Stijn Devolder is the new king of Flanders!

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06.04.2008/ Belgian National Champion Stijn Devolder (Quickstep) won the Tour of Flanders today. In a race that started with sunshine, followed by snow and rain, the Belgian rider finished in a sunny Ninove after he attacked out of the lead group. Nick Nuýens (Cofidis) came in second and Rabobank's Juan Antonio Flecha completed the podium.

© Cyclingheroes
Stijn Devolder at the Koppenberg (© Cyclingheroes)

The weather forecast was very bad for the 92nd edition of the Tour of Flanders but the race started in a cold but sunny Brugge. The riders covered 49 kilometers in the first hour. The average after 2.5 hours was still 47 kilometers per hour. The bunch wanted to make it dry to the finish but things would come different.

The winner of the Three Days of De Panne, Joost Posthuma, suffered a nosebleed that could not be stopped in the first hour already. He was also dizzy and had to give up.

Janek Tombak (Mitsubishi - Jartazi), Tom Veelers (Skil - Shimano), Sven Renders (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Vincent Jerome (Bouyges Telecom) escaped early and managed to keep a lead on the peloton as far as to Oude Kwaremont, which is traditionally said to be the beginning of the finale of the race with 80 kilometers to go.

At the beginning of the sun was shining and the weather was great, but as the day progressed it started to look more and more like winter with rain, hail and slushy snow. At the fifth hill, Oude Kwaremont, it was snowing quite heavily and it was inevitable that the peloton would be split into bits and pieces, which immediately resulted in attempts from several of the favorites.

At the Patenberg there was a first group of about 35 riders but towards the Koppenberg the group grew to about 70  riders. All race favourites were in the first group. On the legendary climb lots of riders were dropped as Tom Boonen had a small gap on the other race favourites but was caught again shortly after the summit. There were 11 riders left in the group after Tornado Tom's accelerated.

Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank) and Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) attacked just ahead of Taaienberg, but at the top the group came together again with about 40 riders at the front. Towards Berg Ter Stene, where all of a sudden the roads were dry again, former World Champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank) took off, while Karsten Kroon (CSC) was co-initiator of a break with eight riders behind the Spaniard, but the group was quickly caught.

Freire was caught on Leberg with 48 kilometers to go and then Phillippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux), Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) and Langeveld (Rabobank) attacked. Karsten Kroon reached them along with George Hincapie (High Road) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) and shortly after they were also joined by Manuel Quinzato (Liquigas), Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) and Simon Spilak (Lampre).

At the Berendries clim with 42 kilometers left Tom Boonen (Quick Step,) Allessandro Ballan (Lampre) and Cancellara also made it to the lead group, while Langeveld escaped from the lead group. Fillippo Pozzatto (Liquigas) joined the group with 40 kilometer to go.

Ahead of Valkenberg a large group with among others Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) reached the favorites again, but before that Kroon managed to reach Langeveld along with Devolder, Ballan and Hincapie so a new front group of five was formed.

At the foot of Tenbosse with 31 kilometers to the group with all favourites had grown to about 35 riders and was 25 seconds behind the front group, but at Eikenmolen 25 kilometers ahead of the finish they were caught and Devolder took off and started his solo.

A new group of four riders: Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Hushovd, Tombak and Quinziato escaped so Allan Johansen and Kurt-Asle Arvesen (both CSC) had to get up front and pull. The foursome were reeled in just before Muur-Kapelmuur in Geraardsbergen with only 15 kilometers to go, but by then Devolder had a lead of 35 seconds on the chasing group with all favourites.

Devolder reached the chapel at the top of Muuren about 20 seconds before the first chasing group, in that group: Boonen, Chavanel, Gregory Rast (Astana), Nuyens, Flecha and Ballan. Cancellara, Hincapie and Langeveld quickly joined this group and the latter continued on chasing Devolder.

On Bosberg, which was the final climb 12 kilometers before the line, Devolder managed to maintain a lead of 16 seconds on Langeveld and behind them the pursuers came to a halt with Boonen defending the lead of his teammate and the other favourites looking at each other. The road was paved for Devolders victory.

Tombak, Rast and Flecha attacked out of the chasing group, but they were caught again together with Langeveld and then Flecha and after him Nuyens counter attacked with six kilometers to go.

Flecha and Nuyens ended up fighting for the second place, which went to the latter and a few seconds later followed the favorites with Arvesen among them.

Tour of Flanders winner Stijn Devolder said: "I just can't believe it. It will take a while before I understand what I just did." Devolder was exited, the Belgian champion won the Tour of Flanders for juniors before but said: This something completely different."

Devolder added: "I did a time trial. I thought the others would come back but the didn't. I never sufered this much before." Devolder continued by saying: "This is the most beautiful race ther is and if you win this, its like a dream. I can't believe it."

Leif Hoste had a mechanical problem at the Steenbeekdries. Hoste said: "Later I heard that the front group accelerated every time as I was about to join the group again." Hoste managed to come back to the group again. "I have to thank my teammates, without their help I would never have made it back to the front group."

But the chase took most of Hoste' power. Hoste said his legs were good enough to win so he will "give it a shot next week [Paris - Roubaix, editor]."

The only 23-year-old Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank) looked inexhaustible, but closely failed to catch up when De Volder staged his decisive attack. At that moment he was part of a lead group of five, along with the Belgian. De Volder went on the attack at the moment the favorites caught up again. "And that was a bad moment for me. I was out of breath for a moment, so I closely failed to reach him. I only regained my strength on The Wall," remembered Langeveld.

On The Wall Flecha went in pursuit of De Volder. The Spaniard quickly reduced the escapee's lead by fifteen seconds, but fell back then. The recovered Langeveld tried again after that. He came within sixty meters of De Volder, but cracked just when it looked like he would catch up. "You try anyway, even though you know that a top timetriallist like De Volder is virtually unbeatable in a one-on-one fight," said Langeveld courageously. He shone nonetheless, and that was justified. "My legs were very good today and did everything I could. Yes, I am proud of the fact that we played such a role here."

Lange´veld concluded with "We [Rabobank, editor] do not win, but I had goose bumps the last hundred kilometers. It was a magnificent experience."

CSC's Fabian Cancellara was one of THE favourite to win the race. "I was up front, but as the race went on I simply wasn't strong enough. It takes both strength and luck to win one of the great classics and I wasn't blessed with either today. It was great to see some of the others do well though and we still have some crucial races up ahead to focus on. I learn something new every time I do Vlaanderen and of course it'll continue to be on my list of major goals in the future. Now we've got a bit of time to recover and regain our strength and then it's all about trying to live up to the expectations next Sunday,"said Fabian Cancellara.

"We entered this race with sky-high expectations, but in the end today just wasn't our day. We were well represented in the finale, but none of our guys had the legs to make a difference. But I do think we managed to show that our team is ready for this kind of race though. Fabian was up front the whole time, but lacked the strength he's shown for the last few races. There's no doubt the strongest rider won out there today, but I think we'll allow ourselves to hope for retaliation in Roubaix considering what a strong team we've got lined up,"said CSC Team Manager Bjarne Riis after the race.

Milram's young gun Niki Terpstra delivered a surprise as the 23 year-old Dutch rider finished 14th after a strong performance. "I had bad luck twice and had to be pulled back to the peloton after a puncture," Terpstra said. "That cost a lot of strength. On the Muur van Geraardsbergen I tried to follow Flecha's attack in order to get away from the following group. That is of course very difficult in a race like this. In the finale I just didn't have the strength left to attack again. But I am still very satisfied with my results,"added Terpstra, who has ridden better and better over the last few weeks.

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Results Tour of Flanders 2008

1 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step                            6.24.02 (41.246 km/h)
2 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone           0.15
3 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Rabobank                      
4 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre - Fondital                     0.21
5 George Hincapie (USA) Team High Road                             
6 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas                                   
7 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC                                 
8 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence - Lotto                          
9 Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre - Fondital                             
10 Arnaud Labbe (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                             
11 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team High Road                             
12 Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30     
13 Grégory Rast (Swi) Astana                                       
14 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram                                 
15 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux                       
16 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Astana                                   
17 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step                                     
18 Sebastiaan Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank                             
19 Leif Hoste (Bel) Silence - Lotto                                
20 Andreas Klier (Ger) Team High Road                              
21 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Silence - Lotto                        
22 Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2R - La Mondiale                         
23 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC                                
24 Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step                      
25 Janek Tombak (Est) Mitsubishi-Jartazi                        0.25
26 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française des Jeux                    0.43
27 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                           3.18
28 Kurt Hovelynck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen                        
29 Pedro Horrillo Munoz (Spa) Rabobank                             
30 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone        
31 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone          
32 Roger Hammond (GBr) Team High Road                              
33 Christophe Mengin (Fra) Française des Jeux                      
34 Allan Davis (Aus) Mitsubishi-Jartazi                            
35 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner              
36 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Astana                                     
37 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas                                 
38 Marco Marcato (Ita) Cycle Collstrop                             
39 Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank                                     
40 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank                               
41 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC                                 3.29
42 David Kopp (Ger) Cycle Collstrop                             9.14
43 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30     
44 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner                                
45 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone          
46 Frederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas                                 
47 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Silence - Lotto                              
48 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Team High Road                        
49 Michal Golas (Pol) Cycle Collstrop                              
50 Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                 
51 Bastian Giling (Ned) Cycle Collstrop                            
52 Floris Goesinnen (Ned) Skil-Shimano                             
53 Ralf Grabsch (Ger) Team Milram                                  
54 Tyler Farrar (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30         
55 Frank Hoj (Den) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone               
56 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone       
57 Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Barloworld                           
58 Matti Breschel (Den) Team CSC                                   
59 Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus) Mitsubishi-Jartazi                     
60 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step                                 
61 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quick Step                                 
62 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Lampre - Fondital                       10.55
63 Baden Cooke (Aus) Barloworld                                14.55
64 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Team High Road                           15.14
65 José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne           17.35
66 Ermanno Capelli (Ita) Saunier Duval - Scott                     
67 Aleksandr Kuchynski (Blr) Liquigas                              
68 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram                                    
69 Jan Kuyckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner                 
70 Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Team High Road                             
71 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi                         
72 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram                               
73 Ian Stannard (GBr) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner               
74 Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                       
75 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R - La Mondiale                      
76 Jesus Del Nero Montes                                           
77 René Haselbacher (Aut) Astana                                   
78 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Crédit Agricole                            
79 Luciano André Pagliarini Mendonca (Bra) Saunier Duval - Scott   
80 Mathieu Drujon (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne                           
81 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen                      
82 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30       
83 Patrick Calcagni (Swi) Barloworld                               
84 Paolo Fornaciari (Ita) Lampre - Fondital                        
85 Marco Bandiera (Ita) Lampre - Fondital                          
86 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Team CSC                                
87 Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                
88 Yoann Offredo (Fra) Française des Jeux                          
89 Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Cycle Collstrop                            
90 Murilo Fischer (Bra) Liquigas                                   
91 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner                            
92 Sven Krauss (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                  
93 Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Team Milram                                
94 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                         
95 Mathieu Ladagnous (Fra) Française des Jeux                      
96 Mickael Delage (Fra) Française des Jeux                         
97 Wim De Vocht (Bel) Silence - Lotto                              
98 Wim Vansevenant (Bel) Silence - Lotto                           
99 Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone        
100 Maarten Wynants (Bel) Quick Step

DNF 99 riders

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