Fabian Cancellara won the Tour of Flanders today thanks to a great kick on the Paterberg, but also an impressive RadioShack-Leopard effort.
With Sky and Cannondale taking a back seat and Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) out of the race early, RadioShack took the job in hand.
The result was perfect. Cancellara whittled the race down with a strong push on the Kwaremont and blew it apart on the Paterberg.
“I expected attacks from Sky and BMC. They had strong team with big names. Normally they should attack, but sometimes things are going our way,” the 32-year-old Swiss said in a press conference.
“I told my team-mates in the meeting, I need you guys and you need me. We had a bit of criticism; people were saying we don’t have a strong team. But I think the win at E3 Harelbeke gave everyone confidence. To give everything until they dropped off their bikes. When you see leader is going like this, for them…”
Yaroslav Popovych and Hayden Roulston took over in the second half of the race. Stijn Devolder, the 2008 and 2009 winner, pulled in the final 30 kilometres.
The effort set up Cancellara for his second win after 2010.
“There were too many guys in front, I was a bit worried at first, pulling hard too early on. But [my team-mates] believed they were very strong,” Cancellara added. “We had the last riders up there on Kwaremont: Hayden on the flat, Stijn on the Kwaremont.”
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) followed Cancellara’s wheel up the Kwaremont and the following cobble sector. He hit the front on the Paterberg, but near the top saw Cancellara pass. He didn’t see him again until the podium presentation.
“We were two strongest names,” Cancellara said of Sagan.
“My move wasn’t on purpose on Paterberg, it was just pedalling as fast as I could. I used his weakness, or fatigue. I heard on the team radio this shouting, screaming, ‘Don’t look back.’ So I didn’t look back.”
Cancellara won by 1-27 minutes and, especially with the team effort, put himself as a favourite to win a third Paris-Roubaix title next Sunday.