92nd Ronde van Vlaanderen - ProT Belgium, April 6, 2008
Results 1 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step 6.24.02 (41.246 km/h) 2 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 0.15 3 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Rabobank 4 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre - Fondital 0.21 5 George Hincapie (USA) Team High Road 6 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas 7 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 8 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence - Lotto 9 Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre - Fondital 10 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC . . . 17 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
Devolder launched for the first time on the Leberg in the footsteps of Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux). Not satisfied with the five-man move that was eventually formed – with Hincapie, Ballan, Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank) and Karsten Kroon (Team CSC) – and wanting to truly weaken the rest of the competition for his designated team leader, Boonen, he essentially countered his own move.
He made the winning move when he powered forward on the Eikenmolen, leaving only the Kapelmuur and Bosberg climbs to cover. Over the following 25 kilometres leading to Meerbeke he maintained his lead, hitting a maximum time gap of around 20 seconds over the chase. Past the church at the top of the Kapelmuur, Devolder had 17 seconds on the chase with Flecha, Boonen, Ballan, Nuyens, Gregory Rast (Astana) Rast and Niki Terpstra (Team Milram).
No damages were done in the ascent, but towards the next helling, the famous Koppenberg, the race really started going and tore the peloton apart. A front group of about 20 riders formed, including Leif Hoste (Lotto), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), Tom Boonen and team-mate Stijn Devolder (Quick Step), the Belgian champion and eventual winner of the race.
As the leaders hit the Koppenberg, the mad weather continued with snow making the riders surely feel comfortable. Boonen tested his rivals, some of whom had to unclip and walk up the slippery cobbles. In the descent, the Belgian got the company of about 10 riders, including Devolder, Hoste, Ballan, Fabian Cancellara (CSC), Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) and Sebastian Langeveld (Rabobank).
But the multiple world champion was caught by a Quick Step-driven chase group at the foot of the Leberg, where eventual winner Devolder put on such a high pace that even his team leader Boonen couldn't follow. Devolder kept going and got the company of fellow Belgian Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux), as well as Langeveld.
Devolder, Gilbert and Langeveld were then joined by George Hincapie (High Road), Karsten Kroon (CSC) as well as Ballan, Cancellara and Boonen. After the Berendries (kilometre 221), the sun came out on the riders again, and Langeveld gave it a go solo. But with Cancellara in the chase group, the Dutch rider had to give in...
Hushovd, Tombak (who was in a much earlier break), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) and Manuel Quinziato peeled off the front to try and chase Devolder down. With 18 kilometres to go, Devolder had 26 seconds over the Hushovd group and 35 over the main bunch, in which his leader Boonen didn't move.
The Muur of Geraardsbergen made the main bunch catch up with the first chase group, but Devolder held onto his lead. A new chase group formed including Ballan, Flecha, Boonen, Langeveld, Gregory Rast (Astana), Nuyens and Niki Terpstra (Milram) flying down the descent, some 15 seconds behind Devolder.
On the Bosberg, the last climb of the day, it looked like Devolder was going to get caught by Langeveld, but the Belgian managed to keep the infatiguable Dutchman at bay. With 10 kilometres to go, Devolder had about 15 seconds to Langeveld, and 30 seconds to the group.
Seven clicks to the line, Flecha, Rast and Tombak closed in on Langeveld. As Nuyens jumped, Boonen followed, and the chase group was back together, 19 seconds adrift of the solo leader.