Bear From Bern Tames Lion of Flanders
Cold showers in fierce winds and Team Saxo Bank in the front of the peloton was the standing image of this year's edition of Ronde van Vlaanderen.
A breakaway of eight riders broke clear of the bunch early in the race but Frank Høj, Anders Lund, Kasper Klostergaard and Stuart O'Grady made sure the gap was slowly neutralized and they put a heavy pressure on the peloton which was slowly diminishing.
With 85 kilometers to go, the whole Team Saxo Bank line-up was represented in the front to tire the bunch on the flat part before the climbs of Kwaremont, Patersberg and Koppenberg. On Patersberg, the Danish national champion, Matti Breschel increased the pressure and created a group of ten favorites who could not cooperate because of the distance to the finish line and the combination of riders in the bunch.
On the cobble stone section of Holleweg, Team Saxo Bank's Swiss champion, Fabian Cancellara had a puncture and after a swift change of bikes he had to spend energy to get back in the peloton where Team Sky set a high pace.
Five kilometers down the road, Matti Breschel had a bike change as well and Team Sky immediately launched Matthew Hayman and he was soon followed by three other riders.
But they were not allowed to go as Fabian Cancellara fired away in an explosive counter-attack which Tom Boonen (Quick Step) was only barely able to follow.
Behind, a dangerous trio consisting of David Millar (Garmin), Philippe Gilbert (Lotto) and Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoliel) broke clear of the chasing bunch and were now on an exiting pursue of the duo in front.
But Team Saxo Bank's tempo specialist wanted to go alone and on the Muur he dropped Tom Boonen and did not look back before crossing the finish line putting another big Classic on his and the Team Saxo Bank resume.
“It was a perfect race and a dream come true. The team worked very hard before the finale to minimize the peloton and to put me in the best situation before the last tough climbs. From then on, I felt confident and when I accelerated on the Muur I knew I was going to be alone until the finish line”, said Fabian Cancellara after the race.
”The race developed just like the way we wanted it to and I knew that Fabian was feeling strong but it wasn't in our plans that he should win like this in front of Tom Boonen. It was teamwork at its best, everyone gave what they had and Fabian finished the job perfectly”, said a happy team owner, Bjarne Riis.
Fabian was riding Zipp 303s and SRAM Red.
Copy: Team Saxo Bank
Photo: Chris Milliman