Boonen returns with Ghent-Wevelgem win
Belgian Tom Boonen roared past Brit Ian Stannard and put his name back on top with his win on Sunday in Ghent-Wevelgem. The Quick Step cyclist topped Italian Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek) and American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo), and put his name firmly on the list of Tour of Flanders favourites.
Boonen's win today responded to Fabian Cancellara's emphatic E3 Prijs win yesterday. Boonen skipped yesterday's race and Cancellara skipped today's, but they will meet next week in Bruges for the start of Flanders on Sunday.
"Everyone's talking about 1 - 1 but it's 0 - 0," Boonen said. "It only begins next week."
Sky's Stannard remained from the day's escape group, but was unable to hold off the group's charge. He formed the group after the race's key climb, the Kemmelberg, at 35 kilometres to race with Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) and two Liquigas riders, Peter Sagan and Maciej Bodnar.
"I just thought I'd go and try to stay in until the end," said Stannard. "We kept our time gap right at 25 seconds, that was kind of cool."
Bodnar dropped off with four kilometres to race, Stannard sat at the back and plotted his move against his two accomplished rivals. He attacked Chavanel and Sagan two kilometres out and suffered over the next 1,500 metres before his power faded.
"Missed opportunity? I gave it all I had to get the opportunity, so I wouldn't say it was missed."
Mark Cavendish missed an opportunity today. After a puncture and chase, his HTC team-mates drilled on the front of the group to catch Stannard's quartet. However, a crash by two Movistar riders put an end to his day. Sky's Jeremy Hunt and Mathew Hayman crashed in a ditch on the left and Cavendish braked hard to avoid going down with Movistar's Francisco Ventoso.
"This is one race I really want to win," Cavendish explained. "It's a bit disappointing to end it like that."
Similar to Milan-San Remo one week ago, World Champion Thor Hushovd was caught out by the crash. However, his Garmin team-mate Farrar was ahead. He failed to match Boonen, who took advantage of having Quick Step team-mate Chavanel in the escape
"The break was gone and I thought we wouldn't get it," said Boonen. "I was shouting at the other teams to keep their morale low. But, once we caught the first guy [Bodnar], I prepared for a sprint."
Boonen failed to get a classics win last year, but did finish second in San Remo, E3 Prijs and Flanders. His win today shows he's back and marks him as favourite number one to topple King Cancellara.
"I saw the race E3 Prijs, but it's a pity there are no images of his accelerations on Kwaremont," Boonen said of Cancellara's win. "It's not like he's done anything that another rider hasn't done before."
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
2. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard-Trek
3. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Cervelo
4. Andre Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
5. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r
6. Mitchell Docker (Aus) Skil-Shimano
7. Bernhard Eisel (Ger) HTC-Highroad
8. Kristof Goddaert (Bel) Ag2r
9. Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank
10. Baden Cooke (Aus) Saxo Bank-Sungard all same time
Spring Classics 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage