A demurrage involving Niko Eeckhout, Greg Van Avermaet, Koen Barbé, Jérôme Baugnies, Gilles Devillers, Justin Van Hoecke and the Frenchman Julien Fouchard got underway around 62km into the race.
At one point they were 5 minutes 25 seconds ahead of the other competitors.
On the Oude Kwaremont, the fifth of in total eight climbs, the leading group broke up. At the Tiegemberg, 64 km from the finish, Eeckhout, Van Avermaet, Barbé, Baugnies and Fouchard were still half a minute ahead of a group of 19 riders, including Tom Boonen, Juan Antonio Flecha and Alessandro Ballan.
The leaders and the group of 19 merged after the last climb of the race, the Nokereberg. However, Team Sky had everything under control and regrouped to embark on a mass sprint 5km before the finishing line.
Cavendish proved masterful, seeing off Hutarovich and van Hummel to take first place.