Tom Boonen showed he is on form for the spring classics with an impressive win at the E3 Harelbeke race on Saturday.
The former world champion was part of the decisive four-rider break and then outsprinted Fabian Cancellara (CSC), Marcus Burghardt (T-Mobile) and Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) to win in style.
Cancellara lead out the sprint, using his immense power but could not hold off Boonen who came past him in the final 50 metres. It was Boonen?s fourth consecutive win in the Tour of Flanders warm-up race and came just three days after he won the Dwars door Vlaanderen race. Who can stop him next Saturday in the Tour of Flanders?
The 203km race was probably the most exciting and aggressive race of the season. The action exploded with just over 50km to go when Marcus Burghardt (T-Mobile), Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic), Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel), Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux) and Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) went clear.
Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) knew it was the move of the race and powered across the 20-second gap. Just before the Paterberg his team mate Stuart O?Grady came across withy a similar impressive move to give CSC extra tactical options. O?Grady suffered on the Kwaremont after his huge effort but got back on after Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) attacked and got across.
Bettini attacked on the Knokteberg climb and split the group but then suffered a mechanical problem that left him stopped at the side of the road and then back with the chasing group. Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) lead the chase but
Boonen, Cancellara, Quinziato and Burghardt slowly opened a gap on the fast run-in to the finish as they four worked well together, determined to make it to the finish. Burghardt made a weak attack in the final kilometre and Quinziato also had a dig but Cancellara took over and then Boonen came past him to win.
The classic warm-up races continue on Sunday with the De Brabantse Pijl race on the Sunday.
SCARPONI WINS COPPI & BARTALI
In Italy Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) continued his impressive sprint, winning the final stage of the Coppi & Bartali stage race. The 23 year-old Italian attacked with Michele Scarponi (Acqua & Sapone) and they stayed clear on the tough finish to Sassuolo. Thanks to his second place Scarponi took overall victory to take his first win since returning to racing after being implicated in Operacion Puerto and leaving the Liberty Seguros team.
POLLACK WINS SPRINT AT CRITERIUM INTERNATIONAL
In France German sprinter Olaf Pollack won the first stage of the Criterium International race.
The Wiesenhof rider won the sprint from a select front group after Damiano Cunego (Lampre) was caught in the final metres of the 179km stage. The Italian stage race rider had made a solo attack with 3.5km to go after a crash disrupted the front group but he was caught and passed by Pollack.
Thanks to his win Pollack is the first leader of the two-day, three-stage race in northern France. He will face a tough day in the saddle on Sunday with the 98.5km morning road stage and then the 8.3km time trial in the afternoon.
E3 Harelbeke results
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 203km
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC
3 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) T-Mobile
4 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas
5 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC
6 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Predictor-Lotto
7 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française Des Jeux
8 Baden Cooke (Aus) Unibet.com
9 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC
10 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital