Sunday, 1 April 2012

Ronde van Vlaanderen

Men's and Women's race footage and results further down
Judith Arndt wins the Ronde for a
second time, her first having been
four years ago - and has now equalled
Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel's record
(image credit: James F. Perry CC BY-SA 3.0)
Without Marianne Vos - who has the 'flu - this race and the chance of winning it suddenly opened up to a large number of women, at least 15-20 of them with very good prospects which made it all but impossible to predict which way the outcome might go. However, when the race reached Oude Kwaaremont after many tough kilometres, Judith Arndt and Kristin Armstrong revealed hidden reserves of power, cruising away from the pack and leaving no doubt that without miracle or disaster they were both heading for the podium. When it came to the final sprint it was Arndt who proved strongest, throwing herself and her bike up the last stretch of road and gaining a 2" lead for her second Ronde victory.

Hitec Products-Mistral Home's Emma Johansson on the Ronde: click here.

Vos retains her lead in the World Cup rankings with 150 points compared to Arndt's 115.

1. Judith Arndt (Aus) GreenEdge-AIS, 3:19:05
2. Kristin Armstrong (USA) USA, + 00:02
3. Joëlle Numainville (Can) Canada, + 00:30
4. Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA, s.t.
5. Adrie Visser (Ned) Skil-Argos, s.t.
6. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Specialiazed-lululemon, s.t.
7. Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) GreenEdge-AIS s.t
8. Christine Majerus (Lux) GSD Gestion, s.t.
9. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Sengers, s.t.
10. Alena Amialysik Be Pink, s.t. (full results)

Cancellara at last year's Ronde
(image credit: kei-ai CC BY 2.0)
Fabian Cancellara's dreams of a successful Classics season ended at the second feeding station when he fell hard onto the roadside pavement. Several members of the RadioShack-Nissan team slowed to wait for him, but it quickly became apparent that the 31-year-old Swiss - joint favourite alongside Tom Boonen to win - wasn't even going to be finishing today. First reports that he had broken his hip or pelvis proved unfounded, though it has since been confirned that he has suffered a triple fracture of the collar bone. Numerous other crashes held the race up at several points: Johan Vansummeren crashed into crowd barriers at the foot of the Paterberg; Matto Breschel, Greg van Avermaet and Edvald Boasson Hagen and Peter Sagan getting caught up in the chaos afterwards. Sebastian Langeveld abandoned after he got into a tussle with a spectator, though it wasn't immediately obvious who was to blame - while some have been quick to blame the fan, video shows the rider swerving to avoid street furniture. He too has a broken collar bone.

Langeveld's crash
Cancellara's crash

Alessandro Ballan begin building up a respectable lead as the race embarked upon the selection zone over the final climbs - which also threw Boonen and Pozzato into a panic. The two gave chase, capturing him soon afterwards as significant gaps began opening up in the field. A group of around 13 riders led by Chavanel  raised the pace in an attempt to capture the trio as the reached 15km to go, with Luca Paolini speeding off alone and reducing the gap by half within minutes. As they climbed Paterberg for the thrid time, an unexpected sight - Boonen looked to be cracking. Pozzato looked the strongest man once the hills were over and done and the chase group caught Paolini, who had expended too much energy.

 It was notable earlier in the race that, when Peter Sagan dropped back to visit the team car (with an apparent mechanical problem - though some pointed out that the bidon handed to him seemed a bit sticky), nobody from the team seemed to be ordered to help him back up. 25" behind the leaders with 10km to go, his chances seemed to be well and truly over.

Tom Boonen scores another victory in
what has already been an amazing
season for his Omega Pharma-
QuickStep team
(image credit: DarkSideX CC BY-SA 2.0)
Up front, with 9km to go, Ballan, Boonen and Pozzato were giving a textbook example of how to handle the final part of a race, sharing the work evenly and working together efficiently before the final battle. As they upped their lead to 40", it began to look like a done deal with only each man's position on the podium to be decided. By 4km to go, their lead was 1'03". Ballan attempted to go at 3km - surely too early! - but was closely marked by his rivals. Ballan tried again at 2km, but Boonen was there immediately, then again with 1km to go.

In the last 2km, the trio resorted to psychological warfare; the two Italians seemingly working a good cop/bad cop routine in which Ballan repeatedly attacked while Pozzato conserved his strength. In the penultimate 500m things became more straightforward as they used their huge lead as an opportunity to ride slowly and dare one another to have a go... then, in the final 500m, the race burst into flames as Boonen blasted past Ballan. Pozzato tried to go after him but knew he was outclassed, hanging on to the Belgian's rear wheel for dear life and second place.

1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quickstep
2 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia
3 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing (full results when available)

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