremont for the last time and Gregory Rast said everyone looked tired, so I tried to do the first selection there. Peter [Sagan] and I came up to Roelandts then and I knew I had to go again to get away from Peter."
"It happened like we’ve been planning for months. Hard work from me and the team and sacrificing time with our families. I can count on two hands the number of days I’ve been home this winter. It hasn’t been easy for my wife and kids but these are the hard choices we make. My career won’t last forever so it’s important to pick moments to enjoy. This victory is for my family and team. They gave me so much support. And for the fans – it was a perfect day. My second win in Flanders has been exceptional. I will relax now and recover from this effort and see what happens next week.”
What will happen next week? Will Cancellara dominate Paris-Roubaix 2013 as he did the Tour of Flanders? Will Paris-Roubaix weather conditions be rainy, snowy or sunny? Will Boonen recover from today’s injuries and successfully defend his title? Will Sagan pip his more experienced rivals and win the Queen of the Classics? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!