Belgium's Stijn Devolder won the 261.5km Tour of Flanders for the second year in a row in Meerbeke on Sunday.
Germany's Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo) finished second, with Belgian Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) third ahead of a big crash in the race's closing stages that saw a number of riders tumble to the tarmac.
On a sun-kissed spring day in northern Belgium, the Quick Step man powered away from team-mate Sylvain Chavanel, Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) and underdog Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) with 15km to go and cruised to victory.
Belgium's premier cycling race features a 130km flat stretch followed by 16 steep hill climbs - some of which take place on winding cobbled streets - and is regarded as one of professional cycling's most gruelling assignments.
Wim De Vocht (Vacansoleil) and Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) made the first breakaway 125km to the finish but were sucked back towards the chasing group during the fiendish Koppenberg climb.
Koppenberg, a cobbled 600m ascent with a maximum gradient of 22 per cent, spread the peloton apart, with Swiss Saxo Bank rider Fabian Cancellara forced out of the race after breaking his chain.
Italy's Quinziato, Frenchman Chavanel and Belgium's three-time runner-up Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) led a six-man leading group that pulled away with 50km remaining.
The leaders, though, were gradually reeled in by the heavyweights in the chasing pack, led by Devolder and his Belgian team-mate Tom Boonen and Italy's Filippo Pozzato (Katusha).
With three riders up top Quick Step looked to be in a superb position, but with just under 28km to go the peloton closed in on the pace-setters to set up an intriguing finale.
Twenty kilometres from home, Devolder and Van Hecke burst clear of the peloton to catch up with front-runners Quinziato and Chavanel approaching the penultimate climb, the Muur-Kapelmuur.
Devolder kicked on over the crest of the hill, leaving his nearest rivals in his wake, and after mounting the final climb the Bosberg he coasted to victory, pointing to the sky as he crossed the finish line in front of a delighted home crowd.
© AFP 2009
Women: Ina Teutenberg takes her Monument
By Daniel Benson, Cyclingnews.com
Ina Teutenberg won the women's Tour of Flanders in a sprint finish ahead of Kirsten Wild (Cervelo TestTeam) and Emma Johansson (Red Sun Cycling Team), to secure Columbia High Road's first world cup win of the season.
The German sprinter Teutenberg came through in the last hundred meters after world cup leader Marianne Vos's solo attack was chased down with only two kilometres remaining. Teutenberg's achievement was all the more impressive as she was left without any teammates in the final kilometres of the race.
"I was on my own so I just sat in for the last 15km as it was a case of not wasting energy, and the scenario played right into my hands. The race was hard enough on the hills but luckily Cervelo had the numbers, and they were interested in working for a sprint and brought it back together," said a delighted Teutenberg at the finish. "Kristen started to wind things up with 200 meters to go, and I came around her with 50 meters left. She's fast, so I couldn't wait too long in case she got a gap."
Earlier in the morning, the ladies began their 131.6km cobbled classic - containing the same final 56 kilometres as the men's race and set to finish in Meerbeke - on a damp and cold start line. The field was without last year's winner Judith Arndt and two-time champion Mirjam Melchers Van Poppel (Team Flexpoint), both still recovering from illness, but had recognised stars such as world and Olympic champion Nicole Cooke (Vision 1 Racing) and Marrianne Vos (DSB Bank - LTO) and Kristen Armstrong (Cervelo Testteam).
|Men - 261km|
|1 Stijn Devolder (Bel|Quick Step)||6:01:04|
|2 Heinrich Haussler (Ger|Cervelo Test Team)||0:00:59|
|3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel|Silence-Lotto)|
|4 Martijn Maaskant (Ned|Garmin - Slipstream)|
|5 Filippo Pozzato (Ita|Team Katusha)|
|6 Matti Breschel (Den|Team Saxo Bank)|
|7 Marcus Burghardt (Ger|Team Columbia - Highroad)|
|8 Bjorn Leukemans (Bel|Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team)|
|9 Martin Elmiger (Swi|AG2R La Mondiale)|
|10 Bert De Waele (Bel|Landbouwkrediet - Colnago)|
|Women - 131km|
|1 Ina Teutenberg (Ger|Columbia-Highroad)||3:30:12|
|2 Kirsten Wild (Ned|Cervelo Testteam)|
|3 Emma Johansson (Swe|Red Sun Cycling Team)|
|4 Nicole Cooke (GBr|Vision 1 Racing)|
|5 Martine Bras (Ned|Selle Italia Ghezzi)|
|6 Marianne Vos (Ned|DSB Bank - LTO)|
|7 Julia Martisova (Rus|Gauss RDZ Ormu - Colnago)|
|8 Noemi Cantele (Ita|Bigla Cycling Team)|
|9 Loes Gunnewijk (Ned|Team Flexpoint)|
|10 Grace Verbeke (Bel|Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam)|