Fabian Cancellara rode a clever race to take his first Ronde van Vlaanderen this afternoon, making sure he was always in the important part of the peloton, biding his time perfectly, and attacking with such force that only Tom Boonen could go with him.

Then, once clear, he made sure Boonen had to ride hard; having to work at even getting past Cancellara to take his turn at the front. When Fab went again on the Muur, Tom had no answer.

Scottish club Ayr Roads CC member Christopher Johnson was in Belgium visiting family over the weekend, and managed to enjoy an epic day out on the bergs at the Ronde…

Ronde van Vlaanderen
Tom congratulates Fabian on the podium. Image© ispaphoto.com.

– Words & images contributed by Christopher Johnson –

More used to reporting on the trials and tribulations of Ayrshire’s finest road club (Ayr Roads CC, for those of you who don’t read the Ayrshire Post) it comes as a welcome change to write about the pro-peloton. The Ronde Van Vlaanderen here I come!

However, my journey starts not in Flanders, but Wallonia, with the good lady’s family.

Friday’s flight gets us into downtown Tournai with enough time to go ride my favourite training circuit – a few km south west, crossing the border and smashing across the Paris-Roubaix’s famous Pavés de justice, de L’Arbre and back in across the sections Duclos-Lassalle and Quatre Chemins before dinner.

After L’Arbre, the latter two sections ride feel like riding on a smooth carpet of pine needle carpet! The race signs are up and out, and I can feel that twinge of excitement, Roubaix is coming!

With mandatory attendance at a family feast, my planned participation in Saturday’s Flanders Sportive is overruled.

Lucky escape! The rain is lashing the windows as I head out for a ride up L’Escaut (aka the Schelde) and back over the Mont Saint Aubert. I’m quickly soaked through and my fingers are numb with cold. But a little over an hour later I’m enjoying an apperetif in the comfort of indoors, wondering how I would have coped with another 5 hours. As a hailstorm turns the garden white it’s a good omen like la Riene, le Ronde is well suited for a good storm.

Thirteen year old younger brother Martin wants to join me for the big day; very useful for his skills in Flemish, but despite being a good little Belgian he knows nothing of cycling.

A little over an hour later I am satisfied that he is sufficiently immersed, being able to recognise and identify both Tommeke and Philippe Gilbert.

Ronde van Vlaanderen
Wee Martin is ready for the Ronde.

Race Day!

Sunday arrives! Out of bed at seven, into the car and blast up the A17 to Brugge. No need for maps, we just follow a Team Katusha car to the start.

The weather is wet, grey, windy — its everything you expect from a Belgian classic. The team compound is fully barricaded, open only to VIPs and those with money.

Of course, having money increases your appreciation of cycling… I find it a little disappointing, La Doyenne doesn’t need barriers, so why does the Ronde?

However, we draw the lucky lottery ticket as we watch the Quickstep bus pull in right in front of us (before we are crowded out by Tommeke fans).

Lefevre conducts a quick interview with tv station RTBF. No smile – I wonder if the noose is tightening around Devolder?

Ronde van Vlaanderen
Lefevre has been critical of his big riders recently.

The kit on display doesn’t disappoint. Wheel choice especially is important. Quick step wheels are badged Fast-Forward, but look suspiciously like Ambrosio sprints to me.

Ronde van Vlaanderen
It’s normal to see equipment rebadged for sponsorship reasons.

Belgian’s know how to put on a bike race. The band plays as the riders sign on, the fans enjoy a morning refreshment, and we all know its going to be an epic day — perhaps even rivalling Kenny Armstrong’s victory in the Ayr Roads Hill Climb!

Presentation interviews are quickly conducted with Gilbert, Eisel, Cavendish, Boom, and Johann Museeuw, before Cancellara give us a little demonstration lap.

Ronde van Vlaanderen
A good crowd watches the presentation of the teams.

But it’s Boonen that draws the biggest crowd.

Ronde van Vlaanderen
Cancellara does a lap of the town square.

There is a mass cry of relief, awe and anticipation when the Belgian wonder-kid arrives to do his thing. 0945, the bells ring, the band plays louder, the 2010 Ronde is underway!

We make our way through the crowds and head for the hills.

Again directions are easy, just follow everyone else. There is a strong police presence to deter dangerous spectators trying to race across Belgium to catch every sector, and the stress of running about can spoil a good day. So we plump for the Koppenburg – and are not disappointed.

That’s the Koppenberg in the distance. Steep, isn’t it.

Its awesome — steep, steeper, a wee bit steeper again. And cobbled.

Sporadic reports come via the radio. With bad French and no Flemish I rely on Martin for updates. A group has nine minutes, then seven, then two. Saxo is chasing and Lars Boom is off the back.

The anticipation builds are the race approaches.

Then the helicopters arrive, the crowd roars, and les coureurs arrive. A Skil Shimano rider warms us up.

Floris Goesinnen (Skil Shimano) did a great ride, in the break for much of the race.

Then the real show arrives. Cancellara has put the hammer down, and Boonen is enjoying the ride. You couldn’t call these two graceful, but they do demonstrate brute strength and determination.

Behind riders struggle to get on terms, and struggle with the gradient.

Fab leads Tommeke and the race is on.

You can just reach out and push the riders as many fans do. The noise, the colour, the sound, is amazing. With no cars and just the motos we can hear the suffering, pain, and struggling mechanics of the peloton.

At this stage, there’s a lot of riders still in the race.

The riders stream past, on and on, its a big field.

The slightest delay ahead, means the riders loose momentum and end up hoofing it.

The ambulance passes. We think it’s all over, the crowds start descending back to the cars, when there is a mighty roar of encouragement the sea parts and Belorussian champion Floris Goesinnenbrings up the rear.

A magnificent feat, his bike rocks in slow cadence as he hauls himself up the cobbles, eyes tugging on the metres ahead. Pain and glory, and the crowd are here to ensure he is rewarded.

More suited to flat sprints, Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Française Des Jeux was last on the road at this point, but didn’t finish.

Then i’ts over, just as soon as it begun. We try to get to the big screens at Oudenaarde to catch the finish, but the road in towards it is blocked.

So instead, we head cross county to Ronse, looking out for any potential tv viewing spots on the way, and find ourselves gatecrashing the Canyon bikes’ corporate party.

The Canyon bikes corporate gig.

Just in time, the final hour. Boonen and Cancellara get clear on the Mollenburg.

Boonen picks a terrible line up the Muur, Cancellara rides off into the sunset breaking our collective hearts. Boonen bravely soldiers on for second place. Philippe Gilbert (riding a lovely Canyon bike) sprints ahead of Bjorn Leukemans for third.

We catch the finale on a portable tv.

What a ride! We so wanted Tommeke to do it, but as Martin’s mother reassures us when we get home, there is always “la semaine prochaine” [next week]. And as we head out to the friterie for dinner, boy do we hope so!

Top Ronde souvenir — limited Primus beer can.

Result

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 6:25:56
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 0:01:15
3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:02:11
4 Bjorn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team 0:02:15
5 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Transitions 0:02:35
6 George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team
7 Roger Hammond (GBr) Cervelo Test Team
8 Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana
9 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-Farnese Vini
10 William Bonnet (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
11 Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
12 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Team Katusha
13 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team
14 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
15 Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank
16 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team HTC – Columbia
17 Steve Chainel (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
18 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française Des Jeux
19 Maarten Wynants (Bel) Quick Step
20 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team
21 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Team Milram
22 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank
23 Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Team HTC – Columbia
24 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step
25 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step
26 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
27 Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radioshack
28 Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
29 Leif Hoste (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
30 Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre-Farnese Vini
31 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha
32 David Millar (GBr) Garmin – Transitions
33 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team
34 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Professional Cycling Team
35 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:02:48
36 Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil – Shimano 0:05:13
37 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
38 Dimitri Muravyev (Kaz) Team Radioshack
39 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
40 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
41 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
42 Dominique Rollin (Can) Cervelo Test Team
43 Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
44 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
45 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram
46 Grégory Rast (Swi) Team Radioshack
47 Frederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas-Doimo
48 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
49 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank
50 Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus) Team Katusha
51 Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Française Des Jeux
52 Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step
53 Kurt Asle Arvesen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team
54 Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team
55 Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin – Transitions
56 Daniel Lloyd (GBr) Cervelo Test Team
57 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
58 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 0:06:58
59 Koen Barbe (Bel) Landbouwkrediet 0:10:33
60 Bobbie Traksel (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
61 Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team
62 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
63 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step 0:13:20
64 Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Astana
65 Javier Aramendia Lorente (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
66 Allan Davis (Aus) Astana
67 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana
68 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Team HTC – Columbia
69 Floris Goesinnen (Ned) Skil – Shimano
70 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
71 Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
72 Frédéric Amorison (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
73 Tiziano Dall’antonia (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
74 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Team HTC – Columbia
75 Hayden Roulston (NZl) Team HTC – Columbia
76 Yoann Offredo (Fra) Française Des Jeux
77 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank
78 Michael Barry (Can) Sky Professional Cycling Team
79 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
80 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quick Step
81 Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Team Radioshack
82 Tom Veelers (Ned) Skil – Shimano
83 Roy Curvers (Ned) Skil – Shimano
84 Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team
85 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo Bank
86 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank
87 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
88 Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Team Katusha
89 Christopher Sutton (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team
90 Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin – Transitions
91 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Team HTC – Columbia
92 Kasper Klostergaard Larsen (Den) Team Saxo Bank
93 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
94 Frank Hoj (Den) Team Saxo Bank
95 Joost Van Leijen (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team

DNF Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quick Step
DNF Julien Berard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
DNF Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale
DNF Kristof Goddaert (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
DNF Anthony Ravard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
DNF Nicolas Rousseau (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
DNF Scott Davis (Aus) Astana
DNF Valeriy Dmitriyev (Kaz) Astana
DNF Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana
DNF Valentin Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana
DNF Luis Pasamontes Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
DNF Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Caisse d’Epargne
DNF Mathieu Drujon (Fra) Caisse d’Epargne
DNF Imanol Erviti (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
DNF Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Caisse d’Epargne
DNF José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
DNF José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
DNF Andres Sergio De Lis (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
DNF Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
DNF Aitor Galdos Alonso (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
DNF Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
DNF Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
DNF Romain Sicard (Fra) Euskaltel – Euskadi
DNF Pablo Urtasun Perez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
DNF Fabio Felline (Ita) Footon-Servetto
DNF Ermanno Capelli (Ita) Footon-Servetto
DNF Manuel Antonio Leal Cardoso (Por) Footon-Servetto
DNF Vidal Celis Zabala (Spa) Footon-Servetto
DNF Thomas Patrick Faiers (GBr) Footon-Servetto
DNF Johnnie Walker (Aus) Footon-Servetto
DNF Michele Merlo (Ita) Footon-Servetto
DNF David Gutierrez (Spa) Footon-Servetto
DNF Olivier Bonnaire (Fra) Française Des Jeux
DNF Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française Des Jeux
DNF Mikael Cherel (Fra) Française Des Jeux
DNF Anthony Geslin (Fra) Française Des Jeux
DNF Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Française Des Jeux
DNF Alfredo Balloni (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
DNF Marcin Sapa (Pol) Lampre-Farnese Vini
DNF Vitaliy Buts (Ukr) Lampre-Farnese Vini
DNF Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
DNF Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
DNF Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
DNF Aliaksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas-Doimo
DNF Mickael Delage (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto
DNF Adam Blyth (GBr) Omega Pharma-Lotto
DNF Sebastian Lang (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
DNF Rick Flens (Ned) Rabobank
DNF Thomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank
DNF Nick Nuyens (Bel) Rabobank
DNF Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Rabobank
DNF Greg Henderson (NZl) Sky Professional Cycling Team
DNF Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin – Transitions
DNF Matthew Wilson (Aus) Garmin – Transitions
DNF Steven Cozza (USA) Garmin – Transitions
DNF Svein Tuft (Can) Garmin – Transitions
DNF Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team HTC – Columbia
DNF Martin Velits (Svk) Team HTC – Columbia
DNF Marco Bandiera (Ita) Team Katusha
DNF Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Team Katusha
DNF Robbie Mcewen (Aus) Team Katusha
DNF Mikhaylo Khalilov (Ukr) Team Katusha
DNF Wim De Vocht (Bel) Team Milram
DNF Markus Eichler (Ger) Team Milram
DNF Thomas Fothen (Ger) Team Milram
DNF Servais Knaven (Ned) Team Milram
DNF Peter Wrolich (Aut) Team Milram
DNF Paul Voss (Ger) Team Milram
DNF Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Team Radioshack
DNF Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team Radioshack
DNF Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Team Radioshack
DNF Sebastien Rosseler (Bel) Team Radioshack
DNF Baden Cooke (Aus) Team Saxo Bank
DNF Anders Lund (Den) Team Saxo Bank
DNF Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team Saxo Bank
DNF Mathieu Claude (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
DNF Yohann Gene (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
DNF Damien Gaudin (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
DNF Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team
DNF Jackson Stewart (USA) BMC Racing Team
DNF Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team
DNF Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Cervelo Test Team
DNF Martin Reimer (Ger) Cervelo Test Team
DNF Brett Lancaster (Aus) Cervelo Test Team
DNF Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
DNF David Boucher (Fra) Landbouwkrediet
DNF Davy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
DNF Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
DNF Kevin Neirynck (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
DNF Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
DNF Mitchell Docker (Aus) Skil – Shimano
DNF Steve Houanard (Fra) Skil – Shimano
DNF Job Vissers (Ned) Skil – Shimano
DNF Piet Rooijakkers (Ned) Skil – Shimano
DNF Johan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
DNF Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
DNF Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
DNF Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
DNF Geert Steurs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
DNF Maarten Neyens (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
DNF Steven Van Vooren (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
DNF Wouter Mol (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
DNF Jens Mouris (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team