Olympic gold medalist and time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara has won the 2010 Tour of Flanders one-day classic in Belgium.
He is the first Swiss cyclist in nearly 90 years to clinch the competition – one of the top five most revered races in professional cycling.
The 29-year-old Cancellara shook off Tom Boonen on the toughest climb of the course and raced away to a solo victory ahead of the Belgian champion.
Cancellara broke away on the Wall of Geraardsbergen with 17 kilometres to go on Sunday and he never gave Boonen a chance to get close again, finishing with an edge of 1.13 seconds. Belgian Philippe Gilbert came in third.
Swiss champion Cancellara finished the 262 kilometres in 6 hours 25 minutes, 32 seconds.
American Lance Armstrong was close to the head of the pack up until the last 30 kilometres but did not cross the line among the leading finishers.
“Toughest of all was to win the Tour of Flanders as a favorite. If you can do it like that, it doesn't get any better for an athlete.
"I tried to decide the race early and I think I did everything right,” Cancellara said after the race.
He appeared very relaxed over the last dozen kilometres along the flat roads, casually resting his forearms on the handlebar as he powered to the finish.
It was Cancellara's biggest one-day victory since he took the Milan-San Remo classic two years ago.
Midway through the morning, 198 racers left in the rain from under the Gothic spires of medieval Bruges on a long trek through the wind-swept flat lands of Flanders before hitting 15 short but steep climbs close to the finish in Meerbeke.
Cobblestones dotted many of the late stages.
By the time the pack caught the early breakaways with 60 kilometres to go, it had been whittled down to some 60 riders, including all the favorites.
The race broke open for real when Boonen and Cancellara left the pack standing on the Molenberg hill with 44 kilometres to go. The two outstanding favorites were away, with five more hills to negotiate, and the chasing pack disintegrated.
Together the leading pair built a one-minute lead with the Wall of Geraardsbergen, the toughest climb of the classic, left.
Cancellara broke away just ahead of the summit of the climb and then showed there is no match to his time trial skills.
"The Wall is legendary. I gave it all I had," Cancellara said.
swissinfo.ch with agencies
Cancellara’s major wins
World Time-Trial Champion:2006, 2007, 2009.
Olympic Time Trial Champion: 2008.
He is also a winner of Paris-Roubaix, Milan-Sanremo, Tirreno-Adriatico and Monte Paschi Eroica one-day races.
He took five stages of the Tour de France and two stages of the Tour of Spain.
Last year he won the Tour de Switzerland with his team, Saxo Bank.