OUDENAARDE, Belgium (Reuters) - Fabian Cancellara wiped out last year’s bad memories when he powered his way to his second victory in the Tour of Flanders cycle race on Sunday.
A year ago, on the same 256 kms of exhausting hills and cobbled sections, the Swiss former Olympic and world time-trial champion hit the tarmac as he rode over a bottle 60 kms from the finish line in Oudenaarde.
He fractured his collarbone, forcing him to miss the “Ronde” and the Paris-Roubaix the following weekend.
Twelve months later, Cancellara timed his move to perfection, striking 14 kms from the finish line to shake off his only rival on the day, Slovakia’s Peter Sagan, and snatch the laurels three years after his previous victory in the Belgian classic.
“It’s just amazing. One year ago, I was on the ground and now I’m back and I won Flanders as a big favorite. It was not easy. I’m just happy, really happy,” said the Swiss, now his country’s best-ever one-day rider with two Ronde, two Paris-Roubaix and one Milan-San Remo wins under his belt.
Title holder Tom Boonen’s season ended after the three-times Ronde winner hit a kerb after 19 kms and dropped out with groin and arm injuries.
His Omega Pharma Quick Step team announced that the former world champion had not broken any bones but it was the latest in a series of mishaps for Boonen who had a stomach bug in December, an infection in January and a crash in Ghent-Wevelgem last week.
Boonen’s team manager Patrick Lefevere told Belgian sports channel Sporza: “His spring season is over.”
Sagan, second in the Milan-San Remo two weeks ago, looked powerless when Cancellara attacked and had to be content with keeping Belgium’s Juergen Roelandts at bay for the runner-up spot on the line.
Editing by Clare Fallon