Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won a record-equalling third Tour of Flanders in a three-way sprint against Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Itali) and Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing) – but Fabian Cancellara’s tilt at a second title ended after the 2010 champion suffered a triple collarbone fracture in a feed zone crash.
Boonen went into the race as joint favourite with Cancellara having began the Classics season in superb form, registering victories in E3 Prijs and Gent-Wevelgem in March.
And the Belgian hero duly delivered in front of a home crowd, jumping from Ballan’s in the final 500m before holding off Pozzato to win the second Monument of the season and become only the fifth rider to triumph in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen three times.
The 96th edition of the race saw the finish moved from Meerbeke to Oudenaarde, with three laps of a closing circuit which included the Oude Kwaaremont and Paterberg to provide the key battleground on the 255km course.
Boonen and Cancellara had been expected to go head-to-head for the title but Radioshack-Nissan-Trek rider Cancellara crashed with 60km to go, with reports suggesting a musette got tangled in the rider’s wheel, and will now miss Paris-Roubaix.
GreenEDGE’s Sebastian Langeveld was also ruled out having swung off the road to avoid street furniture before hitting a spectator as the peloton approached the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, with the remaining members of a 15-rider escape group in sight.
Johan van Summeren (Garmin-Barracuda) then crashed into the barriers on the Paterberg, holding up the peloton and allowing an elite 11-strong group to ride clear ahead of the final lap of the finishing circuit.
Ballan then attacked on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, a 2.2km cobbled climb, with only Boonen and Pozzato able to follow the 2007 champion, with Luca Paolini (Katusha) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) making unsuccessful attempts to bridge the gap.
Unable to shake off Boonen and Pozzato, Ballan led the trio under the flamme rouge but couldn’t match their pace in the final sprint, with Tornado Tom making his move with 350m to go and beating Pozzato to the line by a bike’s length.
Tour of Flanders
1) Tom Boonen (Bel) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
2) Filippo Pozzato (Ita) – Farnese Vini-Selle Italia – same time
3) Alessandro Ballan (Ita) – BMC Racing +1″
4) Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) – BMC Racing +38″
5) Peter Sagan (Svk) – Liquigas-Cannondale +38″
6) Niki Terpstra (Ned) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +38″
7) Luca Paolini (Ita) – Katusha +38″
8) Thomas Voeckler (Fra) – Europcar +38″
9) Matti Breschel (Den) – Rabobank +38″
10) Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +38″