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Flanders Edition Cycling News for April 6, 2009

Edited by Sue George

Devolder's second-coming in Flanders

By Brecht Decaluwé in Meerbeke, Belgium

Devolder was happy
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)
Some within the sport say that Stijn Devolder is untouchable; others that he's a pure attacker, while some go so far to say that he's the strongest man on a bike when it comes to racing Flanders. One year after claiming his first victory in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, "Volderke" managed to pull off another glorious solo ride to Meerbeke.

After last year's win in Flanders, the 29-year-old Belgian had high hopes of claiming a top-ten in the Tour de France, being one of the few riders in the peloton who can combine strength on the pavé and a good pedigree at the Grand Tours. The outcome wasn't quite as good as hoped for and Devolder pulled out before reaching Paris.

Still, Devolder didn't want to change his season's schedule for 2009, and he again aimed to be in top form this April. The quiet Belgian showed that there's no reason to give up his beloved Spring Classics and the result is that he's probably as popular, if not more popular than teammate "Tommeke" Boonen on home soil. He plans to visit the pub in his hometown where his die-hard fans will celebrate their hero's victory.

But the real celebration will follow later, just like last year, when Devolder grabbed frites with mayonnaise together with his wife and kid. More than anything else, that shows what sort of person Stijn Devolder really is: a Flandrien, someone who does his talking with his legs. At the post-race press conference in Meerbeke Devolder did an effort to add some comments to what he said on the bike.

Cyclingnews: Stijn, it seemed like you had doubts over your own chances during the week before Flanders. Then again a few weeks earlier, during the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race you were gaining morale every day. Was that a key moment during your build-up and why did you hesitate?

Stijn Devolder: Tirrenno is very important to me. I started the race without form but I improved every day and in the end, things were looking good for me. During the last week, stress played a huge factor as there are only two chances of winning a Classic for me - this race and Paris-Roubaix.

Cyclingnews: Are you a different rider compared to the Belgian champion who crossed the line last year? And how do you rate this victory compared last year's win?

SD: Last year gave me the confidence. From then on I knew that I could make the difference in tough, long races. In 2008 it was special with the jersey [Devolder was Belgian champion] and also because it was my first win here. This second time it's just as special though.

Read the complete feature.

Check out full coverage of the Tour of Flanders, including video of the finish, on Cyclingnews.

Discuss the Tour of Flanders on the Cyclingnews' forum.

Boonen curses his shadow

By Brecht Decaluwé in Meerbeke, Belgium

Tom Boonen (Quick Step)
Photo ©: AFP
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Although Quick Step's Tom Boonen was in the winning camp for Ronde van Vlaanderen, the Belgian couldn't hide his frustration when talking to the press after the race. All day the top favourite had the same rider on his wheel, Italy's Filippo Pozzato, or as Boonen described him "the shadow".

"I understand that one wants to get in the front, but in the end it was ridiculous. We both couldn't get rid of each other, but the difference was that he stopped pulling once we were away. Pozzato probably sensed that if he would work he wouldn't win. He predicted a duel but in the end we didn't have the opportunity to battle each other seriously. Of course I prefer to get away with someone who rides first before he starts calculating," Boonen said, adding that he had plenty of cards left to play.

"Those accelerations on the Berendries, Koppenberg and Taaienberg meant nothing. That was just to make the race hard, and it was a hard race for me, but I was unlucky that I couldn't drop him. It's frustrating but that's just how it is." When asked whether he talked or indicated to Pozzato that he was unhappy with his racing style Boonen denied it. "We didn't have to talk; I didn't even look angrily at him. Everybody saw that we were killing each other and they could exploit that. If only he had worked together in that group of six."

When two dogs fight for a bone, quite often a third one runs away with it and as Tornado Tom Boonen and Pippo Pozzato were racing each other, Stijn Devolder headed for his second consecutive win in Flanders. "Our team was living up to the expectations placed on it. I was caught, but that made it easier for the others. The door was closed for me but at the same time it opened the door for my teammates," Boonen said. "That's sport at the highest level and it doesn't take anything away from Stijn's performance. It's well deserved as we always had two or three guys in front during the finale."

For the Belgian rider who won the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2005 and 2006, another opportunity to join Achiel Buysse, Eric Leman, Fiorenzo Magni and Johan Museeuw on the list of record holders with three victories in Flanders has disappeared. Though since Boonen is only 28-years-old, there's time left for him to join those legendary winners. "There will be more chances in the future, and next week there's Paris-Roubaix. Though Stijn won today the pressure will be the same for me in Roubaix."

Pozzato empty-handed on a Quick Step day

By Gregor Brown in Meerbeke

Filippo Pozzato (Team Katusha) said that Boonen was the strongest
Photo ©: James Huang
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Tour of Flanders pre-race favourite Filippo Pozzato came up empty-handed in a day dominated by Belgian team Quick Step Sunday in Belgium. The Italian of team Katusha, winner of last week's E3 Prijs, made his hardest attacks on the Berendries as the race entered its critical moments.

"I tried to attack early, and isolate the others, but afterwards no one would work. At the end the others caught us," the 27-year-old said.

A move with two of Quick Step's team captains - eventual winner Stijn Devolder and Sylvain Chavanel - escaped up the road after the Eikenmolen (with 26km to go). Its third captain, two-time winner Tom Boonen, helped trap and mark Pozzato and teammate Serguei Ivanov.

"Later on, we saw that [Quick Step's] Matteo Tosatto and some others were up front, so it was too much. Quick Step went one after another.

"If Ivanov could have got on with Devolder, it would have been and ideal situation. However, Devolder is Devolder."

Pozzato entered the final 20 kilometres at the head of the main chase group with Boonen and Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank). Flecha attacked on the Kapelmuur, but Pozzato lacked strength.

"I think if Boonen had something on Kapelmuur he would have tried, but instead we both had already spent too much. We remained with [Silence-Lotto's Philippe] Gilbert, who went strong on Kapelmuur. At the top I was tired."

Pozzato ended his day in fifth. He was happy with how his young team showed itself despite criticism of the team's strength leading to the race.

Maaskant dodges crash on his way to fourth

By Daniel Benson

Martijn Maaskant (Garmin Slipstream) excelled at Paris-Roubaix in 2008
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)
Garmin Slipstream's Martijn Maaskant backed up his fourth place in last year's Paris Roubaix with an equally impressive and high-placed finish in Sunday's Tour of Flanders. The 25-year-old Dutchman came home in fourth place, setting himself up perfectly for a crack at Roubaix next week. In last year's Ronde van Vlaanderen, he finished twelfth.

Team director Johnny Weltz signalled out Maaskant before the start as the team's leader. "We have him as our leader for the day, there's no secret in that. Our game plan will revolve around him. He wasn't the best, but then he finished seventh at De Panne and that was really important for his moral and that of the team," Weltz said in Brugge.

However Flanders didn't start well for Maaskant. "I wasn't feeling great on the first set of cobbled climbs, but as the race wore on, I started to feel a lot better. I'm pleased, of course, but I've just missed out on the podium," Maaskant said as he hugged his girlfriend at the finish. "The team expected me to be at the front and to do my job but there wasn't too much pressure. These are my races and they're competitions I'm paid to compete in. I'm meant to be where it matters, when it matters."

With so many attacks during the final two hours of the race, it wasn't clear whether Maaskant would be ruled out of contention. However, with a series of cat-and-mouse games playing out at the head of the field, only eventual winner Stijn Devolder was able to escape the peloton's clutches.

"We knew that once you're over the final climbs that it's fast but hard to stay away, and easy for the bunch to chase," said Weltz as he looked on at the Dutch rider's celebrations.

Into the final bend and Maaskant moved himself to the front, knowing that with so many tired legs there was a good chance most of the remaining sprinters would blow a gasket before the line. The Dutchman swooped onto Philippe Gilbert's wheel and almost overtook him. "He was the right wheel to follow, especially as he went right and there was a crash on the left, but I just didn't have enough to overtake him."

Cancellara caught in chain of bad luck

By Daniel Benson

Fabien Cancellara's chances of winning the Tour of Flanders ended in cruel fashion on Sunday, when the rider's chain snapped at the foot of the Koppenburg, forcing the Saxo Bank rider to abandon. With no team support or assistance allowed on the legendary climb, the Swiss star was forced to walk towards the summit, before throwing in the towel, turning back and riding to collect his chain and quit the race.

Coming into the race Cancellara's form was patchy at best, following an injury sustained earlier in the month, but the Olympic time trial champion explained that he had regained enough confidence prior to the race to be competitive. "I've had bad luck again, but I was coming here feeling much better. Breaking my chain was nothing more than ridiculous, especially the timing of it. I've not made a mistake, and neither has my team. Of course I'm very sad right now, but this just seems to be part of an endless run of bad luck at races that I’ve had for a long time," Cancellara told Cyclingnews from the Saxo Bank team bus.

Before his mechanical malfunction, Cancellara was prominent at the front of the peloton. "I was feeling okay until that point. I was either doing my work for the team or riding smartly in the bunch in order to stay strong for as long as possible. I know I wasn't at my best but I was still willing to fight until I had nothing left in the tank. I was robbed of that opportunity, and that's what's eating me up right now," he said.

Cancellara's attention turns next to Gent - Wevelgem, an event he will ride on Wednesday before tackling Paris-Roubaix, a race he has won once before. "It's important that I remain positive and get some rest tonight. I'm feeling down right now but it won't last long. Tomorrow's another day, and the races are coming thick and fast."

There were mixed fortunes for Cancellara's teammates. Matti Brechel finished a credible sixth, while Frank Hoj suffered a suspected broken collarbone and will miss Paris Roubaix.

Quinziato brave despite Quick Step rule

By Gregor Brown in Meerbeke

Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) had a good race
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)
Manuel Quinziato fought hard in the face of an overpowering Team Quick Step in Belgium's Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday. The Italian of Team Liquigas remained in front until the penultimate climb of Kapelmuur with 16 kilometres remaining.

"I started the race to win," he said. "No one was thinking of me, but remember I was going well last year – second at De Panne. I finished fourth this year."

Quinziato entered into action with a group of six after the Paterberg, near kilometre 187 of the 260-kilometre race. He remained with Quick Step's Sylvain Chavanel as the race re-shuffled. Chavanel's teammate and eventual winner Stijn Devolder joined the pair at kilometre 240.

"Quick Step was truly strong. When Devolder countered, he was working hard with Chavanel, and I thought that it was going to be possible for me.

"I thought I was going to stay with Devolder on Kapelmuur. Instead, I had cramps. It never happened to me like that before in my career. I lost the wheel of Devolder."

Quinziato also explained that his 23-tooth rear cog may not have been enough for the steep slopes that the riders faced on the 16 climbs. The 29-year-old finished the day in 32nd. It was his highest place in the race – he finished 37th last year and 84th in 2005.

Quick Step almost prohibited from starting Flanders

By Brecht Decaluwé

Team Quick Step
Photo ©: Brecht DecaluwÚ
(Click for larger image)
The Quick Step team, with its local favorites Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder, almost didn't start the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday morning after they chose a vintage team kit that the UCI hadn't approved.

Following the example set by the legendary Mario Cipollini, the Belgian Quick Step team created a special jersey to wear during its home Spring Classic.

Team manager Patrick Lefevre had expected that the UCI wouldn't like the team's action, but he figured Quick Step would simply be penalized 2,500 Swiss Francs fine if they raced in the new kit. Then Lefevre learned that the UCI planned to prohibit Quick Step from starting in Brugge.

"I can't understand it," said Lefevre to Het Nieuwsblad. "It shows the conservative vision within the governing cycling body. With this mentality, it's no wonder we're not attracting new sponsors in cycling."

Quick Step showed up at the start in their vintage kit for sign in, but then the team rode back to its bus and changed back into the normal Quick Step kit in time for the start.

García Acosta and Lorenzetto injured

Caisse d'Epargne's Txente García Acosta and Team Lampre-NGC's Mirco Lorenzetto were injured during the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.

García Acosta abandoned after he was injured in a crash at kilometer 140. The unlucky rider from Navarra was transported by ambulance to a hospital in Zottegem, where x-rays confirmed that the head of his left radius bone was broken. His arm was put into a cast by a surgeon and he later returned to the hotel to join his teammates after the race.

Sunday was an unfortunate day for Lorenzetto, too. He also had to withdraw after a crash. Lorenzetto was attempting to remove a layer of clothing near the first feed zone when the garment got caught in his bike and brought him down hard.

"Mirco suffered cranio-facial trauma on his left side," said the Lampre-NGC's Dr. Andreazzoli. "He also has injuries to his left shoulder and pelvis. He will be kept in the hospital until Tuesday for further evaluation and observation."

Win on the Cyclingnews forum

Here's your chance to win the latest film about the world's favourite Classic, Paris-Roubaix.

Cyclingnews has four copies of Road to Roubaix to give away to readers who love their Classics. Cyclingnews reviewed it ahead of Christmas last year and liked it so much we had the guys at Masterlink Films send us some more to share.

It's easy. Just log on to the Cyclingnews forum and tell us: Why do the Spring Classics get you going?

You can tell us about your experiences at the races (if you've been fortunate enough to be there) or whilst watching them on TV. As long as you keep it brief (no more than 200-300 words) and exciting, you'll be in the running to win a copy of the film that delivers an intimate look at Paris-Roubaix. The contest closes the day after Paris-Roubaix, on April 13.

BikeRadar Live: ProCycling Hot Laps

The concept is simple. We have a host of lap times set prior to the show by professional riders, cycling celebrities and staff from ProCycling, BikeRadar, Cycling Plus and Cyclingnews. Challenge yourself and see if you can beat our times.

How to take part

Entry is £10, which can be booked at the registration tent on arrival at the show. You will be given ChampionChip timing equipment which will give you an accurate readout of the time it takes you to go round the circuit. If you beat the times set, the prizes go from bragging rights through to a share of a cash prize. Space is limited, so sign up as soon as you get to the show. Registration closes half an hour before each Hot Laps session starts.

Times

Hot Laps will take place from 10:30 am - 11:30 am and 7 pm - 8 pm on Saturday, May 30, and 7:30 am - 8:30 am on Sunday, May 31. The circuit will be dedicated solely to Hot Laps at these times.

Restrictions

You'll need to produce a photo ID, passport or driving license PLUS a household bill, and sign an indemnity. Under 18s will need a parent or guardian to sign for them. All riders must wear helmets, and bikes will be checked to make sure they are roadworthy and clean before you are allowed onto the circuit. Times are subject to change, and weather conditions permitting.

For more information, visit http://live.bikeradar.com/.

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