Fabian Cancellara dismantled home-team Omega Pharma and sprinted to his third Tour of Flanders victory today. Destruction laid behind the Swiss Spartacus at the finish line in Oudenaarde, Belgium. In his four-man group, three locals lost – Belgians Greg Van Avermaet, Sep Vanmarcke and Stijn Vandenbergh. The other pre-race favourites trailed further behind, from 18 second to over a minute.
“The way this win came… it’s very special,” Cancellara said in a press conference. “This is not just a piece of cake, but a huge piece of cake.”
Leading into the Oude Kwaremont at 18 kilometres out, team Trek’s Cancellara raced solo against four Omega Pharma riders: three-time winner Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Zdenek Stybar and Vandenbergh. Cancellara, like last year, attacked on the Kwaremont, dropped everyone but Vanmarcke. After the next and last climb, the Paterberg, they bridged to Vandenbergh and Van Avermaet.
Besides Boonen, favourites like Sky’s Geraint Thomas and Peter Sagan lost ground.
“The Kwaremont is Sagan’s weak point, we know that,” Trek Sports Director Dirk Demol told Cycling Weekly. “We knew he had to go. Not full speed on the first part, but smashing the hammer down in the second part, where it’s open with cross-winds.”
Cancellara’s group of four held off a chasing Alexander Kristoff, who won Milan-San Remo two weeks ago and played for the win. Vandenbergh attacked, Van Avermaet marked him and everyone waited for the sprint. Van Avermaet charged ahead at 250 metres and Cancellara followed through.
“I had one card to play,” Cancellara added. “I was mostly on defence. My plan, go with them to the finish and give everything. It was an unbelievable moment. I was the happiest person on earth, but I felt sorry to beat three Belgian riders.”
To beat them, Cancellara rode alone. Team mates such as former Flanders winner, Stijn Devolder crashed twice, Yaroslav Popovych fell and abandoned, and Gregory Rast fell sick.
“These are the three that would normally be there with Fabian until deep in the final,” Demol added. “We never panicked but it was a tricky moment for us. Fabian proved to be strong and mentally strong.”
Winning for a third time, Cancellara tied the race record with five others: Achiel Buysse, Fiorenzo Magni, Eric Leman, Johan Museeuw and Boonen.
“I’m not the Lion of Flanders,” said Cancellara, “but the Spartacus of Flanders.”