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Leopard-Trek show their spots as Schleck and Cancellara seal double delight

Schleck claimed the stage win after a failed solo break by teammate Voigt

It has taken a while for the Schleck brothers’ new team to show their spots – and their claws – but Leopard-Trek scored two victories in quick succession as Fränk Schleck and Fabian Cancellara took wins at the Critérium International and the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen on Saturday.

Andy jabs, Fränk lands the knockout punch

Schleck’s win on stage one of the two-day, three-stage Critérium in Corsica came after Leopard-Trek teammate Jens Voigt, five times a previous winner of the event, failed in an audacious solo breakaway attempt. The German veteran was caught on the seventh and final climb of the day, the Col de l’Ospedale, 13 kilometres from the finish.

As Voigt was swallowed up by the peloton Astana‘s Rémy di Gregorio, winner of a memorable stage seven at Paris-Nice a fortnight ago, launched a solo attack of his own. However, with Saur-Sojasun driving the pack on, he was never allowed to build a large enough advantage and was himself caught four kilometres later.

Andy Schleck then flew off the front, breaking the pack apart and setting up the decisive move of the day by his brother, Cofidis‘s Rein Taaramäe and Movistar‘s Vasil Kiryienka. These three rode away from the other leading contenders, until Fränk kicked near the 2km board and soloed to victory by 12 seconds. Kiryienka dropped Taaramäe in the closing kilometre to take second. David López Garcia beat Alexandre Geniez to fourth, while nine seconds further behind came an elite group of ten including Andy Schleck, FDJ‘s Pierrick Fedrigo and Garmin-Cervélo‘s Ryder Hesjedal.

Schleck said he wanted to win the race as much for Voigt as for himself:

Jens rode well earlier and this was a very nice victory for Leopard-Trek. Jens has won the race five times and wanted to take a sixth. That’s why it was important for me to try to do it for him, and for the team.

I am not a time trial specialist but I am up there and I will do my best. I would be very happy if I can win the race and put it in the palmarès of Leopard-Trek.

The race concludes tomorrow with a double-header of a 75km road stage followed by a 7.5km individual time trial, both starting and finishing at Porto-Vecchio. With a 16-second lead, Schleck must be considered a strong favourite to defend his lead despite his vulnerability in time trials.

Cancellara beats the opposition and his own bike to defend crown

Cancellara destroyed a field of Classic specialists to win E3 Prijs for the second straight year

Meanwhile, over in Belgium Cancellara won the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – a race around eastern Flanders featuring 12 climbs – for the second straight year, despite suffering two punctures and having to change his bike. He regained the peloton after each setback, and on the Oude Kwaremont climb 32 kilometres from home, the world time trial champion attacked and rode away from Classic heavyweights like Thor Hushovd to bridge the gap to the early breakaway group.

Rabobank‘s Bram Tankink tried to attack on the approach to the final climb, the 1.4km, 9% Tiegemberg, but Cancellara chased him down, swept past with around 16km to go and then proceeded to ride away from everyone, leaving a 14-man chase group gasping in his wake as he claimed an easy win by exactly one minute.

Cancellara reckoned this year’s win was even better than last year’s:

Today was special because I had a lot of bad luck. I had two punctures and then changed the bike, and all this without radio, and we were car number 23 in the caravan. But I knew we had Stuart [O’Grady in the breakaway], and I was calm for that even though (after the third mechanical) I was really far back.

I had to pull hard to be close to the front, and then I tried to be on the wheel, and to be calm and without stress. I had it in my head to attack on the Kwaremont, and then I moved up until I was with Stuart; he pulled as long as he could and then I went away. It was a perfect plan.

When it comes to one-day races on the cobbles, it takes a special kind of rider to make even a perfect plan look this easy. ‘Spartacus’ is a very special rider. This wasn’t just a victory, it was an annihilation – and it sets up Cancellara perfectly to defend last year’s win at the Tour of Flanders next weekend.

As Garmin-Cervélo’s Sep Vanmarcke (who finished fourth) put it after the race:

It’s unbelievable. It’s not normal. I mean, it’s impossible to beat him.

Critérium International stage 1 result:

1. Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek) 5:21:02

2. Vasil Kiryienka (Movistar) +0:16

3. Rein Taaramäe (Cofidis) +0:22

4. David López Garcia (Movistar) +0:58

5. Alexandre Geniez (Skil-Shimano) +1:00

E3 Prijs Vlaanderen result:

1. Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) 4:34:49

2. Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +1:00

3. Vladimir Gusev (Katusha) +1:00

4. Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Cervélo) +1:00

5. Bram Tankink (Rabobank) +1:00

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

6 Responses to Leopard-Trek show their spots as Schleck and Cancellara seal double delight

  1. Kitty Fondue says:

    A great day for Leopard Trek, that’s for sure. Cancellara – blimey. What a man! Interesting that he did all that without the benefit of radios, which begs the question, would the outcome have been any different with radios? The UCI talks about the radio ban as if with radios the riders are mere puppets of the DS in the car. I think this race has proved otherwise but the ban only seemed to have stressed FC out more than changed/challenged the outcome, if you know what I mean (that’s certainly what he said in his press conference). But I’m loving the dream team of Cancellara/O’Grady these days. Bring on Flanders, bring on Paris-Roubaix, I think we’re in for some epic races … and hopefully some emphatic Cancellara victories.

    • Tim says:

      There’s not much to be said about Spartacus that hasn’t already been said, is there?

      I do wonder if the primary effect of the radio ban will be to make the peloton more twitchy about letting breaks get too far down the road, which may lead to more rather than less predictable racing. If the dog isn’t on a lead, you’re going to keep a closer eye on it, aren’t you?

  2. Sheree says:

    Fantastic weekend’s racing, with awesome displays from Cancellara and Boonen. Roll on next Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.

    • Tim says:

      Sadly I didn’t see very much of it, although I did catch the end of Gent-Wevelgem. Great finish by Boonen. Anyone know how Offredo is after that post-finish crash? Looked nasty.

  3. kittyfondue says:

    For anyone who hasn’t seen Cancellara’s jaw-dropping ride to victory this weekend, here’s the youtube link. You can actually see the unbelievable power in the first couple minutes when he’s chasing back.

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