Gilbert’s solo surge wins dramatic Tour of Flanders
Belgian cyclist Philippe Gilbert crossed the finish line alone yesterday in Flanders’ biggest road race of the year
Gilbert’s audacious breakaway paid dividends, and added to the 2012 world champion’s impressive resume, which includes stage wins at all three Grand Tours, victories in two other “Monument” races – Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia – and the 2016 Belgian National Road Race Championship. It was the 34-year-old’s seventh Tour of Flanders, where he came in third in both 2009 and 2010.
Flemish cyclist Van Avermaet, the in-form rider this spring, picked himself up to take second, but the crash with Slovakia’s Sagan and Flanders’ Oliver Naesen potentially robbed the race of a grandstand finish.
The return of the iconic Muur van Geraardsbergen, after five years of exclusion, proved pivotal: what would become the winning group went clear after the famously gruelling climb with over 90km remaining. Gilbert was part of the group of 14 riders who broke from the peloton, as another teammate, three-time Tour winner Tom Boonen, accelerated up the Muur.
Both Van Avermaet and Sagan were caught out and left in the peloton, which quickly lost a minute. They had started to close in when, with 55km to go and on the second ascent of the 2.2km-long Oude-Kwaremont climb, Gilbert turned on the after-burners and broke clear.
Gilbert’s final time was 6:23:45. Van Avermaet made it in 29 seconds later, with Dutch cyclist Niki Terpstra on his heels to take third.
Photo: Philippe Gilbert crests the Paterberg climb without another rider in sight during yesterday’s Tour of Flanders
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