Gilbert restores Belgian pride with Tour of Flanders win

Belgium's Philippe Gilbert of the Quick-Step team celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the Tour of Flanders cycling classic in Oudenaarde, Belgium, Sunday April 2.

At the line, Gilbert had enough time to dismount and raise his bike over his head, adding a Ronde title to a career that includes a world title and wins at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Il Lombardia, Amstel Gold Race, Omloop Het Volk, Fleche Wallonne, and more.

The return of the iconic Muur van Geraardsbergen, or Kappelmuur, after five years of exclusion, proved pivotal; what would prove to be the winning group went clear there with over 90km remaining.

"After Tom initiated that move on the Muur, we continued to push and made a decision to go full gas on the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont". But he and Terpstra were almost 30 seconds behind Gilbert. We had a good gap, a group of about 15 riders.

On the Taaienberg climb at 37km from the finish, Boonen suffered a mechanical problem that ended his chances while Sagan and Van Avermaet went on the offensive.

Sagan attacked on that climb with only Van Avermaet and Naesen able to follow but suddenly, the world champion clipped the barriers separating riders from fans and went down, taking his two companions with him.

They had around a minute to make up with 17km left but were looking strong until Sagan caught a jacket draped over the spectator barriers and caused all three to crash. Another Dutchman, Cannondale-Drapac's Dylan van Baarle, missed out on a podium place after taking fourth in the sprint as the chasing trio came home 28 seconds down on the victor. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) at 28 sec, 3.

Niki Terpstra did likewise at Paris-Roubaix in 2014, soloing away to victory. Dylan van Baarle (NED/CAN) s.t., 5.

Katusha-Alpecin's Alexander Kristoff, the 2015 champion from Norway, won the prestige sprint for fifth place as the chasing pack came home 52 seconds in arrears, with Italians Sacha Modolo (UEA Team Emirates), Filippo Pozzato (Wilier Triestina) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida) completing the top ten alongside Germany's John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie). Sacha Modolo (ITA/EAU) s.t., 7.

  • Julie Sanders