93rd Ronde van Vlaanderen - ProT
Belgium, April 5, 2009
Full live coverage
Live commentary by Bjorn Haake
Hello and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage from the Spring Classics. Today it's the so-called undulating terrain from the Ronde van Vlaanderen that will whittle down the field to a few contenders at the end of the 261-kilometre race. But before the first hellingen or climbs are tackled, the peloton will warm-up over 130 flat kilometres before the first of the 16 climbs, the Molenberg, is tackled. Enjoy the day!
12:07 CEST 93km/167km to go
About 15 minutes ago the bunch rode through Gent, passing the finish line of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (and the Tour de France in 2007). The pace was elevated, but there was no sprint...
After all the riders have only covered less than 100 km so far. No point in wasting your energy now, where all was flat.
The climbing won't be starting for another 30 km, with the Molenberg.
There have been a few attempts to get away. None were successful and the bunch was together in Gent. The latest break attempt is done by Daniel Musiol (Vorarlberg-Corratec) and Bert De Backer (Skil-Shimano)
12:21 CEST 103km/157km to go
The latest attempt also came back and the bunch is still together. No break of the day.
The weather is not quite as nice as it was all of last week, when it was sunny and warm and the ice-cream vendors made quite the business.
The sun peaks out occasionally, but the riders start in the mist and it is still overcast partially.
Nonetheless, it's definitely a rider-friendly weather – except for those who love a true Spring Classic with rain, hail, wind and – why not – snow.
There will likely be more riders in the final today. But as shown by Alessandro Ballan two years ago, nice weather can still mean a successful break.
Ballan beat his companion Leif Hoste at the time. Hoste has finished second three (!) times. Hoste feels in good form to finally win the Ronde.
Hincapie in the bunch through Gent. Will he prevail today?
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
George Hincapie (Columbia-Highroad) is always there in the Classics. Will he finally win it? You can find out more about the American's ambitions in our interview with him.
Garmin-Slipstream's Directeur Sportif Jonny Weltz told Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson about the team's tactics before the race. "We have Maaskant and he's our leader for the day, there's no secret in that. Our game plan will revolve around him. He was seventh at De Panne and that was really important for his morale and that of the team. Sven [Tuft] Michael [Friedman] are still a bit sore from their crashes but they're both strong boys. For me Rabobank is the strongest team, stronger than Quick Step and the only team who can decide the race."
12:40 CEST 118km/142km to go
An attempt was made by Geert Steurs (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator), Yohann Gène (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and, take note, Nick Nuyens (Rabobank) to get away, but they were quickly brought back. It seems a bit early for Nuyens to give it a go, but maybe he just needed to warm up a little.
"I was resting and taking it easy these last couple of days, but now I am ready to light it up," said Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam) at the start this morning. He spoke with Cyclingnews' this morning, but also in an exclusive interview a few days ago.
"This morning I was really nervous. I think I have been to the toilet four times!
"I have been building up to this since November, I have just been concentrating on this race. It all comes down to one day."
The team has Haussler, Thor Hushovd and Andreas Klier as potential winners. The riders are staying just outside of Gent, Belgium.
"We had a meeting last night, over an hour, just talking about things. I just have to stay so concentrated today because if you just make the smallest mistake at the wrong moment you are 'stuffed' and can lose the race."
12:48 CEST 125km/135km to go
Mirco Lorenzetto (Lampre-NGC) was victim of a crash and was transferred to hospital.
Marcus Burghardt (Columbia-Highroad) saved energy at the back of the bunch as they rode through Gent
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson spoke to Columbia-Highroad's manager Bob Stapleton before the start. Stapleton was hopeful for a good result. "We come to compete at every race and we've brought a good line-up with riders like George [Hincapie] and Marcus [Burghardt] and it's a good chance for guys like Edvald Boasson Hagen who rode Milano-Sanremo too. We have a nice mix of strong veterans and young guys. We could surprise people if we get some chances."
Want to discuss the Ronde? Go to our forum.
Steve Cummings (Barloworld) told Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson before the start about the importance of the race for the team. "For Barloworld it's vital we get someone in the break. I've ridden this race before with Discovery and it's all about position. I was feeling shit last week but I'm starting to feel better now so hopefully I can get in the breaks.
"I think it's going be dry but if it rains it's going to be difficult. Morale is pretty average at the moment in the team. We didn't have anyone in the front at De Panne and Robbie [Hunter] was feeling sick. Hopefully we can pull something out of the bag today."
Robert Hunter (Barloworld) was feeling a bit sick. Here he is seen sitting in the bunch after some 70km
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
The riders went over the infamous Paddestraat a few minutes ago. The inevitable crash took out José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne). The bad cobbles are the first hardship of the day.
13:00 CEST 136km/124km to go
The riders have also climbed the Molenberg and four riders have escaped. Two of them are still on the front, a minute and a half ahead. Wim De Vocht (Vacansoleil) and Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) are on the front.
13:06 CEST 141km/119km to go
Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam) seems to have crashed. He is stopped at the left hand side of the road and adjusts his brake levers. He gets going but almost runs into the motorbike of the photographer that parked right in front of him. We should see a good picture from the front sometime soon...
Haussler is back in the peloton.
13:10 CEST 142km/118km to go
The leaders De Vocht and Kuschynski cross the top of the Wolvenberg, a few seconds ahead of Sébastien Turgot and Filip Meirhaeghe.
The bunch is stopped on the Wolvenberg. The barriers make the climb narrower than it already is and the pace slowed down enough that tail-end of the peloton had to stop.
13:17 CEST 148km/112km to go
The bunch passes through sunny Oudenaarde, with Columbia leading the charge. But the pace is relaxed right now, the quiet before the storm...
The gap of the break has gone out to almost three minutes.
Turgot and Meirhaeghe are still trying to close the 30-second gap.
- Wim De Vocht (Vacansoleil) and Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas)
- Filip Meirhaeghe (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) and Sébastien Turgot (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) at 0.30
- Peloton at 2.06
Steven Cozza (Garmin-Slipstream) attacks right in Oudenaarde. He quickly gets a gap on the field, but eventually the bunch reacts. Cozza checks under his arms and realises they come back. But he keeps going.
13:22 CEST 152km/108km to go
Bernhard Eisel (Columbia-Highroad) has also crashed. He is back riding, but the team's name is not completely visible anymore on the torn shorts. His skin is off a bit, too, on his left leg.
The pace on the highway towards the Oude Kwaremont is high. Cozza is back in the bunch.
The bunch rides through a large roundabout. The riders on the right hand side of the peloton are out of luck, as they have to go the long way around - the exit is on the left.
13:29 CEST 156km/104km to go
There is a lot of white on the front. Quick Step, Katusha and Française des Jeux. The gap is at two and a half minutes.
"It is a crisp morning today," said Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) to Cyclingnews' Brown. He is one of the three men that will lead the Italian team (with Frederik Willems and Manuel Quinziato).
"In De Panne I had a small problem in my leg, I hope I don't feel anything today." Bennati crashed in Tirreno-Adriatico last month.
"I have to stay behind my teammates, who have good condition. Then we have to take advantage of the other teams' work, the favourites, like Quick Step.
The race starts in the centre of Brugge, Belgium. There are thousands of people that fill the Grote Markt.
"It fills me with a lot of emotions. Even if it is a little cold the people are always out in numbers and give you a lot of support -- bello. I also have a fans club based here."
"Favourites? Boonen, Pozzato, Nuyens and lots of others."
13:42 CEST 164km/96km to go
Less than 100 km to go. The peloton has relaxed a bit, after a few attacks in the last minutes. Servais Knaven was one of the last ones to give it a go, but is also back in the peloton.
Cyclingnews asked Rabobank's Adri Van der Poel if it was likely that 23 years after his win in Flanders there would be a new Dutch winner. "Erik Dekker came close in 2001 when Bortolami won. He should have one actually but he didn't believe in his own chances, but everybody knows that story," Van der Poel said.
"There are no Dutch guys among the favourites to my opinion. Sebastian Langeveld is an outsider because he can win it one day. Then there's also Maaskant and Terpstra but they're in the same position as Langeveld," Van der Poel said. "To me there's one top favourite and that is Pozzato. If he's smart then he's just staying on Boonen's wheel all race long. They have other riders in the Quick Step team but the sponsor will most likely prefer Tommeke to win it," Van der Poel said.
"I mainly hope it's going to be a fair battle without too much calculations. We [Rabobank] don't have a sprinter so we need a solo attempt."
13:46 CEST 167km/93km to go
Meirhaeghe and Turgot have given up. They are swallowed by the bunch, while Devolder, wearing number one of defending champion, is at the back. Not a good place to be with the action starting soon.
Bjarne Riis told Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson at the start that "We're looking forward to this. Quick Step on paper has the strongest team but it's going to be nice to watch from our position. We have a few things planned and that can play into our hands. People won't be looking at us too much."
13:49 CEST 169km/91km to go
Cozza goes again. Two time's a charm.
Roger Hammond (Cervélo TestTeam) stretches his legs at the back, looks acrobatic.
Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson spoke to Michael Friedman at the start. "I'm sore all over my right hand side. Ankle, shin, knee, hip, all the way up to my neck. I'll be riding for Maaskant and watching out for him in the early stages. It's a race though, and anything can happen."
Roy Curvers (Skil-Shimano) jumps and joins Cozza on the front. They clear a left hand turn, about 100m before the bunch.
"It is one of ht highlights points of the season for me, a Belgian," said Frederik Willems (Liquigas), winner of De Panne on Thursday. "My condition is at its top, I hope to go well in the race."
"I was really tired Friday evening. Maybe I will feel something in the fires two hours, but after that you come into the race. It was the same on Tuesday at De Panne, two days after I raced Brabantse Pijl.
"The race is special, even for the weaker riders. I won De Panne, so it becomes even more important for me. I will captain the team with Bennati and Quinziato.
"The team will put one or two guys into an early escape, if there is a chance. The rest of us will have a quiet start, and after Oude Kwaremont we will go to the front."
13:55 CEST 173km/87km to go
The leaders, De Vocht and Kuschynski, hit the Varentstraat, 2000m of cobbles. The sun is shining on the riders, but Kuschynski still doesn't enjoy it too much. He leaves a gap, but manages to get back on the wheel of De Vocht.
Flecha stands on the side of the road. Flat tyre! And that before the cobbles.
The peloton reaches the Varentstraat a little less than two minutes after the break.
13:58 CEST 177km/83km to go
One of the Garmin riders moves to the sidewalk, for smoother riding. But you have to be careful with the spectators.
It looks as if Curvers and Cozza are back in the bunch.
Some riders opted again for the side walk, which is just dirt. Trouble for one of the Skil-Shimano riders, who slips in the right hand turn on the dirt.
Flecha is back in the peloton.
- Wim De Vocht (Vacansoleil) and Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas)
- Peloton at 1.26
Columbia and Saxo Bank are leading the race. We see Cancellara at the front, with his trade mark sunglasses with orange frame.
The pace is very high now, the gap to the front melts like snow in the Belgian sun.
Marc Coucke, sponsor of the Belgian Silence-Lotto team, came up with a surprising pick. "1. Boonen, 2. Pozzato and on three our Van Summeren. My favourite football team already won on Saturday and of course I would be delighted if Silence-Lotto would be able to win as well," Coucke said to Cyclingnews' . "Honestly, I have no idea what to expect."
The leaders reach the Kwaremont. Now the race starts!
2200m long, with a max of 11% About 1600m are cobbled.
An FdJ rider seems to be a bit afraid, he dives off into the ditch on the left. But he will have to go up anyway... He does manage to slow down the field a bit.
Kuschynski and De Vocht have passed the houses, but the cobbled section continues until the main road.
Cervélo is on the front, as well as Duque for Cofidis.
Lots of Flandrian flags flying again on this beautiful day, which it turned out to be. It's not overcast anymore.
Chavanel joins Cervélo on the front.
The Cervélos are busy talking into their radios, too see what is going on.
14:09 CEST 181km/79km to go
Will Haussler come closer to victory today than in Milano-Sanremo,w here he was 11cm short? His dad Heinrich emailed us that he thinks so, if Heinrich junior listened to his brother's advise: "Get a longer bike," Jackson told him.
Based on the Cervélos on the front, Haussler must be feeling well and the little mishap earlier was of no consequence.
The peloton has split in two after the Kwaremont. Next up is the Paterberg and then the Koppenberg.
Tom Boonen said that after the Kwaremont something happens every five minutes.
The leaders have reached the Paterberg. As Hoste mention to Cyclingnews a few days ago in De Panne, "they put the barriers up for the Ronde and you can't ride in the gutter."
Too bad, as the gutter is the only smooth part.
14:12 CEST 184km/76km to go
Hincapie, Flecha, Haussler, to name a few. The favs are there and the gap to the leaders is not much anymore, 24 seconds.
On the other hand, Angelo Furlan (Lampre - N.G.C.) is still on the climb,a long with a few others. Aurélien Clerc (AG2R La Mondiale) as well. Clerc gets almost run over by some photo journalists running back to their bikes.
The last climb has cleared things up, to a group of about 20, but the peloton is close behind.
Haussler appears not to be in the front split, while Chavanel and Pozzato are there.
Daniel Lloyd (Cervélo Test Team), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) and Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) gap the group of favourites, but three riders are able to catch back on.
Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson spoke to Scott Sunderland at the start. "I've picked Boonen, Pozzato and Haussler. I can't see beyond those three guys for the victory but perhaps the order might be different."
Rabobank's first DS is Erik Dekker who suffers from stomach flue and had a rough day on Saturday. He should be ok although we know what's going on when the Rabobank car is taking a quick stop along the course.
Eisel flats. Bad timing, with the Koppenberg coming up. Eisel also crashed earlier
14:21 CEST 189km/71km to go
Leif Hoste has also made the second group of six. They are about to catch the leaders as they hit the lower slopes of the Koppenberg.
The riders ride as much on the side as they can, as the cobbles are smoother. But it's also dirty and with 23% you don't want to slip...
Quick Step is leading the peloton on the Koppenberg. Pozzato takes over, he looks strong once again. Boonen takes his wheel.
There is a gap between Boonen/Pozzato and Devolder. Flecha and Haussler are also coming through
The peloton is struggling, with riders having to slow down due to the number of riders.
Cancellara has a mechanical. He shoulders his bike and walks up the Koppenberg. He doesn't look happy doing so, but uses the time to pose for a pic and chat with the fans...
The lead group of eight reaches the feed zone. This will taste good after the Koppenberg.
Marco Bandiera (Lampre - N.G.C.) is also in the move.
Cancellara broke his chain.
He is now tackling the Koppenberg again. Downhill mind you! He will be going back to the hotel without all the climbs.
Classic! Cancellara stops halfway down to collect his chain and hangs it around his neck...
14:30 CEST 195km/65km to go
The break reaches the Steenbergdries, a cobbled climb that is not steep, but has cobbles before and after, making a long shaky piece of road.
- Wim De Vocht (Vacansoleil), Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Daniel Lloyd (Cervélo Test Team), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Frédéric Guesdon (Française Des Jeux) and Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) at 0.21
- Peloton at 0.30
Devolder is leading the group behind. The bunch has come back together at the descent of the Koppenberg.
Ronde women's update: Over the Muur the race was pretty much together, with usual suspects like Johansson and Armstrong near the front.
Chavanel leads the lead group over the Taaienberg.
14:35 CEST 197km/63km to go
A minute behind is the bunch and Tom Boonen attacks!
He did the same recently at the Taaienberg. Pozzato catches his wheel and they get a gap on the others.
The peloton is strung out, as it heads over the top of the Taaienberg. Boonen still pulls as the two pass the banner.
Five riders chase behind
Stijn Devolder (Quick Step), Marcus Burghardt (Team Columbia - Highroad), Staf Scheirlinckx (Silence-Lotto), Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) and Thor Hushovd (Cervélo Test Team) are catching up with Boonen and Pozzato.
Another group with Van Avermaet and others are close behind. Lotto looking good, bit so does Quick Step.
The next climb is the Eikenberg. The leaders have already reached it.
Haussler is in the third group, but doesn't like it. He attacks.
The Eikenberg has cobbles and also some nice, smooth sections on the sides. The riders move to the left....
The early breakers, Kuschynski and De Vocht, have trouble to follow
14:45 CEST 203km/57km to go
Haussler is still leading his group up the Eikenberg. We don't know the gap right now. Van Impe and Tossato for Quick Step and a few Saxo Bank riders are there as well.
Kuschynski catches the front group again on the descent.
Ronde women's update: Ina-Yoko Teutenberg wins the women's race
Haussler has to do all the work. The group is getting closer, but he will lose quite a bit of energy here.
Haussler stops pulling for the others - he jumps!
The leaders are on the Varentberg.
De Vocht is dropped and the second and third group is back together as one.
Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team) sit son the back of the group. His teammate De Vocht has been dropped and adding insult to injury, he flats.
14:55 CEST 210km/50km to go
It's warm so Hoste takes a drink. He also stretches a bit. Still 50km to go. Will it be his day today, finally? For now things are looking good, with the gap at 1:41
- Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Daniel Lloyd (Cervélo Test Team), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Frédéric Guesdon (Française Des Jeux), Marco Bandiera (Lampre - N.G.C.) and Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto)
- Group of 30 with Stijn Devolder, Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Filippo Pozzato (Team Katusha), Marcus Burghardt (Team Columbia - Highroad), Staf Scheirlinckx (Silence-Lotto), Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) and Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo Test Team) at 1.41
The leaders are on the Haaghoek, a long cobble section before the Leberg.
Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson spoke to Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Columbia - Highroad) at the start. "It's my first time here and I'm really excited. I did Sanremo and since then my legs have been feeling great. I'll be riding with my heart and my head today but I'll be doing everything to help the team."
Sieberg leads the group over the Haaghoek. They pass the 50km to go sign.
Thor Hushovd told Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson at the start that "We'll see how the race develops in the last 50K but the plan is for me to be there at the end. We'll be attacking and the other teams will have to watch out for us."
Well, we have reached the 50km to go and nothing has been decided yet. Hushovd is in the group and still has all cars to play.
Bert Scheirlinckx (Landbouwkrediet - Colnago) accelerates ahead of the Leberg. The group is single file. Scheirlinckx gets ahead with Roger Hammond (Cervélo Test Team) and Bernhard Eisel (Team Columbia - Highroad).
But the gap is small and Quick Step quickly steps up the pace.
The little Eisel group is caught and the Austrian takes a drink. The gap to the seven leaders is 1.13
Robbie McEwen (Katusha) gave his favourites on twitter: "Boonen, Pozzato, Hushovd will mark each other out of it. Someone like Hoste or Langeveld will take advantage, Chavanel too."
McEwen's prediction looks spot on for now, with Hoste and Chavanel in the front group.
15:05 CEST 216km/44km to go
The Berendries comes up next. Like the Leberg it is asphalt, but also pretty steep.
Kuschynski goes ahead of the group.
Chavanel reacts, with Quinziato on his wheel.
Hoste comes up to the front too, the others lose ground.
Behind, Pozzato attacks once again!
Who goes after him? Boonen of course.
Devolder also goes out of the saddle and tries to reach the two others
Devolder makes the catch, the gap is about five seconds.
So we have two Quick Step riders with the Belgian champ flags on their sleeves.
Maaskant is trying to come up with Gilbert
15:11 CEST 39km/221km to go
Flecha leads the group behind Pozzato, Boonen and Devolder. Maaskant and Gilbert didn't make it.
The gap -is only a few seconds.
In the front Chavanel is gesturing at Hoste and Quinziato to keep it going.
15:16 CEST 224km/36km to go
Marco Bandiera (Lampre - N.G.C.) has joined the second group and they are catching the front group.
Chavanel and Quinziato attack right away
Quick Step has now the best cards, with three men in what looks like the decisive move. The peloton including Haussler et al, is about 25 seconds back.
The group passes the wielermonument, a roundabout with a lot of old bicycles hung up in the middle
Guesdon has made it back into the Boonen group, he was in the earlier break.
Hincapie is in the Haussler group
The peloton has closed the gap quickly, it's all together in the back.
Haussler is moving back to the front. He goes with Maxim Iglinsky (Astana)
Haussler goes strongly over the Tenbosse, but Quick Step doesn't want to let him get away too far.
Chavanel and Quinziato are 22 seconds ahead.
Gilbert does a little stunt on the front, but the peloton has all regrouped, about a good thirty riders.
Haussler tries again, he is quite aggressive.
Chavanel and Quinziato have only a dozen seconds now
15:28 CEST 233km/27km to go
It looks as Columbia Highroad has Hincapie, Burghardt and Eisel in the group. No info on Ciolek, but Preben Van Hecke jumps for Topsport Vlaanderen.
The two leaders reach the Eikenmolen, where Devolder made his winning move last year.
What will Chavanel and Quinziato do today?
- Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)
- Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) at 0.18
- Group with Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto), Stijn Devolder and Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Filippo Pozzato (Team Katusha), Marco Bandiera (Lampre - N.G.C.), Marcus Burghardt and George Hincapie (Team Columbia - Highroad), Staf Scheirlinckx (Silence-Lotto), Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) and Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo Test Team) at 0.30
The duo reaches the steepest part, but they make it look easy.
Van Hecke is still in-between.
Devolder remembers 2008 and accelerates on the Eikenmolen!
He is out of the saddle and labours hard. Another great move by the Belgian. It looks Pozzato was behind, trying to close the gap.
Devolder reaches Van Hecke
Devolder tries to pass on the left, but Van Hecke is drinking and unaware of Devolder and moves slightly to the left.
Devolder switches to the right and passes. Van Heck takes his wheel as they ride through a newer neighbourhood.
People are out on the side of the road to check 'their world championships'.
The Ronde is extremely popular in this part of the country
Serguei Ivanov (Team Katusha) chases behind
Devolder and Van Hecke reach the front group, giving Quick Step the upper hand.
15:39 CEST 240km/20km to go
Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step), Simon Spilak (Lampre - N.G.C.) and Jonny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team) reach Ivanov
The four leaders have a gap of 40 seconds. This could be enough. The next climb, the Muur van Geraardsbergen, will provide a clearer picture
Tom writes in from the centre of the action: "We're sitting on the Muur beneath the Chappel drinking beer in the sunshine doing Mexican waves. The Flemish are singing Boonen songs. One guy is wrecked sticking lion flags down his pants and dropping his trousers!"
The front group goes over the rail road tracks. That means the Muur will start soon!
The four leaders have now 50 secs!
A ton of people on the lower slopes of the Muur!
Devolder takes the front
The four chasers have been caught and Flecha goes to the front
Chavanel takes over and leads Devolder on the right hand turn that brings them from the main plaza to the narrow final part of the climb
And there Devolder goes!!!
Quinziato tries to follow. Over 20%!
Quinziato can't close the gap, Devolder is flying!
Chava is trying to hold Quinziato's wheel
Gilbert storms up behind, with Boonen and Pozzato in tow
Quinziato tells Chavanel something, it sounds like he wants some help from the Frenchman.
Chava doesn't answer, he just gives a nice push to the Italian, saying "Sorry, my teammate is on the front."
Van Hecke used the slowing in pace to catch up
Devolder does what he did last year, flying solo to the finish. He has 25 secs!
Devolder reaches the Bosberg
The last section of cobbles. Chava's DS comes up, the Frenchman just controls Quinziato and Van Hecke.
Behind there are about six riders, Boonen, Rast, Gilbert, Flecha
The Chavanel group can see Devolder in the distance. Will he be able to repeat his 2008 victory?
Gilbert is still trying behind, but it is sort of back to one larger group.
They are a minute back and it is all over for them.
15:54 CEST 250km/10km to go
Chava has taken over the front, apparently Quick Step wants to get two riders on the podium.
Hopefully it won't turn out to be the Rabobank move of the day.
15:56 CEST 252km/8km to go
But Devolder looks clear, with the gap at 50 secs! It is all flat now, with some slight rollers.
Devolder grabs the bars on the levers and pedals away at high cadence. He will likely draw strength from last year and the memories of his similar solo victory.
Another one of those little bumps meant to slow down cars. Not much fun to do them after 250 km and Devolder elegantly balances out the bump.
Behind Chavanel is still leading the chase, but not so strong as the endanger Devolder. The gap is up to a minute.
15:59 CEST 253km/7km to go
Devolder has to fight the wind and he looks a tad tired.
Ouch, he also lost his radio contact looks like. He fiddles with his earpiece and gestures that he doesn't hear anything.
Well, just pedal Stijn!! You are almost there, seven more km.
The Belgian fans on the side of the road are cheering on Devolder. A Belgian winning is always better for the home fans.
Quinziato urges on Van Hecke, but the Topsport Vlaanderen rider will undoubtedly already be happy with the race of his live.
16:02 CEST 257km/3km to go
Devolder still hangs over his bike in an aerodynamic position (or is he just hunched over because he is tired?)
DS Wilfried Peeters pulls up and tells him something. That circumvents the radio problem.
Van Hecke has taken over, but all his work doesn't help. The big group behind comes pretty close.
The trio passes the 3km to go sign, just a few seconds ahead of the peloton.
16:04 CEST 258km/2km to go
Devolder has a good lead, nothing should happen to his win now.
16:04 CEST 259km/1km to go
Van Hecke works hard, trying that the group stays away. He could make the podium.
Devolder passes the flamme rouge.
A little nose clearing and Devolder is on his way to a repeat victory.
A right turn and he reaches the finishing straight.
The lion's flag of Vlaanderen is flying everywhere and it is loud.
Devolder races his right arm and indicates a two. Yes, he won again.
The trio has been caught and Haussler tries to go and get second
As the peloton prepared to catch Haussler there is a crash on the left. It doesn't appear to be too bad.
A tired Haussler managed to cross the line in second, just ahead of the bunch.
Devolder crossed the line with his arms in the air, but it is not only a victory salute. He dedicates the win to his former training partner Friederik Nolf, who died in February.
A lot of people who worked with Devolder told him to win today. "That's what I did... On the Eikenmolen I felt really strong. With Chavanel we had the ideal situation," Devolder said right after the finish.
Well, Quick Step proved once again what a team sport cycling is. We hope you enjoyed the coverage and we can see you back next week for Gent-Wevelgem and then Paris-Roubaix on Sunday
1 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step
2 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervelo Test Team
3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Silence-Lotto
4 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Team Katusha
5 Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin - Slipstream