Tour of Flanders: Nick Nuyens wins it

Chavanel and Cancellara round out podium

Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank-SunGard) pulled off a perfectly executed win at the Tour of Flanders, finally proving to his Belgian supporters that his second here in 2008 was no fluke.

The Belgian got away with Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) and Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) in the final five kilometres and then out sprinted them in the metres before the line.

In one of the most unpredictable editions of the Tour of Flanders in years, the action changed continuously. Cancellara tried an audacious attack some 60km from the finish and joined Chavanel who was already up the road. However they faded in the last 20km and were caught on the Kapelmuur by a group of race favourites and the race was wide open again.

Cancellara went again in the final five kilometres but Chavanel and Nuyens were with him and the Saxo Bank rider played it perfectly. Cancellara lead out the sprint but Nuyens came through on the line, struggling to believe he had won.

The early action

The race was fast and aggressive from the start. Numerous riders tried to get in the early breakaway but the peloton didn't allow anything to get away, thus the average speed during the first hour reached almost 50km/h.

Eventually a group of five riders was allowed some distance: Mitchell Docker (Skil-Shimano), Stefan van Dijk (Veranda Willems-Accent), Roger Hammond (Garmin-Cervélo), Sébastien Turgot (Europcar) and Jeremy Hunt (Sky). They built up a lead of almost eight minutes but the gap came down near Zwalm when several new attacks followed in the peloton.

When a sizable group of about twenty riders escaped the peloton, Cancellara's Leopard Trek teammates were forced to do the work in the peloton. The front group included Maarten Tjallingii, André Greipel, Bernard Eisel and Gert Steegmans but was brought back just before the fourth climb of the day, the Kaperij. T

he five leaders only had three minutes left on the peloton at this point and the race was wide open. While heading to the important trio of climbs, the Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, and Koppenberg, Jurgen Roelandts, Joost Posthuma plus BMC's Marcus Burghardt and Karsten Kroon all crashed, while world champion Thor Hushovd and Sep Vanmarcke punctured.

Chavanel anticipates the attacks

On the Oude Kwaremont Sylvain Chavanel accelerated away and quickly bridged up to Simon Clarke (Astana) who had moved clear of the peloton just before. The duo caught up with the remaining three leaders (Hammond, Van Dijk and Turgot) while heading to the Koppenberg. The peloton trailed by only half a minute on the leaders, thanks to a surge from Philippe Gilbert.

At the second feed zone after 185km, Chavanel and Clarke were the only riders left in front, with the first peloton trailing by just twenty seconds. Before the Taaienberg climb, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) attacked and his move was marked by Boonen, Langeveld and Flecha, but on the climb Hushovd brought the peloton back to the high-quality group of four.

Two riders then bridged up to the leaders: First Edvald Boasson Hagen sneaked away, then on the Eikenberg it was Lars Boom who then powered away from the peloton. For the second time Leopard Trek was forced to work and Martin Mortensen emptied his tank for Cancellara.

Former Paris-Roubaix winner Fréderic Guesdon (FDJ) accelerated on the pavé section of Mater and he was joined by Greg Van Avermaet and watchdogs Hayman and Leezer. On the Molenberg, where Boonen and Cancellara attacked last year, Chavanel went clear alone, with Boom and Boasson Hagen the closest chasers. Right after the Molenberg there was a tactical move from outsider Bjorn Leukemans who slipped away with Baden Cooke. However this duo caught with Hayman, Van Avermaet and Leezer.

Cancellara makes his move

The race amongst the favourites heated up with 45km to go on the cobbles of Haaghoek. Hushovd led the peloton but then suddenly Boonen blasted past the world champion. Cancellara and Pozzato followed him as the trio quickly passed Van Avermaet, Hayman, Leezer, Leukemans and Cooke.

On the Leberg climb, Cancellara took over and turned on the turbo, causing panic and pain behind. Only Boonen and Pozzato were able to go with him but then he accelerated again and blew them off his wheel. On the steepest part of the Leberg, Cancellara blasted past Boom and Boasson Hagen and was away alone.

Chavanel still had a 40 second gap on Cancellara, but he had already gained twenty seconds on the first chase group that included Boonen, Pozzato, Boasson Hagen, Van Avermaet, Leukemans and Boom. The race seemed over.

On the fifteenth climb of the day, the Valkenberg, Cancellara caught up with Chavanel while the first chasers were at 40 seconds. In between the Valkenberg and the climb of the Tenbosse, Cancellara increased the gap on the chasers to a minute while the BMC team tried to organise an impressive seven-rider chase.

At the top of the Tenbosse, four BMC riders were still in front and the gap was only ten seconds smaller. Cancellara didn't get any help from Chavanel but he managed to keep the peloton at a minute as the Geraardsbergen climb approached.

Cancellara cracks

The race seemed over but then the biggest turnaround in the history of the Tour of Flanders unfolded in just a few kilometres. All of a sudden the gap between Cancellara and Chavanel and the peloton plummeted. Cancellara seemed in trouble and lost his sparkle.

On the famous Muur in Geraardsbergen the pair were caught by an aggressive Gilbert, followed by Leukemans, Ballan and the rest of the peloton. Cancellara accelerated in the second half of the Muur to stay at the front but the race was suddenly wide open again where it is usually decided.

After the Muur, five men were leading the race: Cancellara, Gilbert, Ballan, Leukemans and Chavanel. At the foot of the last climb of the day, the Bosberg, Flecha, Nuyens, Boonen, Langeveld, Thomas, Hincapie and Staf Scheirlinckx bridged up too. On the Bosberg, Gilbert attacked while the group splintered.

Gilbert opened a small lead on the rest on the flat and fast road to the finish. But it was not to be and he was pulled back as Thomas did a lot of work to bring Flecha back to the first chase group. At eight kilometres from the finish, twelve men were battling for the win in the Ronde.

Cancellara decides the race

Attacks from Ballan, Nuyens, Thomas and Flecha were neutralized while Cancellara seemed to have recovered from his efforts. A move from Langeveld at four kilometres from the finish was neutralized by Ballan but then Cancellara managed to pull off one final attack that was only followed by Chavanel and Nuyens.

At two kilometres from the finish the trio had about ten seconds on the nine chasers. It was a breathtaking finish.

Inside the last kilometre, Boonen tried a counter-attack from but it was just a little too late. After the final corner, Cancellara started the sprint early to hold off Boonen. Nuyens took over but struggled to hold on until the line. Both Cancellara and Chavanel came back at him but both fell short and Nuyens hit the line first and began to celebrate.

Chavanel could only wave his arm in disappointment and anger, while Cancellara took a tired and disappointed third. Boonen finished fourth just a few metres behind. The chase group filled the top-ten a few seconds further back, while Farrar won the sprint of the bunch.

Results

1 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Saxo Bank Sungard 6:01:20
2 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team
3 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard Trek
4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:00:02
5 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:05
6 George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team
7 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
8 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent
9 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
10 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling
11 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Procycling
12 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:00:09
13 Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:01:24
14 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) HTC-Highroad
15 Dominique Rollin (Can) FDJ
16 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre - ISD
17 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
18 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
19 Leonardo Fabio Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
20 Maarten Wynants (Bel) Rabobank Cycling Team
21 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Procycling
22 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
23 William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ
24 Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
25 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team
26 Dennis Van Winden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
27 Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard
28 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar
29 Vincent Jerome (Fra) Team Europcar
30 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Saxo Bank Sungard
31 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
32 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
33 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
34 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) HTC-Highroad
35 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Pro Team Astana
36 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) FDJ
37 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
38 Vladimir Isaichev (Rus) Katusha Team
39 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Katusha Team
40 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
41 Arnoud Van Groen (Ned) Veranda's Willems - Accent
42 Grégory Rast (Swi) Team RadioShack
43 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Katusha Team
44 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Team RadioShack
45 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
46 Thomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:02:37
47 Kristof Goddaert (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:29
48 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
49 Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team
50 Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Procycling
51 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Team Europcar
52 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
53 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo
54 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
55 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
56 Leif Hoste (Bel) Katusha Team
57 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team 0:08:02
58 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Saxo Bank Sungard
59 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team
60 Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team
61 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Team Garmin-Cervelo
62 Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:09:14
63 MC EWEN Robert 0:12:37
64 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Pro Team Astana
65 Martin Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad
66 Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team
67 Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
68 Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
69 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Leopard Trek
70 Simon Clarke (Aus) Pro Team Astana
71 Kevin Ista (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:13:30
72 James Vanlandschoot (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent 0:15:28
73 Geert Steurs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
74 Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
75 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Omega Pharma-Lotto
76 André Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
77 Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
78 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar
79 Davy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
80 Maxim Gourov (Kaz) Pro Team Astana
81 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar
82 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
83 Jan Ghyselinck (Bel) HTC-Highroad
84 Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
85 Jaroslaw Marycz (Pol) Saxo Bank Sungard
86 Steve Chainel (Fra) FDJ
87 Baden Cooke (Aus) Saxo Bank Sungard
88 Arnaud Labbe (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
89 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
90 Michael Mørkøv (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard
91 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
92 Bert De Backer (Bel) Skil - Shimano
93 Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Team RadioShack
94 John Degenkolb (Ger) HTC-Highroad
95 Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Cannondale
96 Frédéric Amorison (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
97 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
98 Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team
99 Borut Bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
100 Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil - Shimano
101 Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Leopard Trek
102 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Veranda's Willems - Accent
103 Steve Houanard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
104 Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team
105 Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Movistar Team
106 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
107 Nico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
108 Roger Hammond (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo
109 Dominic Klemme (Ger) Leopard Trek
110 Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad
111 Ben Swift (GBr) Sky Procycling
112 Tom Veelers (Ned) Skil - Shimano
113 Andreas Klier (Ger) Team Garmin-Cervelo
114 David Boucher (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:17:51
115 Javier Francisco Aramendia Lorente (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
116 Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
117 Carlos Oyarzun (Chi) Movistar Team
118 Yuriy Krivtsov (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
119 Bram Schmitz (Ned) Veranda's Willems - Accent
120 Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Team RadioShack
121 Dominique Cornu (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
122 Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
123 Dmytro Krivtsov (Ukr) Lampre - ISD
124 Steven Van Vooren (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
125 Romain Zingle (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
126 Yohann Gene (Fra) Team Europcar
127 Kasper Klostergaard Larsen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard
128 Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Pro Team Astana
129 David Veilleux (Can) Team Europcar
130 Romain Lemarchand (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
131 Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Pro Team Astana
132 Martin Reimer (Ger) Skil - Shimano
133 Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
134 Andreas Stauff (Ger) Quickstep Cycling Team
135 Ronan Van Zandbeek (Ned) Skil - Shimano

This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com

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