Gilbert ousts Sagan for epic Tour of Flanders victory
Philippe Gilbert enjoyed success on home roads, taking the Tour of Flanders crown from reigning world champion Peter Sagan.
The 34-year-old Quick - Step Floors rider surged clear of the breakaway group with 55 kilometres remaining, becoming the first Belgian to win the race since 2012 after chasing duo Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) were involved in a crash inside the final 20km.
Sagan appeared to clip the advertising hoarding when pushing to catch Gilbert and took Van Avermaet down with him, but the latter recovered to take second position from Niki Terpstra (Quick - Step Floors).
Gilbert took his first step towards victory in the 260.8-km race when he joined a break from the peloton at Muur van Geraardsbergen with roughly 90km remaining, fellow favourites Sagan and Van Avermaet unable to follow him.
Tom Boonen (Quick - Step Floors), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) and Luke Rowe (Team Sky) were among those to join Gilbert in closing down the early leading group headed by Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Gilbert pushed forward on his own from Oude Kwaremont - where Rowe was taken down by the crashing Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale Drapac) - and built a lead of 22 seconds with 55km remaining.
It was an advantage the Belgian would extend and not relinquish, though he was aided by the crash involving Sagan and Van Avermaet, who may have been able to catch the tiring leader.
What a race from @PhilippeGilbert-- Fabian cancellara (@f_cancellara) April 2, 2017
Gilbert said in a post-race interview: "It all started on the Muur, I was riding on Tom's wheel and it went on from there. After the Muur, we had three riders in the group and we decided to push on from there.
"Then we went to the Kwaremont and we decided to go full on. I looked behind and I was alone and I just went on from there."