Devolder works his way to an impressive win in Flanders
  May 24, 2018 Login  

Current Articles    |   Archives    |   RSS Feeds    |   Search

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Devolder works his way to an impressive win in Flanders

by Steve Jones at 11:55 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics

On a bright sunny day in Flanders where team tactics proved to be king, Belgian Stijn Devolder used the Muur as a launching pad to emerge from Tom Boonen's shadow - perhaps for good - and take his second Tour of Flanders victory in a row. Coming in second place was Cervélo TestTeam's Heinrich Haussler, who jumped out of the group in the last kilometer looking more like Fabian Cancellara than a sprinter. He was followed by Philippe Gilbert in third giving the struggling Silence-Lotto team much needed morale to build on for Paris-Roubaix next weekend.

An emotional Devolder said afterwards, "I dedicate this victory to Frederiek Nolf who was a friend of mine. I pointed to the sky from where he was watching the race. It was very emotional."

Nolf passed away tragically during the Tour of Qatar, a race won by Tom Boonen.

This years Tour of Flanders started in earnest in Brugge, with perfect weather resulting in a fast pace that kept the group together for longer than usual. The first break didn't happen until more than 120km had passed. It contained four riders - Aleksandr Kuschynski from Liquigas, Filip Meirhaeghe from Landbouwkrediet - Colnago, Sebastien Turgot from Bbox Bouygues Telecom, and Wim De Vocht from Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team.

The play for the history books began when Cervélo TestTeam hit the front of the race leading up to the the Oude Kwaremont. At just over 2km in length with a 4% gradient, Cervélo used their strength riding a strong tempo that split the race in two causing the first selection of the day.

By the time the race reached the Paterberg, the short cobbled climb with a 13% gradient took its toll on the race, and by the time they reached the top there was only a select group of riders that included all of the pre-race favorites.

As they approached the Koppenburg, a group of six jumped off the front and integrated with the remnants of the breakaway - now, eight riders were together at the front of the race. The break included Marco Bandiera from Lampre - N.G.C., Sylvain Chavanel from Quick-Step, Frederic Guesdon from Française Des Jeux, Leif Hoste from Silence-Lotto, Aleksandr Kuschynski from Liquigas, Daniel Lloyd from Cervélo TestTeam and Wim De Vocht from Vacansoleil Pro Cycling.

Once the main group reached the cobbles of the climb, Tom Boonen showed his strength on the 22 percent gradient with his main rival Fillipo Pozzato riding elbow to elbow proving he was a force to be reckoned with. The attack left last year's winner Stijn Devolder in their wake, forcing him to stomp his way up the climb towards the two favorites alone. Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara was the biggest casualty of the climb, breaking his chain and losing a perfect opportunity to gain some form for next weeks Paris-Roubaix, a race he won in 2006.

As Devolder made the junction, Quick-Step teammate Syvain Chavanel sat on the break waiting for his team leader to make his way across.  An on form Haussler attempted to make his way across but didn't have the help he needed.

By the time the breakaway reached the Valkenberg it was down to Chavanel, Hoste, and Quinziato from Liquigas, with Devolder working tirelessly to bring Boonen across to the leaders despite having Pozzato in tow. With 36km left to race the chase made it to the front group, and had Quick-Step sitting pretty with all three of their favorites ready to make things happen.

Quinziato then jumped off the front of the group with Sylvain Chavanel covering the Italian's attack.  The move established itself quickly with a gap of 22 seconds as the main group reintegrated itself with what were once the leaders.

Haussler again showed his form attempting to bridge across to the two leaders, but today he just didn't have the legs to make his way across.

At the base of the 6% Eikenmolen, Stijn Devloder put in a major attack coming over the top of the climb alone with 25km left to race.  Devolder rode across the gap like a motorbike picking up Preben Van Hecke from the Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator team on his way. Chavanel again played the consummate teammate, waiting for the Belgian behind to increase their odds for a race winning move.

At 20km to go the four riders were together with the Quick-Step duo driving on the approach of the Muur.  After 245km, the cobbled climb with it's 9% gradient sets the perfect stage for a leg breaking attack. The four leaders had already ridden halfway up the climb by the time the chasers reached the base. As the leaders made their way up, led by Rabobank's Juan Antonio Flecha, Devolder put in a surge that destroyed Quinziato and Chavenel as he grinded his way to the top.

Behind, Chavanel sat on Quinzianto and Van Hecke to let Devolder establish a gap, while Boonen and Pozzato exchanged pedal stroke for pedal stroke up the fabled climb.  With two teammates up the road, Boonen showed his class, the Belgian content to sit on wheels and bide his time for a shot at the podium.

Ahead Devolder pounded his way over the cobbles of the Bossberg taking more time with each pedal stroke.  By the time he reached the pavement his gap had reached nearly forty seconds.

 With 5km to go, the lone leader had a minute in hand and the race was over.  Devolder was on cruise control, and after his fine performance, he crossed the line pointing to the sky, a gesture to remember his friend Frederiek Nolf.

With around 1km to go the race for second place was up in the air as the chasing trio were absorbed by the main group. In a surprise move, Heinrich Haussler lept out of the pack taking second place in a big classic for the second time this year. Belgian Philippe Gilbert rounded out the podium leaving a crash in his wake that dispatched of the best sprinters in the group.

The most impressive aspect of the day was the teamwork on display by Patrick Lefevere's Quick-Step team with Wilfred Peteers at the helm.  Lefevere has a history of bringing together the world's best riders, and providing an environment where all of them are willing to follow team orders without question.  When team leader Tom Boonen was taken out of the running by Pozzato's tactics and strength patience and class paid off for for Devloder.  One can only hope with the performance Chavanel put in, he will soon have his chance.


Subscribe via RSS or daily email

  Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy  Copyright 2008-2013 by VeloNation LLC