Cancellara, the king of Flanders

by Matt de Neef

Last night’s 97th edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) was nothing less than spectacular. It was a late night for us here in Australia but it was well worth staying up for – especially given it’s a long weekend. Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) were the two pre-race favourites and they didn’t disappoint, going one-two respectively.

In the end the gap between Cancellara and Sagan was nearly 90 seconds and over 1km apart. There’s been a lot of hype about Sagan (deservingly), but it was on the final climb of the day, the Paterberg, where the cream rose to the top. Cancellara stomped away up the steep cobbled climb, leaving Sagan (and the rest of the race) in his wake, before soloing to a second Tour of Flanders victory.

Wayne and Susan Hildred hosted a Tour of Flanders evening at their Bright Velo Cafe with the crew from Bright. Wayne Hildred raced Flanders in 1982.

Here are my top-five moments from the race:

1. The climb of the Koppenberg when everyone had to walk. All it took was one rider to lose traction on the steep climb and everyone behind him was forced to dismount and walk up the cobbles.

2. Watching Stjin Dvolder (RadioShack-Leopard) grit his teeth at the front for nearly 15 minutes while nobody else could (or wanted to) come around him. The winner of the 2008 and 2009 Tour of Flanders did a massive amount of work to bring back an early breakaway, helping to set things up for Cancellara’s attack.

3. Seeing Cancellara and Sagan come to the front on the Oude Kwaremont — the penultimate climb — with 18km remaining. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma – Quickstep) was the only one that could go with them, and even then he didn’t last for long (he had been in the move all day). You could see from Sagan’s body language that he was in trouble and that all it would take was one more climb to slay him.

4. Cancellara’s unbelievable attack on the Paterberg, executed in his usual seated style (see video below). Cancellara passed Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) who had been part of an earlier breakaway and while Sagan was able to hang on initially, he started to get sloppy before finally popping near the top of the Paterberg.

5. Cancellara TT’ing away into a headwind at just under 1km/minute (50km/hr) after 250km of cobbles, hills, and fighting for position. He put 1km in-between him and Sagan / Roelandts in just over 14km. Unreal…

The bad-luck award has to go to three-time Tour of Flanders winner Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) who crashed out after 19km, injuring his hip and elbow. With four punctures on the day, Oscar Gatto (Vini-Fantini) has to be a close second, but it was impressive seeing him get back up to the pack every time. It was equally impressive watching Geraint Thomas (Sky) catch back on after his crash (with roughly 30km to go) when the pace was well and truly on.

And finally, this years Tour of Flanders can’t go without mention of the “Sagan Squeeze” that went a little too far. I’m a fan of Sagan’s incredible riding, but I’m not a fan of his wheelies and victory-salute antics and this is a reminder that he’s still only 23 years of age and lacks the maturity and class of many of his competitors. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this type of thing from Sagan.

Photoshopped, but I thought this picture was much better. If the Badger was up on stage, he would have kept protocol in check.

But let’s keep things in perspective. I’m watching this incident is spill over into a heated debate about whether or not the podium girl tradition should be abolished which is making a mountain out of a molehill. In this day of social media, a 23yr old can’t get away with anything stupid and immature anymore. Imagine if all the stupid things that you did when you were 23 got tweeted around the world?

The podium girls debate aside, we hope you enjoy the following images from the 2013 Tour of Flanders.

Click here to see the results from the 2013 Tour of Flanders.

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