Tom Boonen of Omega Pharma-Quick Step joined yet another elite group with a narrow, tense victory in the Tour of Flanders today. The Flemish hero, who barely edged a resurgent Filippo Pozzato of Farnese Vini in a three-man break with Alessandro Ballan, became one of the all-time Ronde van Vlaanderen greats with his third victory, joining Achiel Buysse, Eric Leman, Fiorenzo Magni and Johan Museeuw at the summit of this great race's history.
The podium of Boonen and his Italian break-mates escaped on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont and stayed away to the finish. This was a cagey finale, despite the altered course and the predictions of a war of attrition that came with it. Pozzato makes his first appearance on the podium in Flanders while Ballan, the former winner in 2007, makes his second.
Prior to the finale there were some shocking developments, none more so than the crash of Fabian Cancellara in a feed zone about 50km from the finish. Cancellara was sent to the hospital with what was being prematurely called a broken hip.
On the second passing of the Oude Kwaremont a break of big names formed, with Boonen, Ballan, Vanmarcke, Pozzato, Sagan and several others away. Johan Van Summeren crashed cornering into the Paterberg climb, leaving Sep alone. From there to the next Oude Kwaremont passing the group traded blows, but the race amazingly came back together before the final passing of the two big ending climbs. Despite Quick Step having Boonen, Chavanel and Terpstra away, holding all the cards.
There, Ballan ignited the race with a strong attack, and Pozzato bridged the gap with Boonen on his wheel. The trio stayed together over the Paterberg, with Pozzato the strongest and Boonen barely hanging on. Peter Sagan and Luca Paolini both tried to bridge, but by the 5km mark the chase gave up. In the final 4km Ballan tried to attack, but the others were on him. Results on the flip...
- Tom Boonen, Omega Pharma Quick Step
- Filippo Pozzato, Farnese Vini, s.t.
- Alessandro Ballan, BMC, at 0.01
- Greg Van Avermaet, BMC, at 0.38
- Peter Sagan, Liquigas, s.t.
- Niki Terpstra, Quick Step, s.t.
- Luca Paolini, Katusha, s.t.
- Thomas Voeckler, Europcar, s.t.
- Matti Breschel, Rabobank, s.t.
- Sylvain Chavanel, OPQS
- Greg Rast, Radio Shack-Nissan-Trek
- Oscar Freire, Katusha
- Fabio Sabatini
- Bjorn Leukemans
- Alexander Kristoff
- Matthew Ladagnous
- Xavier Florencio
- Karsten Kroon
- Edvald Boasson Hagen
- Juan Antonio Flecha