Belgian Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) defied the favourites to take an epic solo win in the Tour of Flanders.
They pushed him hard, but not even a gutsy counter-attack by Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) and Belgian Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) could prevent Devolder taking the biggest win of his career.
There could be no question about whether Devolder deserved the win. Part of a five man move that went away 40 kilometres from the finish, no sooner was that break reeled in than Devolder went away again.
This time, even with 25 kilometres left to race, there was no stopping him. Alone on the Muur van Geraardsbergen, and alone on the Bosberg, Devolder simply could not be brought back.
Was it wearing the Belgian national champion?s jersey that spurred him on? Or the fact that Quick Step so badly needed a victory after their below-expectations rides in the previous one-day races in Belgium?
Whatever the case, Devolder proved that Quick Step, even without Paolo Bettini, are much, much more than just a support team for Tom Boonen. As for the former World Champion, he backed up Devolder by riding strongly in the chase group and blocking moves left, right and centre, before finishing 17th.
Flecha came closest to pulling Devolder back, reducing the gap to just nine seconds almost within sight of the finish. But even with Nuyens offering the Spaniard limited support, the duo could not reach the Quick Step rider. Finally Nuyens had to settle for second, 15 seconds down on Devolder, and Flecha for third.
For local fans, this was a home victory that mattered more than usual after foreign domination of the build-up races to Flanders. And an epic win like the one Devolder produced made that winning feeling all the sweeter.
|TOUR OF FLANDERS RESULTS|
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1 Sitjn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step 264km in 6hr 24min 02sec
2 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Cofidis at 15sec
3 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Rabobank same time
4 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre at 21sec
5 George Hincapie (USA) High Road
6 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas
7 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) CSC
8 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence-Lotto
9 Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre
10 Arnaud Labbe (Fra) Bouygues all same time
32 Roger Hammond (GB) High Road at 3min 18sec
73 Ian Stannard (GB) Landbouwkrediet at 17min 35sec
dnf Jeremy Hunt (GB) Credit Agricole
Stijn Devolder on his way to winning the 2008 Tour of Flanders. Photos by Luc Claessen/ISPA
Devolder can’t believe his fortune at the finish line