Cancellara wins Tour of Flanders for third time


The Swiss cyclist Fabian Cancellara pulled ahead in a final sprint to take the Tour of Flanders title for the second consecutive year

Fabian Cancellara with Greg Van Avermaet (left)

“I just kept pushing”

Fabian Cancellara won yesterday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen, or Tour of Flanders, yesterday for the second year running. It was the third time he has won Belgium’s most gruelling cycle race. The Swiss cyclist pulled ahead with a powerful surge at the finish that edged him over the line a fraction of a second ahead of three chasing Flemish riders.

Cancellara, who won his first Tour in 2010, was in a four-man break with Greg Van Avermaet, Sep Vanmarcke and Stijn Vandenbergh, but none of his rivals had enough power for the final sprint after more than six hours of wind-lashed and accident-laden racing on the 259-kilometre course from Bruges to Oudenaarde.

Van Avermaet, from Lokeren, was at the front when Cancellara went for it, but he had to settle for second, ahead of Kortrijk’s Vanmarcke, with Oudenaarde’s Vandenbergh bringing up the rear. “It was man against man, and I just kept pushing,” Cancellara said. “Amazing day again; I feel sorry for the Belgians.”

Analysts expected this year’s race to be a clash of giants between Cancellara and Flanders’ three-time winner Tom Boonen, but Tommeke finished seventh.  The 2012 Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins of the UK came in 32nd.

Dozens of crashes marred a nervous first half of the race, with last year’s third-place finisher Jürgen Roelandts and 2011 Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Van Summeren both crashing out. Van Summeren ran into a spectator and was taken to hospital for observation.

Photo by REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Flemish cycling

Flemish cyclists have played a dominant role in the history of European bicycle racing. With the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), the region also has a classic cycle race.
Flandriens - The legendary pioneers of the Flemish cycling tradition are called “Flandriens”. They include Roger De Vlaeminck, Eddy Planckaert, Johan Museeuw and Walter Godefroot.
Eddy Merckx - Having won 525 races in his career, Brusselaar Eddy Merckx, nicknamed “the Cannibal”, is considered one of the greatest cyclists of all time.
Trophy - The annual Flandrien Trophy honours the best Belgian cyclist of the past season. Professional cyclists choose and vote for the nominees.

number of times Merckx won the Tour de France

1 913

first Tour of Flanders

1 969

Merckx becomes first Belgian to win the Tour de France in 30 years