Fabian Cancellara took an emphatic win in the Tour of Flanders riding everyone off his wheel over the final two climbs and soloing to victory in Oudenaarde.
It was a show of strength equal to his rides in the 2010 classics as there was nothing anyone could do about the flying Swiss taking his second Tour of Flanders title.
For a brief moment it looked like Peter Sagan had the measure of him when the pair went clear of a 40 rider group on the third and final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont. But before the top a few tell tale signs of weakness appeared. Sagan kept looking down at his legs, the sure sign of a rider on the limit.
The Slovakian clung on to Cancellara’s wheel and even did a short turn between the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg, but Cancellara always looked more comfortable. On the Paterberg, a shorter, steeper climb, Cancellara again hit the front about halfway up, knowing it was his last chance to get rid of his faster finishing companion.
It was a gradual increase of speed and at first Sagan stayed with him, but nearing the top he started looking down at his legs again and a small gap opened up. In the final few metres of the climb the gap jumped to ten, 20 then 30 metres and in the blink of an eye, Cancellara was gone.
Once the four-time time trial world champion was clear no one was going to catch him. It’s a tactic the RadioShack rider has successfully used time and time again. In the last two years it hasn’t been as effective as his opponents knew what was coming and rode to combat it. But when Cancellara is in this form there is simply no stopping him
With every pedal revolution he grew his lead and eventually won by over a minute. Behind him Sagan joined forces with Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) and the pair rode for the podium positions as the main group behind them were either too tired or too demoralised to organise a meaningful chase. Alexander Kristoff eventually lead the group in, 12 seconds behind Sagan.
“It’s amazing, one year ago on I was on the ground, now I’m back and I’ve won Flanders on the new course.” Cancellara said. “Winning as a favourite is not easy. I had the feeling on the cobbles I old go, but I suffered on the asphalt climbs.”
Bad day for Boonen
The thousands of Belgian fans who lined the route were left wondering who to cheer for most of the 250kms after Tom Boonen crashed out of the race after just 19km. the Belgian champion came off, on his own, on a narrow section of road and was left lying bruised and battered in the dirt. It was a desperate end to Boonen’s classic’s campaign as it looks to have put him out of Paris-Roubaix next weekend.
How anyone can beat Cancellara over the pave remains to be seen. Team Sky will certainly have to raise their game if they want to finish their classics campaign with a podium position. Today they were outclassed. Geraint Thomas had a minor crash but at a terrible point in the race. Sky’s leader tumbled to the ground in the feed zone after second climb of the Kwaremont. He wasn’t seriously hurt but it happend just as the pace increased.
He managed to chase back on through the cars but the effort seemed to have finished his chances as he was no where to be seen when Cancellara attacked. It was a cruel blow for Thomas who also crashed in Milan – San Remo at an inopportune time. His team mate Edvald Boasson Hagen should have faired better.
The Norwegian champion was on Sagan’s wheel when Cancellara went, but could do nothing but watch the pair go up the road. Once tipped as a classics winner himself, the Norwegian’s results have stagnated of late. The highest (provisional) position for Sky was 21st, a result that will no doubt force them to re-asses their approach of preparing for the classics with training camps at altitude.
2013 Tour of Flanders
1. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) RadioShack 6-05-58
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale at 1-26
3. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 1-26
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha at 1-38
5. Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ at 1-40
6. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling at 1-40
7. Greg Van Avermat (Bel) BMC at 1-40
8. Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Euskaltel Euskadi at 1-40
9. John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos Shimano at 1-40
10. Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Orica GreenEdge at 1-40