OUDENAARDE, Belgium (VN) — Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) won the 100th-anniversary Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday, dispatching fellow favorite Peter Sagan (Cannondale) on the Paterberg and soloing to victory.
The two, with Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol), had been off the front going into the Paterberg after Cancellara had a dig on the Kwaremont, but the bunch was closing fast in the final kilometers of the 256km classic.
Then Cancellara lit it up once again, this time for real, and Roelandts was first to fade. Sagan stuck it out a bit longer, but only just, and going over the top the RadioShack rider had a huge gap — the big Swiss settled down into time-trial mode and raced away, building a gap of more than a half minute with 10km to go.
Sagan and Roelandts soldiered on, but they were well and truly beaten. Cancellara was gone, and stayed gone.
With 300 meters to go he looked around, began his celebration and coasted across the line to collect his second triumph at Flanders after first winning here in 2010.
Roelandts and Sagan were left to fight over the scraps, more than a minute down. The Cannondale rider took second, while Roelandts contented himself with third.
“The goal was to win and things sometime you can’t predict how they’re coming,” Cancellara said. “It’s just amazing. One year ago I was on the ground. Now I’m back. I did what I had to do — bring this Ronde van Vlaanderen home.”
Sagan was sanguine with second.
“I am happy with my race. I have time on my side to eventually win this very difficult race,” said the 23-year-old Sagan.
“I fell 100 kilometers from the finish, someone braked in front of me. I came back and I did my best to win but Cancellara was the strongest.”
As for Roelandts, he was content with making the podium after following through on his plans to attack.
“I did what I had predicted,” said Roelandts. “I said on the last climb of the Kwaremont I would attack if I had the legs for it.” But after Cancellara’s “impressive” move on the Paterberg, he added, he fought to stick with Sagan and find a place on the podium.
“I could not follow, otherwise I would have exploded,” he said. “I knew I only had one thing to do, it was to hang on to Sagan. The third place was the best I could get.”
• Defending champion Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) crashed out of the race just 19km in.
• Other hopefuls also had a rough ride. Geraint Thomas (Sky) crashed with 36km to go, and a kilometer further on Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil) fell victim to a mechanical. Said Thomas: “It was just one of those racing crashes, just bad timing really. But hopefully I’ve still got a few more years left in me. I’m all right, just a bit sore. It’s just more the frustration of it, really. It was five and a half hours of concentrating to be in the right place at the right time, and it can all go in 10 seconds.”
• Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) was the top American in 46th at 5:56.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for the rest of the story from the 2013 Tour of Flanders.