Was there ever a doubt that Fabian Cancellara would add a third Tour of Flanders title to his already impressive palmarès? Probably not. And probably not too much doubt that it was going to happen this year, he went in as the clear favourite. The manner of victory over Greg Van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke was impressive beating those two plus Stijn Vandenbergh in a four up sprint to the line.
After a week of sunshine the rain arrived for the start of the Tour of Flanders. Donning their rain jackets, the riders made their way through the huge crowds on the way to sign. They were greeted with applause and cheers from the enthusiastic crowd. One rider that didn’t make the start was Australian Heinrich Haussler who had a bought of gastroenteritis. Haussler will be hoping his luck changes soon.
— Trek Factory Racing (@TrekFactory) April 6, 2014
The race got off to a hectic start as rider after rider succumbed to crashes, Appollonio (AG2R) from the break, Elmiger (IAM) and Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) who had a nasty accident with a spectator who remains in a coma as a result of head injuries. Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) had a suspected broken collarbone, Stijn Devolder (Trek) crashed three times and Popovich (Trek) also had a very nasty crash.
The Final Cut – Isolated
At the start of the Oude Kwaremont at 205km into the race and still 54km left to ride it was only Phinney, Broeckx and Impey that had survived the early break, they had around half a minute on a group of forty riders. Impey then led the race over the cobbled Koppenberg climb with a gap back to Boonen, Cancellara, Sagan, Vanmarcke, Gerraint Thomas (Sky), Degenkolb, Pozzato and others that formed a group of about twenty riders.
Van Avermaet attacked on the descent of the Taaienberg and was covered by Vandenbergh who was ordered to sit in by his Omega-Pharma team without doing a turn. Behind those two Cancellara lit up the race on the Oude Kwaremont, attacking and taking Sep Vanmarcke with him. They opened up a descent gap and left Peter Sagan struggling.
The final group of four eventually came together for the run into the finish, who would be the fastest finisher from Cancellara, Vandenbergh, Van Avermaet and Vanmarcke? The four played a game of cat and mouse into the finish, Van Avermaet and Cancellara both tried and attack but each were quickly shut down by the others.
As they passed the flame rouge Cancellara upped the pace. Vandenbergh made an attack but was closed down then Cancellara launched his sprint from 200m from the line and from there the outcome was never in doubt, he was simply too strong.
I was isolated too early, we had some bad luck with the crashes. I could hardly follow after the attacks of Sep and Greg, that was not acting. I thought only one thing: to follow up the last few meters, then you know that the man against man. Those three Belgians were all super. I only had a map, and I had to play to the finish.
Watch the closing stages of the race courtesy of Eurosport.
Top Ten finishers Tour of Flanders 2014
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
3. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin Pro Cycling
4. Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma – QuickStep
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
6. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma – QuickStep
7. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma – QuickStep
8. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
9. Björn Leukemans (Bel) Wanty – Groupe Gobert
10. Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Garmin Sharp
Fabian Cancellara earned his beer today
— Adrian Timmis (@AdrianTimmis) April 6, 2014
And on that note the final word today goes to Fabian Cancellara …
Thank you so much for all the support i got from all over the world. Thanks for all nice words…. Now is time to sleep good night
— Fabian cancellara (@f_cancellara) April 7, 2014
Paris-Roubaix is on next Sunday, will Spartacus take the double again? The Bike Lane will bring you a preview later this week.
Main image via Belga