Unstoppable Stijn Devolder takes coveted tricolour jersey

In cycling, Stijn Devolder took the gold medal in the Belgian Road Championships. On a hilly course in La Roche-en-Ardenne, the West-Fleming set up an impressive solo effort in the last but one lap, to win in style. World Champion Philippe Gilbert, riding before a home crowd, could only watch when Devolder made his jump.

The former Belgian professional rider Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke, who was responsible for the course, compared it to that of the 1989 World Championships in Chambéry, when Greg LeMond became World Champion. The riders had to cover a total of 220.8 kilometres spread over 16 laps. The windy weather made it an even tougher race: the majority of the 127 riders that started would not the finish the race.

With so many kilometres uphill, it was thought that the course would best fit a climber, but in-form Stijn Devolder of the RadioShack team proved this wrong.

He crossed the finish line 1 minute ahead of the man who was poised to win this race, Gianni Meersman. Jan Bakelants, a team mate of Devolder, took the bronze and made the RadioShack triumph complete. Former World Champion Tom Boonen abandoned the race on a course that was not his cup of tea. Philippe Gilbert, who was among the favourites to win the race, didn't have a good day and had to be content with 7th place.

"I prepared this race very well, but I did my best to keep a low profile over the past few weeks. That's why I was not among the favourites", Devolder told reporters.

Devolder's resurrection

It's Devolder's third national title after Ronse (2007) and Leuven (2010). The former winner of the Tour of Flanders had two bad years in 2011 and 2012, with not a single win, but after his move from Vacansoleil to Leopard-Trek last winter, things are going the right way again. Devolder is 33 years of age and has not been selected for the Tour de France.