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.
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.
|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