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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
"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.