Tom Boonen saved the national pride by beating two Italians for a close win.
Belgian cyclist Tom Boonen won the one day classic Tour of Flanders for a record equalling third time here on Sunday. The 31-year-old - previously a winner in 2005 and 2006 - beat home Italian duo Filippo Pozzato and Alessandro Ballan in a sprint finish to the 255km race.
Despite protests, the new course was still tough and delivered great racing.
His task had been made easier when Switzerland's Olympic time-trial
champion and the winner of this race in 2010 Fabian Cancellara fell 62km
from the finish. Cancellara, who was one of the pre-race favourites for
the second one day classic of the season, stayed seated on the ground
clutching his collarbone and could be considered a doubtful starter for
next Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.
"There were water bottles all over the road. He flew through the air in impressive style." Sylvain Chavanel
Official team report from RadioShack:
"Fabian Cancellara crashed out of the Tour of Flanders today with a broken collarbone. The 2010 winner of the race fell in the feed zone and was brought to the hospital in Oudenaarde for emergency care. There, a triple fracture of the right collarbone was diagnosed. Cancellara now travels back to Basel, Switzerland, where he will be operated."
Boonen - who was aided by French champion Sylvain Chavanel in
regulating the pace after the peloton regrouped with 39km to go - was
left with just a group of 10 other riders after a crash after 221km had
split the peloton.
Belgium's other favorite son, Phillipe Gilbert (above) had an off-day, but his BMC teammate Allesandro Ballan hit the podium by day's end.
Ballan made a break for it on the third climb and was joined by
Pozzato and Boonen with 17km to go, with the trio gradually extending
their lead over the remainder of the riders. Boonen - who was world road
race champion in 2005 and has won the Paris-Roubaix three times - was
recording his eighth win of the season and third in 10 days.
All hail Tommy Boonen!
RESULTS: 255km ride from Bruges to Audenarde:
1. Tom Boonen (BEL/Omega Pharma), 6hr 04min 33sec, 2. Filippo Pozzato
(ITA/FAR) same time, 3. Alessandro Ballan (ITA/BMC) s.t., 4. Greg Van
Avermaet (BEL/BMC) at 38sec, 5. Peter Sagan (SVK/LIQ) s.t., 6. Niki
Terpstra (NED/OPQ) s.t., 7. Luca Paolini (ITA/KAT) s.t., 8. Thomas
Voeckler (FRA/EUC) s.t., 9. Matti Breschel (DEN/RAB) s.t., 10. Sylvain
Chavanel (FRA/OPQ) s.t.
12. Oscar Freire (ESP/KAT) s.t., 21. Hayden Roulston (NZL/RSH) s.t., 30. Heinrich Haussler (AUS/GRM) s.t., 52. George Hincapie (USA/BMC) 3min 26sec, 55. Thor Hushovd (NOR/BMC) s.t., 57. Ian Stannard (ENG/SKY) s.t., 64. Jack Bauer (NZL/GRM) 4:43, 75. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/BMC) s.t., 77. Edward King (USA/LIQ) s.t., 79. Matthew Hayman (AUS/SKY) s.t., 89. Luke Roberts (AUS/SAX) 15:34, 99. Tyler Farrar (USA/GRM) s.t.