Cycling: Cancellara triumphant on a grim day for Sky


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The Independent Online

Fabian Cancellara powered to victory as he claimed his second Tour of Flanders title ahead of main rival Peter Sagan on a disappointing day for Team Sky in Belgium.

The Swiss time-trial specialist burst clear of the field on the final climb of the day to win by one minute and 26 seconds ahead of Slovakian Sagan and Jurgen Roelandts.

Britain's Geraint Thomas crashed with around 36km remaining, although he did finish the race in 41st place, with team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen Sky's best-placed rider in 17th. Defending champion Tom Boonen also crashed out in what is the second of the season's monument races.

The 256km (159 miles) race started on the outskirts of Bruges before heading towards Oudenaarde and featured 17 short climbs and 17 cobbled sections.

There was drama early on when Belgian Boonen's race was brought to a premature conclusion after 19km. The three-time champion, who rides for Omega Pharma Quick-Step, was transported to hospital with a hip injury as well as wounds to his left elbow and right knee, although X-rays revealed no broken bones. However, his team manager Patrick Lefevere admitted he is unlikely to race again until the summer.

Thomas had a crash of his own ahead of the cobbled climb up the Oude-Kwaremont, however the Welshman clawed his way back into contention, catching the lead group with 24km remaining. But Cancellara, Sagan and Michal Kwiatkowsk soon opened up a gap and no one could live with the RadioShack rider's pace on the final climb of the Paterberg.

There was still 13km remaining after reaching the summit but Cancellara, a four-time world time trial champion, powered away, reaching speeds in excess of 30mph. Such was the advantage built up, he was able to sit up and cruise over the line after six hours, five minutes and 58 seconds of racing.

"The goal was to win but you can't predict how that's going to happen," said the 32-year-old.

"Everyone did a great job, the team did fantastic and in the end everyone expected I would go on the Paterberg. I had a nice feeling on the cobbles that I could go.

"It's amazing. One year ago I was on the ground [after crashing out of the Tour of Flanders] and now I'm back and I've won. Winning as a big favourite is not easy but I'm very happy."