Fabian Cancellara destroyed his competition with multiple attacks to take a second consecutive win in the E3 Prijs in Harelbeke, Belgium. As last year, it’s a sign the Swiss one-day star is on target for the Tour of Flanders.
“It’s the little last confidence boost, since the beginning of January I’ve been working,” Cancellara said. “This last little thing, a victory, and you know you are on the right path.”
Left behind, further down the path, were rivals Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo) and Serguei Ivanov (Katusha). Their group finished a minute back, Belgian Jürgen Roelandts (OmegaPharma-Lotto) in second and Russian Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) in third place.
Cancellara’s win came within hours of Leopard-Trek team-mate, Fränk Schleck at the Critérium International stage race. The new Luxembourg-based team now has four victories so far this year.
“Even without Fränk’s victory,” said General Manager Brian Nygaard, “it was an amazing day for us.”
The day started in Harelbeke. Leopard’s Stuart O’Grady formed part of an eight-man escape with 80 kilometres and 12 climbs to race. Behind, Cancellara punctured his tyre twice and changed a bike due to a rear derailleur problem.
“I learnt from Andrea Tafi,” added Cancellara. “He had a puncture and was two minutes back in Paris-Roubaix, but still he came back and won.”
Following a charge by World Champion Thor Hushovd, Cancellara attacked out of the main field on the Kwaremont climb. He bridged solo to a group with Ivanov and immediately, moved to the front. His group trailed by 25 seconds to O’Grady’s group with Garmin’s Heinrich Haussler and Sep Vanmarcke.
O’Grady sat up and waited on the Knokteberg with 25 kilometres to race. He joined Cancellara and worked to launch him to the win. Their group merged with the leaders on the final climb, the Tiegemberg and 14 led – Saxo Bank, Leopard, Garmin and Katusha each with two riders.
Rabobank’s Bram Tankink tried, Cancellara chased, Tankink’s left leg cramped and Cancellara fired right. He raced solo at 16 kilometres from Harelbeke. At 10 kilometres, he had 50 seconds.
“Haussler wasn’t quite on his wheel and Sep [Vanmarcke] was tired,” said Garmin’s general manager, Jonathan Vaughters.
“As soon as everyone lost his wheel, I could have told you, that was it. Haussler tried to respond, but he just couldn’t do it.”
Haussler’s British team-mates, Roger Hammond and Dan Lloyd, both finished seven minutes back 91st and 92nd. Mark McNally of An Post-Sean Kelly finished 13’52″ back from Cancellara, in 102nd.
Cancellara’s next goal: a second consecutive Flanders win.