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

Solo finish

Belgian cyclist Philippe Gilbert lifted his bike over his head as he crossed the line in triumph after winning an incident-packed Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) for the first time on Sunday. Gilbert surged ahead with 55km of the 261km race to go and held on to win, as world champion Peter Sagan and Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet crashed 17km from the end.

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
©David Stockman/BELGA

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