Stijn Devolder Belgian champion after solo effort

In the streets of Leuven (Flemish Brabant), Stijn Devolder of the Quick Step Team overcame the scorching heat to take his second Belgian cycling title. "One of the most beautiful victories in my career", the West-Fleming beamed after the finish.

The Belgian cycling championships had attracted huge crowds to the city of Leuven. The 101 Belgian riders had to cover 240 kilometres on a local circuit which included three climbs. A bunch sprint at the finish near the "Grote Markt" (central market place) was not to be expected, also because the weather conditions were harsh, with a scorching heat.

With defending champion Tom Boonen absent due to a knee injury, last year's runner-up Philippe Gilbert was the big favourite. Gilbert set up a solo effort some 47 kilometres from the finish, but he was chased by the Quick-Step riders and caught by the peloton.

Gilbert, of the Omega Pharma-Lotto team, tried his luck another two times in the last but one lap, but was caught back on each occasion. Stijn Devolder chose a better moment and managed an impressive solo effort.

The 30-year-old West-Fleming took his second Belgian gold medal, after Ronse in 2007. Gilbert again had to be content with the silver, with Frederik Veuchelen taking the bronze.

Devolder: "I did it my way"

Speaking after the finish, Devolder called the victory  "one of his most beautiful career wins."

"I had been dreaming of this title the whole season. I had a rough year behind me, but the past few weeks were better. I did it my way: a win is only a real win when you cross the finish line alone, after a solo effort." Devolder also won his previous Belgian title after a solo effort, and was alone in front when he won the Tour of Flanders on two occasions.

The rider had not been selected for the Tour de France, after a disappointing Tour performance last year, but this could still change as Quick Step are looking for a rider to replace injured Tom Boonen.