Sunday 06 April 2008 at 17h20

The second UCI ProTour 2008 race was a Belgian classic today: the Tour of Flanders started in Bruges and finished in Meerbeke.

With only one escape the riders started with a heavy pace at the start of the race: 49,5 kilometers in the first hour and 45,3 kilometers in the second.
On the road from Bruges to Meerbeke the riders climbed the 17 classical hills of the Tour of Flanders: the Kluisberg, the Nokereberg, the Molenberg, the Wolvenberg, Oude Kwaremont, the Paterberg, the Koppenberg, the Steenbeekdries, the Taaienberg, the Berg Ter Stene, the Leberg, Berendries, the Valkenberg, Tenbosse, Eikenmolen, the infamous Muur - Kapelmuur and the Bosberg before going to the finish line via Ninove and Meerbeke.

The first escape which really managed to take some lead (about 2 minutes) was the one with Janek Tombak (Mitsubishi-Jartazi), Tom Veelers (Skil-Shimano), Sven Renders (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Vincent Jérôme (Bouygues Telecom) at 161 kilometers from the finish. A few kilometers further the weather suddenly changed from sunny (not much, but they had some sun) to rain, hail and even some snow. At about 80 kilometers from the finish the 4 finally got caught and the favourites showed up in front (Tom Boonen, Leif Hoste, Juan Antonio Flecha, Stijn Devolder, Fabian Cancellara, Alessandro Ballan, ...).

The bad weather was the reason behind some crashes (one of which was really spectacular with Angel Gomez Gomez who didn't see a narrowing of the road and who broke his bike in two on it; he has been taken to the hospital, probably with a broken thighbone and elbow) and several riders had to give up. Not because of a crash but simply because he couldn't keep up the leader of the UCI ProTour André Greipel (Team High Road) also gave up.

At 55 kilometers from the finish Oscar Freire (Rabobank) tried to escape from the pack. George Hincapie (Team High Road) joined him a little bit later and 7 kilometers later the two were taken back and left Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) and the Belgian champion Stijn Devolder (Quick.Step) escape. The two pretty soon were accompanied by Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank). At 43 kilometers from the finish the leading group has grown to nine riders since Simon Spilak (Lampre), Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), Nick Nuyens (Cofidis), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Karsten Kroon (Team CSC) and George Hincapie (Team High Road) joined them. A few kilometers later Tom Boonen (Quick.Step), Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) joined the group, but at the same time the young Dutch rider Sebastian Langeveld of the Rabobank team continues alone again.
3 kilometers further, at 40 kilometers from the finish Sebastian Langeveld is taken back and the Belgian champion Stijn Devolder attacks alone again, soon followed by Sebastian Langeveld, Karsten Kroon and George Hincapie and finally also by Alessandro Ballan.
They were taken back at 29 kilometers from the finish, especially thanks to the work of the Liquigas (for Filippo Pozzato) and Cofidis (for Nick Nuyens) teams. Stijn Devolder seems to be inexhaustible because he again attacks alone and his 4 followers Janek Tombak, Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), Frederik Willems (Liquigas) and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) don't manage to take him back.
Finally he's being followed by Sebastian Langeveld (alone again) and a small group of riders with Tom Boonen. Sebastian Langeveld is taken back and Juan Antonio Flecha tries to take back Stijn Devolder alone: he manages to take down Devolder's lead to 10 seconds but Devolder again attacks and when he sees that he has a lead of 16 seconds at only two kilometers from the finish he starts to realise this could be enough to win!

Stijn Devolder, supported by a huge Belgian crowd, initially did all this work especially for his team's leader Tom Boonen and at 1 kilometer from the finish he can thus hardly believe that he's going to win the Tour of Flanders himself! Just before the finish line he sits straight up to show his Belgian champion jersey and even thanks the crowd: Stijn Devolder passes the finish line with a few hundreds of meters lead on his followers.
The sprint for the other stand places is easily won by Nick Nuyens and Juan Antonio Flecha finishes third.


The UCI ProTour ranking

Since the Tour of Flanders gives 50 UCI ProTour to its winner and because André Greipel had 62 points, he continues to lead the UCI ProTour ranking.
As far as I can see this ranking is now as follows:
1/ André Greipel (Team High Road) - 62
2/ Stijn Devolder (Quick.Step) - 50
3/ Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) - 40
4/ José Joaquin Rojas Gil (Caisse d'Epargne) - 38
5/ Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) - 35
6/ Mickael Delage (Française des Jeux) - 30
7/ Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) - 30
8/ Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis) - 25
9/ George Hincapie (Team High Road) - 25
10/ José Alberto Benitez Roman (Saunier Duval - Scott) - 21
11/ Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) - 20
12/ Kjell Carlström (Liquigas) - 15
13/ Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC) - 15
14/ Luis Léon Sanchez Gil (Caisse d'Epargne) - 10
15/ Greg van Avermaet (Silence Lotto) - 10
16/ Mark Renshaw (Crédit Agricole) - 7
17/ Simon Spilak (Lampre) - 5
18/ Graeme Brown (Rabobank) - 4
19/ Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) - 2
20/ Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner) - 2
21/ Arnaud Labbe (Bouygues Telecom) - 2
22/ Mathew Hayman (Rabobank) - 1

door Thomas Vergouwen
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this publication is published in: Cycling general (except Tour de France) | UCI ProTour


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