Tour of Flanders: Fabian Cancellara wins after pipping Greg van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 06/04/14 7:48pm
Fabian Cancellara claimed his second consecutive Tour of Flanders victory and the third of his career after winning a four-man sprint at the end of a pulsating race.
The Trek Factory Racing rider pulled away from the main group of favourites on the penultimate climb of the day and went on to form part of a lead quartet that managed to stay clear all the way to finish.
Cancellara had looked to be wilting in the closing kilometres, but he conjured up last reserves of energy to beat BMC’s Greg van Avermaet into second and Belkin’s Sep Vanmarcke into third.
It was the Swiss maestro's seventh victory in a Monument and he now joins an elite group of six riders to have won Belgium’s biggest race three times.
The win also sets him up perfectly for next Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, where he will now bid to complete a Flanders-Roubaix double for the second year in succession.
Cancellara's biggest rivals, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale), were both unable to follow his decisive attack and finished in separate chase groups in seventh and 16th respectively. Britain's Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) picked himself up from two falls to cross the line in eighth.
Cancellara said afterwards: "It’s just amazing. Last year I won in an amazing way here, but to repeat, this is even bigger. I have no words. Winning solo was the goal – I wanted to lift the bike over the line – but I was not afraid to sprint at the end, since it is each man for himself. I still don’t know how I did it."
The 259.1km Classic contained 17 climbs and 16 sections of cobbles, and was strewn with crashes throughout its 6hr 15min duration. The worst accident saw Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) collide with a spectator, which put both in hospital and required the spectator to be entered into an artificial coma.
The race caught light as it entered the final 50km and it was the legendary Koppenberg climb, with its maximum ramp of 25 per cent, that caused the first significant splits in the peloton and reduced the front group to around 20 riders.
Van Avermaet forces issue
Van Avermaet then attacked 31km from home and took Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) with him, before Cancellara blew the group behind apart once more by accelerating on the day’s penultimate climb, the Oude Kwaremont, 17km from home. Only Vanmarcke had the strength to follow, and the duo eventually caught Vandenbergh and later Van Avermaet with 11km to go.
A new chase group containing Sagan and Boonen formed, but when that began to fracture, their cumulative power was lost and it quickly became clear the front four would not be caught.
Vandenbergh launched a fresh attack 3.5km out and when Cancellara was initially unable to follow, it looked like his chances of victory had evaporated. Vanmarcke dragged him back into contention, though, and Cancellara went on to make the most of his reprieve.
He added: "I knew I had to make the selection up the Kwaremont. It was so tough, I almost got dropped two times when they attacked. It was man against man and I just kept pushing to the end."
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing, 6:15:18
2 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC, same time
3 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin, st
4 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, st
5 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, +8secs
6 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, +18
7 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, +35
8 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, +37
9 Bjorn Leukemans (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, +41
10 Sebastien Langeveld (Ned) Garmin-Sharp, +43