The famous classic from Brugge to Oudenaarde, 259.1km saw an early break of 10 riders that included Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC whittled down and caught as several more attacks would all be reeled in until Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team escaped with Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team while the favourites chased behind.
Crashes took their toll on many in the peloton as Stijn Devolder (Bel) Trek Factory Racing had the misfortune to go down twice but still fought back to finish 86th. Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin-Sharp was not so lucky as he collided with a woman standing on a traffic island who remains in intensive care while he was released.
With Van Avermaet pushing the pace Vandenbergh seemed to be struggling as Cancellara put the hammer down up the Kwaremont climb and only Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin Pro Cycling Team, his old Paris-Roubaix rival, could match him as expected rival Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale was not able to counter.
Cancellara and Vanmarcke caught Vandenbergh who had been dropped and the three of them caught Van Avermaet as they worked together at keeping the chasing pack at bay.
As the final foursome crossed under the 1km to go arch it was anyone’s race as they all watched each other with anticipation. Vandenbergh attacked on the inside but eased up when the others swarmed him.
With 300m to go Cancellara was sitting in 4th and as Vanmarcke turned to look at the others he bolted to the line but his move was too strong for the others as the defending champ claimed his third Tour of Flanders victory and received a resounding hug from his wife at that finishline.
Full results here.