Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank-SunGard) pulled off a perfectly executed win at the Tour of Flanders, finally proving to his Belgian supporters that his second here in 2008 was no fluke.
The Belgian got away with Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) and Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) in the final five kilometres, took advantage of being in a decisive move and then beat them in the sprint to the line. Tom Boonen (Quick-Step) finished fourth at short distance.
Right after finishing Nuyens couldn't realize what he had just accomplished. "I'll need some time before it sinks in. It's special because I didn't have a great day and ran into a lot of bad luck," Nuyens said. "I know that I'm not the best rider of all, but I also know that if I have a good day, they have to take me into account."
In one of the most unpredictable editions of the Tour of Flanders in years, the action changed continuously. Cancellara tried an audacious attack some 60km from the finish and joined Chavanel who was already up the road since the Oude Kwaremont. Cancellara didn't get any help from Chavanel and suddenly he faded when approaching the famous Muur in Geraardsbergen. On the Kapelmuur they were caught by a group of race favourites and the race was wide open again.
"It showed that superman can have weak moments too. I had cramps," Cancellara said. "Probably I didn't drink enough. This was like a summer day in Flanders and everybody expected rain. I asked Sylvain to help me. If he helped me we could go to the finish line, but they played for Boonen."
In hindsight Chavanel regretted he didn't support last year's winner. "I'm sorry that I didn't work with him. I have a good sprint so I had my chances but we have Tom for the sprint," Chavanel said.
A group of twelve riders including previous winners Boonen, Cancellara and Ballan battled for the win on the flat roads towards Meerbeke. The attacks were flying around but when Cancellara went again within the final five kilometres only Chavanel and Nuyens were able to stay with him and the Saxo Bank rider played it perfectly. Cancellara lead out the sprint but Nuyens came through on the line, struggling to believe he had won.
"They say I'm good in that sort of stuff. There was a little bit of time to gamble in the sprint. I knew I could beat Cancellara but I was unsure about Chavanel," Nuyens said. "I was on a too small gear. I saw something blue on my right and for a brief moment a Hoste-scenario [Leif Hoste defeated by Alessandro Ballan in 2007] flashed through my head. When I shifted up I felt I had dash left and I think I rode a professional sprint."
In the sprint Chavanel had to hold his legs still twice but the French rider didn't blame his sprint rivals. "Cancellara started the sprint and I followed. I came back but had to stop once to move right. Then I come back but I have to stop again. That's when I knew it was over. I've never been so good for the Spring Classics. Finishing on the podium isn't bad," Chavanel stated.
Credit: Cycling NewsMobile Home