Fabian Cancellara of Saxo Bank made two audacious moves – the first on the Molenberg and the second on the Muur – in a stunning individual performance that won him the 2010 Ronde Van Vlaanderen.
On the first, 44km from the finish line, he took Tom Boonen (Quick Step) with him, and the two opened up a 50-second gap over the rest of the field. On the second, he simply powered away from Boonen in the saddle on the 20% upper slopes of the Muur. By the time Boonen wrestled his bike up the cobbles to the top, the Swiss national champion had opened up a 250m lead. With only 15km and the Bosberg to go, there was no catching the time trial specialist.
Saxo Bank had dominated the early climbs, ridingÂ five or six abreast on the road, sending a clear signal of intent to the rest of the field. Yet things could have gone awry as both Cancellara and Matti Breschel, one of his main lieutenants, were forcedd to swap bikes mid-race. Cancellara quickly made it back to the front of the peloton, though, and looked in total control from the Molenberg onwards.Â David Millar, who had seemingly creeped up to the front of the peloton, made a solo bid bridge the gap to the two leaders. He was joined by Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and BjÃ¶rn Leukemans (Vacansoleil), but the three made no real headway, and Millar faded on the Muur.
Boonen came in a 1’14” seconds after him, a creditable second – although the result must be galling for the Belgian golden boy. Gilbert outsprinted Leukemans for third, while Americans Tyler Farrar (Garmin Transitions) and George Hincapie (BMC) came in 5th and 6th, with veteran Brit Roger Hammond (CervÃ©lo) in 7th and Astana’s Maxim Iglinsky in 8th.
Cancellara joins a select group of men to have won all the opening Classics, and looks in fine form for next week’s Paris-Roubaix. However, Boonen, who has won Flanders and Roubaix twice each, may well benefit from the extra week to peak at the Hell of the North. The stage is set.
Race face of the day: Ian Stannard of Team Sky, whose good work in the middle stages of the day were laid to waste by Cancellara and Boonen’s stunning escape.