Originally posted on Triple Crankset  |  Last updated 3/23/12

Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team continued its race dictating ways at Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke, and thanks to the aggressive race tactics, Tom Boonen — in top form — sprinted to victory on Friday. It's a record fifth victory for Boonen at , as rider Rik Van Looy won four times in the 1960s. Boonen beat Oscar Freire (Katusha Team) by inches after being the first to go on the sprint. Bernie Eisel (Sky Pro Cycling) was 3rd.

"I was trying to make it a nice race," Boonen said. "It was not only important for a good result, but also important for the head a little bit and the sensations on the climbs. That's why I was doing a few big attacks. I wasn't really saving myself for the sprint. But then in the end, everything came together and I think everybody was suffering."

Boonen showed his strength earlier in the race, attacking on his favorite climb, the Taaienberg. He dragged along a powerhouse group of riders including Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Nissan) and Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda) with 55km to go. They were chasing down a break of a handful of riders, including Oscar Gatto (Farnese-Vini). Gatto decided to go solo as the break was reeled in. Boonen realized he was alone in the break, with his teammates chasing behind. He, and other members of the group, sat up a bit and let more riders join. Sylvain Chavanel was one of them and on the Oude Kwaremont, there was an acceleration. Chavanel took Simon Spilak (Katusha) and Dimitry Muravyev (Astana) with him up the road at that time. As Chavanel and his break mates bridged to Gatto, Spilak was dropped. Gatto suffered a flat tire with 22km to go, which allowed Chavanel and Muravyev to take over at the front of the race.

"We're really good friends, me and Chava," Boonen said. "We really connect, we don't have any problems riding and helping each other. It was nice today, he was not there all the time but he got back at the right moment. It's important to have someone like Chava. Also for him, with a little luck he could've won today. It's nice working together with him and the other guys. Right now the strength of this team, everone is on a good level. We're really tight, really close together. I think we already won with 9 different riders."

Chavanel and Muravyev and shared a congratulatory hand slap as they were caught with 7km to go. Niki Terpstra, meanwhile, covered an attack immediately following. After a day of non-stop aggression, Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team was ready to fight for the victory. With just 230 meters to go, Boonen launched his sprint. Oscar Freire worked his way to Boonen, but Boonen's power was enough to give him the 25th victory for Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team. The crowd was especially excited after the race to see a fellow Flandrian win.

"Today at the finish I had goosebumps," Boonen said. "The Flemish public was unbelievable."

Results - E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke (Harelbeke - Harelbeke 203.0 km)
1. Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team) - 4:51.59 (41.71 km/h / 25.92 mph)
2. Oscar Freire (Katusha Team)
3. Bernhard Eisel (Sky Pro Cycling)
4. Leonardo Duque (Cofidis)
5. Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda)

Photos: OPQS / Tim de Waele

PLAYERS: Tom Boonen
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