Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) and his S-Works Tarmac SL3 were simply too much for the competition to overcome in Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen, a.k.a. Tour of Flanders. The win instantly established “Spartacus” as a legend in Belgium and represents his third triumph in a cycling monument (Milan-Sanremo in 2006, Paris-Roubaix in 2008). It also marks a Flanders “Tarmac SL 3-peat” for Specialized, following back-to-back wins in 2008 and '2009.
With 45km remaining, Cancellara’s attack on the cobbled climb of the Molenberg created the winning break with Tom Boonen. The power duo continued over the next three climbs – the Leberg, Berendries, and Tenbosse – and gained time on the chase behind that included David Millar, Philippe Gilbert, and Björn Leukemans.
Thousands of screaming fans lined the penultimate climb, the Muur-Kapelmuur, known simply as “The Muur”. It was here that Cancellara sensed the moment was right to ditch his companion and ride solo to victory.
"There were so many people lined out on the Muur, I could hardly hear or understand where Tom was behind me,” said an elated Cancellara. “When I finally looked back, I understood I had some distance. When I realized I'd dropped Boonen, it was like having wings on my feet, and I kept going all the way to the finish.”
Cancellara accelerated smoothly in the saddle – at times putting over 1400 watts through his Body Geometry shoes – while Boonen and a diminished chase group seemed to struggle and stomp on the pedals. In the end, the Swiss champion finished one minute and 15 seconds ahead of his Belgian rival, while Philippe Gilbert rounded out the podium in third.
Fabian was grateful for the incredible support from his Saxo Bank teammates. From the first of the day's 15 climbs, Saxo Bank headed the race to control an eight-man escape group to keep both Cancellara and Matti Breschel in contention.
With Stuart O’Grady frequently setting a brutal pace on the steep hills, Cancellara admitted that the advantage was having Matti. “I knew that Tom must have spent energy to follow Matti, while we just sat near and watched the others…the team’s work gave me even more power.”
Spartacus has little time to celebrate, though, as he and his fellow Team Saxo Bank riders trade their Tarmac bikes for the S-Works Roubaix in preparation for next Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, alternately known as “The Queen of the Classics” and “The Hell of the North”.