Nuyens plays things perfectly to win gripping Tour of Flanders
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Sunday, April 03, 2011

Nuyens plays things perfectly to win gripping Tour of Flanders

by Shane Stokes at 12:53 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Tour of Flanders
 
Belgian back to his best, Cancellara fires too soon and gets third

Nick NuyensNick Nuyens has been falling short of his top form for several seasons, but his rejuvenation continued today when he picked up his second success in less than two weeks, plus the biggest individual result of his career. The Saxo Bank SunGard rider was quickest in a three man sprint which decided a frankly brilliant edition of the Tour of Flanders, coming around defending champion Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) inside the final 150 metres, then holding off Quick Step’s Sylvain Chavanel.

The three clipped away from a larger 12 man group inside the final two kilometres and drove onwards to the line. Chavanel had his team leader Tom Boonen behind, and when the Frenchman continued to ride while his captain tried to solo across to the move inside the final kilometre, it looked like Quick Step was making a tactical error. Had he sat on, Boonen would likely have bridged, and a different result could have ensued; as it was, the Belgian had to make do with fourth place, two seconds back.

“You never know if you can win,” Nuyens said at the post race press conference. “I was on the limit when Fabian attacked [near the end], I was not immediately in the wheels; I was at about 5 metres and I think it took me a few hundred metres to make up the 5 metres. I then tried to recover a little bit.

“I thought I could beat Fabian in the sprint, but I didn’t know what to think about Chavanel.”

Indeed, Chavenel looked like he was closing on Nuyens, but picked to go on the right rather than the left of him. That moved him too closely to the barriers and he had to back off, losing momentum. That cost him his chance.

Nuyen had several seasons where things didn’t go has he wished. Earlier in his career, he was seen as a rival to riders like compatriot Tom Boonen. He won Paris-Brussels in 2004, Het Volk and the Tour of Britain in 2005, and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in 2006. However he said that those races simply don’t compare with the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, the biggest result of his career.

“It’s a big difference,” he answered, when asked how the other success stacked up against today’s. “I think the semi-classics are really important, maybe more for Belgium, but still if you ask any Classics rider if they’d like to win Dwars door Vlaanderen, or E3, or Gent-Wevelgem, they won’t say no.

“But this is a top Classic, a monument, so it’s quite a difference.”

The others who were in the break are fully aware of that same difference, and were all equally focussed on trying to win. That led to some superb racing inside the final hour and a half of racing, with the determination to never give up enabling the contenders to get back on terms with Cancellara.

The Swiss rider had accelerated clear 39 kilometres from the line, putting the hammer down on the climb of Leberg to draw ahead of the others and to begin his chasing of lone leader Chavanel. The junction was made on the day’s 15th climb, Valkenberg (km 225), but despite the gap growing to a minute at one point, they were hauled back on the Muur, fifteen kilometres from the line.

Gilbert then kicked hard on the Bosberg and was clear with ten kilometres to go, but he played his cards too soon and was caught eight kilometres from the finish. That put a dozen riders in contention for the win, and they battled together all the way to the line in what was an utterly gripping finale.

Cancellara was of course disappointed not to win, but he could take some satisfaction from his aggression in what was a difficult edition of the race. Had he waited until later, he could have won; instead, he had to make do with a podium position. “I think I can still be happy with third place,” said Cancellara, looking for the silver lining after the race. “I was second in Milan-Sanremo. I won Harelbeke [GP E3), and today I was third. It’s still something very positive.”

It was also a positive day for American rider George Hincapie, who placed sixth. He said afterwards that he wasn’t particularly pleased with how he was going, but he was riding well and shows that he is in good shape heading towards his big goal, that of Paris-Roubaix. British road race champion Geraint Thomas (Sky Procycling) provided further proof of his increasing strength when he was tenth. Both riders were in the chase group, five seconds behind Nuyens, and remained in contention right up until the final kilometres. That will boost their morale heading towards Paris-Roubaix and the next of the dramatic spring Classics.

How the Classic played out:

There was a stream of early attacks early on, with several riders and groups going clear but being hauled back. The breaks included one by Skil Shimano’s Roger Kluge, Koen Barbe (Landbouwkrediet), Steven Caethoven (Veranda's Willems), Yaroslav Marycz (Saxo Bank-SunGard) and Jesus Herrada (Movistar); this didn’t last more than a few kilometres.

A more successful quintet then slipped away. They were Garmin-Cervélo’s Roger Hammond, Jeremy Hunt (Sky Procycling), Stefan van Dijck (Veranda's Willems), Mitchell Docker (Skil-Shimano) and Sébastien Turgot (Europcar).

After 65 kilometres of racing, they had opened a lead of a minute and a half, and this continued to grow. By the top of the Nokereberg, 80 kilometres after the start, they had a full six minutes, and this increased by two minutes over the next 20 kilometres.

Rabobank rider Maarten Tjallingii tried to bridge across on his own, but Heinrich Haussler covered the move and dragged a dozen others clear. There were several dangermen in there, including Sky Procycling’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma Lotto) and the HTC Highroad duo of Bernhard Eisel and Mark Cavendish, showing that things were heating up early.

Up front, the break was onto the Rekenberg climb, 127 kilometres into the race, and was four minutes 50 seconds ahead. The chase group was 40 seconds closer, and had increased in number to approximately 20 riders. Quick Step’s Gert Steegmans was also present, as was BMC Racing’s Karsten Kroon, Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) and Martijn Tjallingii (Rabobank)

Behind, the Leopard Trek team were concerned and chasing hard. They succeeded in bringing back the chase group, and reduced the deficit to the break to three minutes before the start of the Kaperij climb. At that point just under 120 kilometres remained.

Thomas Vaitkus (Astana) had jumped clear and was chasing the break. He still had a two minute gap to close, though, and the task proved to be an impossible one. He was brought back and the gap to the leaders dropped to one minute 45 seconds after the climb of the Kruisberg. It reduced further on the Oude-Kwaremont climb, where Chavanel attacked and pushed ahead.

With 85 kilometres remaining, Quick Step were throwing down the gauntlet to Cancellara and others.

Over the Paterberg, Chavanel joined up with Simon Clarke (Astana) and together they closed down on the leaders. There were just three of the five left out front, namely Hammond, Docker and Turgot, and the junction was made with 77 kilometres left.

Action ramps up as favourite start to fire:

The gap was under 20 seconds to the chasers and Chavanel was concerned. He ramped up the pace on the Koppenberg (km 181), dropping all but Clarke, while behind Gilbert put the hammer down and blew the peloton apart. There was regrouping of sorts after the top, but it was clear that the big favourites were testing each other with short digs.

With 65 kilometres remaining, Chavanel and Clarke had 15 seconds lead. This increased to 30 seconds on the Eikenberg, where Lars Boom (Rabobank) put the hammer down and bridged up to the leaders. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Procycling) also got across, making it four out front.

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team), Mathew Hayman (Sky Procycling), Tom Leezer (Rabobank) and Frederic Guesdon (FDJ) set off in pursuit, ekeing out a ten second lead over the peloton while sitting 20 seconds behind the leaders.

Chavanel decided it was time to push harder and he dropped the others on the Mollenberg (209km). Inside the final 50 kilometres, he led the race by 45 seconds; behind, Gilbert had to stop due to a puncture, but soon got back on.

World champion Hushovd ramped up the speed heading onto the Leberg climb (km 216). Boonen was glued to his wheel and then kicked hard when the Garmin-Cervélo rider faded. It was a peculiar tactic as he had a team-mate up the road, and his effort was covered by Cancellara and Pozzato. The Swiss rider moved to the front and then accelerated hard on a corner, getting a gap and then drawing clear.

Cancellara caught Boasson Hagen and Boom and went straight past; Boonen was momentarily delayed behind them, but clearly didn’t have the legs to follow last year’s champion, and remained in that group. With 40 kilometres to go the gauntlet had been thrown down and Cancellara was in hot pursuit of Chavanel.

The Leopard Trek rider closed to within 26 seconds of the leader, swiftly building a 20 second lead on Boonen, Boasson Hagen, Boom, Pozzato, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil). The other favourites were in a group a little further back.

With 32 kilometres remaining Cancellara caught Chavanel and went straight to the front, driving onwards while the Frenchman sat on. There was panic behind and when other riders bridged up to Boonen’s group, a number of teams combined to try to chase.

At first, that pursuit was a faltering one and the gap continued to increase. With 30 kilometres to go, it was 50 seconds and growing. Many felt it was game over, but the increasing size of the chase group enabled the BMC Racing Team to put seven riders on the front and to really drive it. At first this didn’t have much of an impression, but when the riders moved onto the Muur, the gap began to fall rapidly.

Cancellara and Chavanel folded and were caught before the top, making the race wide open one again. They were joined by Ballan, Gilbert and Leukemans, with Boonen and Flecha close behind. Thomas was also close, and riding very strongly.

Final battles play out:

Gilbert then put the hammer down on the Bosberg, firing off a ferocious attack which left the others for dead. He sprinted full on towards the top, with Ballan cresting the summit a handful of seconds behind and the remainder of that group further back. Cancellara was struggling, but knew that it was the last climb of the race and that he’d still have a chance if he could limit his losses.

Gilbert pushed on over the summit, but appeared to have gone a little too deep and put himself into the red. Ballan was gradually reeling him in, while behind the others were regrouping. With eight kilometres remaining, Gilbert’s move was ended and a dozen riders were back in contention. Aside from Gilbert and Ballan, Cancellara, Boonen, Nuyens, Chavanel, Langeveld, Thomas, Flecha, George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Staf Scheirlinckx (Veranda’s Willems-Accent) were there and racing for the win.

Ballan put in a an effort seven kilometres from the end. This was brought back, as was a subsequent move by Nuyens plus one by Geraint Thomas. Langeveld tried a clever attack four kilometres from the line, going the far side of a traffic island and creating a wedge between himself and the others. However he was caught, setting things up for a Cancellara surge which also carried Chavanel and Nuyens clear. Gilbert tried to get across but was covered by the other eight behind.

Under the kite, the three had a gap of several seconds. Chavanel was working, even though Boonen was chasing behind. Cancellara looked back and saw the Belgian trying to bridge; he led out the sprint, but Nuyens had more in the tank and accelerated past. Chavanel was also strong and went after him, but was delayed slightly when Cancellara drifted across the road toward the right hand barriers.

He lost some speed there and again had to back off fractionally when trying to pass by Nuyens; the tight sprinting prevented him from having a clear run to the line, and may have cost him whatever chance he had to get by and grab the win. He had to make do with second place but, given his aggression throughout the day, he had some consolation of knowing that his was arguably the most meritorious ride of the day.

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Tour of Flanders, Belgium (WorldTour) Results: Brugge to Meerbeke (256.8 km)

  Click on the arrowsat the top of the column to sort the race results.
Country Result Name Team Time
bel BEL 1 Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank-Sungard) 06:01:20
fra FRA 2 Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) s.t.
sui SUI 3 Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) s.t.
bel BEL 4 Tom Boonen (Quick Step) 00:00:02
ned NED 5 Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank) 00:00:05
usa USA 6 George Hincapie (BMC Racing) s.t.
bel BEL 7 Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
bel BEL 8 Staf Scheirlinckx (Veranda's Willems - Accent) s.t.
bel BEL 9 Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto ) s.t.
gbr GBR 10 Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) s.t.
esp ESP 11 Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky) s.t.
ita ITA 12 Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing) 00:00:09
usa USA 13 Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) 00:01:24
aut AUT 14 Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Highroad) s.t.
can CAN 15 Dominique Rollin (Française Des Jeux) s.t.
ger GER 16 Danilo Hondo (Lampre-ISD) s.t.
fra FRA 17 Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r-La Mondiale) s.t.
esp ESP 18 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Movistar) s.t.
col COL 19 Leonardo Fabio Duque (Cofidis) s.t.
bel BEL 20 Maarten Wynants (Rabobank) s.t.
aus AUS 21 Mathew Hayman (Team Sky) s.t.
bel BEL 22 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) s.t.
fra FRA 23 William Bonnet (Française Des Jeux) s.t.
fra FRA 24 Sébastien Minard (Ag2r-La Mondiale) s.t.
ger GER 25 Marcus Burghardt (BMC Racing) s.t.
ned NED 26 Dennis Van Winden (Rabobank) s.t.
den DEN 27 Jonas Aaen Jorgensen (Saxo Bank-Sungard) s.t.
fra FRA 28 Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) s.t.
fra FRA 29 Vincent Jerome (Europcar) s.t.
ita ITA 30 Matteo Tosatto (Saxo Bank-Sungard) s.t.
bel BEL 31 Bert Scheirlinckx (Landbouwkrediet) s.t.
bel BEL 32 Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) s.t.
ita ITA 33 Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
den DEN 34 Lars Ytting Bak (HTC-Highroad) s.t.
ltu LTU 35 Tomas Vaitkus (Astana) s.t.
fra FRA 36 Frédéric Guesdon (Française Des Jeux) s.t.
ned NED 37 Lars Boom (Rabobank) s.t.
rus RUS 38 Vladimir Isaychev (Katusha) s.t.
rus RUS 39 Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) s.t.
nor NOR 40 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) s.t.
ned NED 41 Arnoud Van Groen (Veranda's Willems - Accent) s.t.
sui SUI 42 Gregory Rast (RadioShack) s.t.
rus RUS 43 Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) s.t.
kaz KAZ 44 Dmitriy Muravyev (RadioShack) s.t.
fra FRA 45 Sébastien Hinault (Ag2r-La Mondiale) s.t.
ned NED 46 Tom Leezer (Rabobank) 00:02:37
bel BEL 47 Kristof Goddaert (Ag2r-La Mondiale) 00:04:29
bel BEL 48 Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
sui SUI 49 Michael Schar (BMC Racing) s.t.
gbr GBR 50 Ian Stannard (Team Sky) s.t.
fra FRA 51 Alexandre Pichot (Europcar) s.t.
bel BEL 52 Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) s.t.
nor NOR 53 Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) s.t.
bel BEL 54 Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto ) s.t.
bel BEL 55 Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
bel BEL 56 Leif Hoste (Katusha) s.t.
ita ITA 57 Luca Paolini (Katusha) 00:08:02
swe SWE 58 Gustav Erik Larsson (Saxo Bank-Sungard) s.t.
ita ITA 59 Manuel Quinziato (BMC Racing) s.t.
sui SUI 60 Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing) s.t.
aus AUS 61 Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) s.t.
esp ESP 62 Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Euskaltel - Euskadi) 00:09:14
aus AUS 63 Robbie Mcewen (RadioShack) 00:12:37
ukr UKR 64 Andriy Grivko (Astana) s.t.
svk SVK 65 Martin Velits (HTC-Highroad) s.t.
esp ESP 66 Imanol Erviti Ollo (Movistar) s.t.
bel BEL 67 Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Quick Step) s.t.
bel BEL 68 Kevin Van Impe (Quick Step) s.t.
aus AUS 69 Stuart O' Grady (Leopard-Trek) s.t.
aus AUS 70 Simon Clarke (Astana) s.t.
bel BEL 71 Kevyn Ista (Cofidis) 00:13:30
bel BEL 72 James Vanlandschoot (Veranda's Willems - Accent) 00:15:28
bel BEL 73 Geert Steurs (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) s.t.
bel BEL 74 Laurens De Vreese (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) s.t.
esp ESP 75 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Omega Pharma-Lotto ) s.t.
ger GER 76 Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto ) s.t.
ger GER 77 Marcel Sieberg (Omega Pharma-Lotto ) s.t.
fra FRA 78 Cyril Gautier (Europcar) s.t.
bel BEL 79 Davy Commeijne (Landbouwkrediet) s.t.
kaz KAZ 80 Maxim Gourov (Astana) s.t.
fra FRA 81 Sébastien Turgot (Europcar) s.t.
bel BEL 82 Geert Verheyen (Landbouwkrediet) s.t.
bel BEL 83 Jan Ghyselinck (HTC-Highroad) s.t.
bel BEL 84 Klaas Lodewyck (Omega Pharma-Lotto ) s.t.
pol POL 85 Jaroslaw Marycz (Saxo Bank-Sungard) s.t.
fra FRA 86 Steve Chainel (Française Des Jeux) s.t.
aus AUS 87 Baden Cooke (Saxo Bank-Sungard) s.t.
fra FRA 88 Arnaud Labbe (Cofidis) s.t.
bel BEL 89 Pieter Jacobs (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) s.t.
den DEN 90 Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Sungard) s.t.
ned NED 91 Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank) s.t.
bel BEL 92 Bert De Backer (Skil-Shimano) s.t.
fra FRA 93 Geoffroy Lequatre (RadioShack) s.t.
ger GER 94 John Degenkolb (HTC-Highroad) s.t.
slo SLO 95 Kristjan Koren (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
bel BEL 96 Frédéric Amorison (Landbouwkrediet) s.t.
bel BEL 97 Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) s.t.
crc CRC 98 Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (Movistar) s.t.
slo SLO 99 Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
ned NED 100 Koen De Kort (Skil-Shimano) s.t.
ned NED 101 Tom Stamsnijder (Leopard-Trek) s.t.
lux LUX 102 Jempy Drucker (Veranda's Willems - Accent) s.t.
fra FRA 103 Steve Houanard (Ag2r-La Mondiale) s.t.
esp ESP 104 Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Movistar) s.t.
ltu LTU 105 Ignatas Konovalovas (Movistar) s.t.
bel BEL 106 Jens Keukeleire (Cofidis) s.t.
bel BEL 107 Nico Sijmens (Cofidis) s.t.
gbr GBR 108 Roger Hammond (Garmin-Cervelo) s.t.
ger GER 109 Dominik Klemme (Leopard-Trek) s.t.
gbr GBR 110 Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) s.t.
gbr GBR 111 Ben Swift (Team Sky) s.t.
ned NED 112 Tom Veelers (Skil-Shimano) s.t.
ger GER 113 Andreas Klier (Garmin-Cervelo) s.t.
fra FRA 114 David Boucher (Omega Pharma-Lotto ) 00:17:51
esp ESP 115 Javier Francisco Aramendia Lorente (Euskaltel - Euskadi) s.t.
lat LAT 116 Aleksejs Saramotins (Cofidis) s.t.
CHI 117 Carlos Oyarzun (Movistar) s.t.
fra FRA 118 Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r-La Mondiale) s.t.
ned NED 119 Bram Schmitz (Veranda's Willems - Accent) s.t.
jpn JPN 120 Fumiyuki Beppu (RadioShack) s.t.
bel BEL 121 Dominique Cornu (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) s.t.
ita ITA 122 Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
ukr UKR 123 Dmytro Krivtsov (Lampre-ISD) s.t.
bel BEL 124 Steven Van Vooren (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) s.t.
bel BEL 125 Romain Zingle (Cofidis) s.t.
fra FRA 126 Yohann Gene (Europcar) s.t.
den DEN 127 Kasper Larsen Klostergaard (Saxo Bank-Sungard) s.t.
ita ITA 128 Mirco Lorenzetto (Astana) s.t.
can CAN 129 David Veilleux (Europcar) s.t.
fra FRA 130 Romain Lemarchand (Ag2r-La Mondiale) s.t.
kaz KAZ 131 Assan Bazayev (Astana) s.t.
ger GER 132 Martin Reimer (Skil-Shimano) s.t.
esp ESP 133 Jon Izagirre Insausti (Euskaltel - Euskadi) s.t.
ger GER 134 Andreas Stauff (Quick Step) s.t.
ned NED 135 Ronan Van Zandbeek (Skil-Shimano) s.t.

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