Never say die Ballan wins Flanders

Three days of De Panne winner Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) has triumphed in the Tour of Flanders, beat

Cycling : 91e Tour of Flanders
Arrival / BALLAN Alessandro (Ita) Celebration Joie Vreugde
Brugge - Meerbeke ( 259 Km)
Ronde Van Vlaanderen / Tour de Flandre
UCI Pro Tour / (c)Tim De Waele
Three days of De Panne winner Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) has triumphed in the Tour of Flanders, beat

PIC &COPY: TIM DE WAELE Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) pulled the last ounces of strength out of his tired legs to come by Leif Hoste (Predictor-Lotto) in the closing metres to win the Tour of Flanders. The Italian looked like he was heading for another second place with Hoste glued to his wheel for the final kilometre and a half. But when Hoste powered past with 150m to go, Ballan managed to get behind the Belgian. Incredibly, he had enough to go again in the last 20m to win by a wheel from the disappointed Hoste. “In the final kilometre, Hoste didn’t want to come from out of my wheel,” said Ballan, who won the Three Days of De Panne on Thursday. “When he went, I thought I would never get him.” But he did, and Hoste was the loser for the second year in a row. “It went wrong again. Damnit!” said the shattered Predictor rider. “I feel terrible, not just for me, but also for my team, Predictor. We were the best. It’s disappointing that you can’t finish it off.” Hoste blamed himself for sprinting in too big a gear on the gently rising finishing straight in Ninove. “This was the closest I’ve ever got. I’ll keep hoping,” he added, looking to next Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. Ballan made his move on the Muur van Geraardsbergen with 16km to go as pre-race favourite Tom Boonen faded. He was joined by Hoste over the top, and the pair swapped off turns to the finish. Behind them, Karsten Kroon (CSC) and Tomas Vaitkus (Discovery) staged a pursuit, but were never able to get closer than 10 seconds. They were joined by Vladimir Gusev (Discovery) and Luca Paolini (Liquigas) in the final kilometre. Paolini rounded out the podium after beating Kroon, Gusev and Vaitkus in their sprint. Things may have turned out differently for CSC and Quick.Step had a move by Fabian Cancellara and Gert Steegmans ªwith 35km to go worked. The pair bridged up to the remnants of the early breakaway through Brakel, but Cance was the one doing all the work. They managed half a minute’s lead before the peloton came back to them at the foot of the Muur with 16km to go. “I tried to force it, but it didn’t work, unfortunately,” said Cancellara. “But I’ve learned something and this is good for my confidence for next week. I really needed this race for Paris-Roubaix. But I’ll come back here to win.” Steegmans looked to be under orders to sit on and protect Boonen, who had injured himself in an early crash. “I flatted on the Oude Kwaremont and it cost me a lot of power to come back,” said Steegmans. “I had shot three arrows and didn’t have time to recover. So I also didn’t have any strength to work when I was away with Cancellara. Tom Boonen had a lot of problems from his crash. We had no luck today. Next week, better?” Quick.Step’s team director Wilfried Peeters said that his team was beaten fair and square. But Boonen’s crash didn’t help. “In the Ronde you have to be 100 percent to be able to win, but Boonen came two percent too short because of the crash. That’s why he couldn’t go with them on the Muur. He might have attacked too early on the Muur, but that’s life. I can’t complain about our team. The two best were riding in front today.” From start to finish It was a perfect day for the riders at the start in Brugge’s Grote Markt. With temperatures in the high teens, the sun shining and little wind, there were no reasons to be miserable about the weather conditions. The race officially started at 10am with 200 riders ready to tackle the 259km of cobbles and bergs. It didn’t take long before Niko Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques) attacked, taking Bodrogi (Credit Agricole), Mindlin (Tinkoff), De Jongh (Quick.Step) and Deroo (Skil) with him. But the peloton was not happy with the move and it came back. Caisse d’Epargne’s Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta got involved in a couple of attempts, and after 35km, he was able to get clear with Laurent Mangel (AG2R), Enrico Franzoi (Lampre) and Maarten Tjallingii (Skil-Shimano). This was to form the basis of the main breakaway, as they held the peloton at bay by 30 seconds over the next 10km. Still, three more riders were able to bridge up: Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Evert Verbist (Chocolade Jacques) and David Boucher (Landbouwkrediet) after 60km, and the leading group was established. The peloton eased up and allowed the break some time. The gap was 11’25 after 84km and increased to around 12 minutes at halfway. The leaders averaged over 45km/h for the first couple of hours on the flats, but they still had 18 climbs to tackle. Back in the peloton, disaster struck Tom Boonen when he crashed in Kortrijk and injured his wrist. He returned to the peloton and got treatment from the race doctor. The weather could not be blamed for the frequent crashes that occurred in the next section of the race as nervous riders jostled for position. CSC’s Fabian Cancellara came down with two teammates en route to Kluisbergen, and just as they returned, another fall took out a dozen riders. A little later, Erik Zabel (Milram) crashed out of the race after the Kwaremont. Quick.Step, T-Mobile and Rabobank were doing most of the pace-setting in the bunch, pulling the leaders back to 8’20 at the Molenberg (km 143). World champ Bettini and Marcus Burghardt (T-Mobile) looked strong on this short but steep cobbled climb, with Boonen never far from the front. In the lead group, Garcia Acosta flatted but was able to come back to the break T-Mobile set the tempo on the Kwaremont, stretching the peloton. Then Bettini hammered it on the Paterberg, causing more damage to the main group. The gap to the breakaways had come down to 4’30 at this stage, and they were looking vulnerable. Quick.Step changed its tactics on the Taaienberg, sending Kevin Hulsmans away with Johan Van Summeren (Predictor-Lotto). They pulled the leaders back to two minutes, and, scoring themselves another 1’20 over the main bunch. Things changed on the Haaghoek (47km to go) when Fabian Cancellara (CSC) did an enormous turn with teammate O’Grady on his wheel, along with Boonen and Van Petegem (Quick.Step). That caused some concern in the peloton, which came back in dribs and drabs by the end of the 2000m of cobbles. Hulsmans and Van Summeren were brought back, the attacks continued within the main bunch, and the seven leaders were just a minute ahead. The race headed through Brakel and onto the Valkenberg, with T-Mobile and Discovery Channel driving. Cancellara put in another big attack with only Quick.Step’s Steegmans able to follow. The pair quickly caught the rest of the front break, but Cancellara had to do all the work. Devolder (Discovery) and Vansevenant (Predictor) tried to bridge, but hung 20 seconds behind the leaders and couldn’t close it. The peloton regrouped on the run down to Geraardsbergen, pulling the gap back from a threatening 46 seconds to zero at the foot of the Muur. Cancellara’s effort had been in vain, and the early break was now all absorbed. The fearsome cobbles of the Muur started at 16km to go, and Boonen surged to the front with Daniele Bennati in tow. Boonen looked good but not great. When he reached the steep section of cobbles towards the top, he suddenly cracked as Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) powered past him alone. Leif Hoste was chasing at five seconds, while the rest of the favourites were in tatters. Over the top and on the fast run into the Bosberg, Ballan waited for Hoste and the two got together with 15km left. They had 10 seconds over a 12 man group with Bettini, Boonen, Vaitkus, Gusev, O’Grady, Kroon, Nuyens and Pozzato. It was a crucial gap. Pozzato tried to cross it alone before the Bosberg, but blew on that final cobbled climb. Once over the top, Ballan and Hoste had 20 seconds and were headed for victory. The bunch behind grew in size but was in disarray. Vaitkus and Kroon got clear with 8km to go and looked to be fighting it out for third place. Hoste and Ballan traded turns until 1.5km left as the chasers came within 10 seconds. Then Hoste smartly sat behind the Italian, who had no choice but to lead into the final corner. Ballan had been in this position so many times before – with Boonen in the E3 Prijs last year and with Paolini in De Panne last week – and it was shaping up to be an easy win for Hoste. The Belgian waited until 150m to go before accelerating past Ballan, putting a bike length into him. But the Italian rallied and closed the gap with 75m left. Then he did what observers thought was impossible: came around with 20m to go to beat Hoste and win his first major classic. Once again, a thrilling end to Flanders’ finest. Results 1 Alessandro Ballan (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 6:10:15 (41.972 km/h) 2 Leif Hoste (Bel, Predictor-Lotto) 3 Luca Paolini (Ita, Liquigas) 0:00:05 4 Karsten Kroon (Ned, Team CSC) 5 Vladimir Gusev (Rus, Discovery Channel) 6 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu, Discovery Channel) 0:00:13 7 Nick Nuyens (Bel, Cofidis) 8 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz, Astana) 9 Michael Boogerd (Ned, Rabobank) 10 Stuart O’Grady (Aus, Team CSC) 0:00:35 11 Jes£s Del Nero (Spa, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 12 Tom Boonen (Bel, Quick.Step-Innergetic) 13 Marcus Burghardt (Ger, T-Mobile) 14 Filippo Pozzato (Ita, Liquigas) 15 Gregory Rast (Swi, Astana) 16 Steffen Wesemann (Swi, Wiesenhof-Felt) 17 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel, Cofidis) 18 Cristian Moreni (Ita, Cofidis) 19 Daniele Bennati (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 20 Bjrn Leukemans (Bel, Predictor-Lotto) 0:00:42 21 Paolo Bettini (Ita, Quick.Step-Innergetic) 0:00:48 22 Gorik Gardeyn (Bel, 0:01:32 23 Andy Cappelle (Bel, Landbouwkrediet-Tnissteiner) 24 Salvatore Commesso (Ita, Tinkoff Credit Systems) 25 Philippe Gilbert (Bel, Franaise Des Jeux) 26 Frdric Amorison (Bel, Landbouwkrediet-Tnissteiner) 27 Brett Lancaster (Aus, Milram) 28 Maarten Den Bakker (Ned, Skil-Shimano) 29 Arnaud Coyot (Fra, 30 Aart Vierhouten (Ned, Skil-Shimano) 31 Fabio Sabatini (Ita, Milram) 32 Bas Giling (Ned, Wiesenhof-Felt) 33 Martin Elmiger (Swi, Ag2r Prvoyance) 34 Anthony Geslin (Fra, Bouygues Telecom) 35 Leon Van Bon (Ned, Rabobank) 36 Ralf Grabsch (Ger, Milram) 37 Enrico Franzoi (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 38 Volodymyr Bileka (Ukr, Discovery Channel) 39 Bert Roesems (Bel, Predictor-Lotto) 40 Markel Irizar (Spa, Euskaltel-Euskadi) 41 Matthew Wilson (Aus, 42 Filip Meirhaeghe (Bel, Landbouwkrediet-Tnissteiner) 43 Stijn Devolder (Bel, Discovery Channel) 44 Koen De Kort (Ned, Astana) 45 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe, Team CSC) 46 Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr, Liquigas) 47 Raivis Belohvosciks (Lat, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 48 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned, 49 Oscar Freire (Spa, Rabobank) 50 Bert De Waele (Bel, Landbouwkrediet-Tnissteiner) 51 Johan Van Summeren (Bel, Predictor-Lotto) 52 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa, Rabobank) 53 Fabian Cancellara (Swi, Team CSC) 54 Jrg Ludewig (Ger, Wiesenhof-Felt) 55 Andreas Klier (Ger, T-Mobile) 56 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned, Skil-Shimano) 57 Kim Kirchen (Lux, T-Mobile) 58 Serguei Ivanov (Rus, Astana) 59 Peter Van Petegem (Bel, Quick.Step-Innergetic) 60 Thor Hushovd (Nor, Crdit Agricole) 0:02:57 61 Franck Renier (Fra, Bouygues Telecom) 62 Matthew White (Aus, Discovery Channel) 63 Vincent Jrme (Fra, Bouygues Telecom) 64 Elio Aggiano (Ita, Tinkoff Credit Systems) 65 Christophe Laurent (Fra, Crdit Agricole) 66 Laurent Mangel (Fra, Ag2r Prvoyance) 67 Alessandro Cortinovis (Ita, Milram) 68 Mathew Hayman (Aus, Rabobank) 69 Evert Verbist (Bel, Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen) 70 Imanol Erviti (Spa, Caisse d’Epargne) 71 Francisco Jos Ventoso (Spa, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 72 David Boucher (Fra, Landbouwkrediet-Tnissteiner) 73 Fabio Baldato (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 74 David Kopp (Ger, Gerolsteiner) 75 Massimiliano Mori (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 0:06:50 76 Wim Vansevenant (Bel, Predictor-Lotto) 77 Kevin Van Impe (Bel, Quick.Step-Innergetic) 78 Paolo Fornaciari (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 0:06:55 79 Igor Abakoumov (Bel, Astana) 80 Frdric Guesdon (Fra, Franaise Des Jeux) 81 Gert Steegmans (Bel, Quick.Step-Innergetic) 82 Daniele Righi (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 83 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel, Quick.Step-Innergetic) 84 Fabio Sacchi (Ita, Milram) 0:07:10 85 William Bonnet (Fra, Crdit Agricole) 86 Bernhard Eisel (Aut, T-Mobile) 87 Olaf Pollack (Ger, Wiesenhof-Felt) 88 Arnaud Labbe (Fra, Bouygues Telecom) 89 Alexandre Usov (Blr, Ag2r Prvoyance) 90 Baden Cooke (Aus, 91 Ludovic Auger (Fra, Franaise Des Jeux) 92 Mauro Da Dalto (Ita, Liquigas) 93 Claudio Corioni (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 94 Floris Goesinnen (Ned, Skil-Shimano) 0:09:47 95 Frederik Willems (Bel, Liquigas) 0:10:22 96 Christophe Mengin (Fra, Franaise Des Jeux) 97 Yohann Gne (Fra, Bouygues Telecom) 98 Rony Martias (Fra, Bouygues Telecom) 99 Sven Krauss (Ger, Gerolsteiner) 100 Jos Vicente Garcia (Spa, Caisse d’Epargne) 101 Steffen Weigold (Ger, Tinkoff Credit Systems) 0:12:37 102 Alan Prez (Spa, Euskaltel-Euskadi) 103 Pedro Horrillo (Spa, Rabobank) 104 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun, Crdit Agricole) 105 Tom Stamsnijder (Ned, Gerolsteiner) 106 Wim De Vocht (Bel, Predictor-Lotto) 107 Heinrich Haussler (Ger, Gerolsteiner) 108 Kevin De Weert (Bel, Cofidis) 109 Sbastien Rosseler (Bel, Quick.Step-Innergetic) 110 Sven Renders (Bel, Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen) 111 Frederik Veuchelen (Bel, Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen) 112 Allan Johansen (Den, Team CSC) 113 Sbastien Minard (Fra, Cofidis) 114 Thierry Marichal (Bel, Franaise Des Jeux) 115 Matth Pronk (Ned, 116 Jan Boven (Ned, Rabobank) ProTour standings 1 Alberto Contador (Spa, Discovery Channel) 56 pts 2 Andeas Kloden (Ger, Astana) 53 3 Oscar Freire (Spa, Rabobank) 52 4 Alessandro Ballan (Ita, Lampre) 50 5 Davide Rebellin (Ita, Gerolsteiner) 42