Tour of Flanders (Mens)

Cyclo-cross legends Mathieu van der Poel and Wout Van Aert sprint it out for victory in a road cycling Monument with Dutchman Van der Poel getting the verdict in a photo finish to win the Tour of Flanders

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Tour of Flanders (Mens)

An exceptional edition of the Tour of Flanders got an exceptional final. Cyclocross legends Van der Poel and Van Aert were so daring that a very close sprint had to decide on the victory. Van der Poel won the 104th edition of Flanders’ Fienst before Wout Van Aert. Kristoff sprinted to third place in the chasing group.

An atypical Tour of Flanders, that’s what awaited the riders today. In an edition in which the general public was invited to follow the race from home, a leading group of 6 riders coloured the first race hours: Mühlberger (Bora-hansgrohe), Peyskens (Bingoal – Wallonie Bruxelles), Van Poppel (Circus-Wanty Gobert), Van den Bossche (Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise), Battistella (NTT Pro Cycling Team) and Van Hoecke (Team CCC). They had a maximum lead of about 8 minutes.

There was some nervousness in the peloton in the run-up to the hills, but the race remained closed for quite a long time this year. Gradually the peloton did take some the advantage of the breakaway back. Battistella and Peyskens dropped out of the front group a bit sooner, while the other four escapees were caught by the peloton just after the first ascent of the Paterberg.

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Action from the favourites followed on the Koppenberg. No one less than world champion Alaphilippe set a firm pace on the steep hill. The peloton was thinning out because of the attack of the world champion. Barely 5 km later a second acceleration of the man in the rainbow jersey followed. He got Dutch champion Van der Poel with him. On the cobblestones of the Taaienberg, Wout Van Aert joined the front two. At 37 km from the end the three top favourites found themselves in an elite group at the front of the race.

There was a thrilling finale, until Alaphilippe crashed into a motor bike barely 2 km further on and had to leave the Tour of Flanders with pain in his shoulder (has broken bones in his hand). Because of that unfortunate crash of the world champion, the duo Van Aert – Van der Poel were left at the front for the ultimate duel.

On the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, Van der Poel set the pace. Nobody got away and the duo continued to the Paterberg, with more than a minute’s lead on the chasing group. In that group Naesen took a shot at third place on the Oude Kwaremont.

Also on the Paterberg Van Aert and Van der Poel did not drop each other. With 13 km to go there was still a perfect cooperation between the two top favourites. They rode together to the finish where millimetres decided on the victory. The two waited a long time, but the Dutch champion started the sprint from first position. Van Aert came closer and closer, but on the finish line Van der Poel’s jump decided over the victory. Van Aert finished a few millimetres behind after a nerve-racking final. Kristoff eventually won the sprint of the chasing group for third place.

Matheui Van der Poel: “They had already called my name twice, but I couldn’t believe it,” Van der Poel explained after winning one of the biggest one-day races on the calendar. “I’ve asked for confirmation 10 times. I have no words for this. I am speechless. I thought Wout had won,” he admitted.

The Dutchman also admitted that he was lucky in the incident with the motorcyclist. “I also saw him too late. Van Aert drove from left to right to be out of the wind. I was shocked, but I could just get around the motorcyclist. Julian didn’t.”

“There was no attack in the final. “I looked at my wattages: everywhere it went above 500 watts. On the Kwaremont and the Paterberg I was really pushing. We were both at our limit. You saw that in the sprint, where we both waited a long time. I knew that I had a better chance if I waited longer. My jump is my best strength. I had a sign in mind, Wout too. I went a fraction ahead of him and I win the race. It is strange that we sprint together for Flanders when you look from where we come (cyclocross).”

Wout Van Aert: “I raced as I wanted and as I like to race”, said an honest Van Aert, who finished Flanders Finest on his reserve bike after a crash. “Some details could be better, but I’m not going to look for excuses. In the sprint Mathieu was a little bit stronger. I will see that sprint a number of times tonight. Maybe I waited a little too long, because in the last metres I got very close. It was a beautiful race. We really gave the people at home a great spectacle.”

Van Aert is now entering a rest period. “I am disappointed that there will be no Paris-Roubaix. I’m honestly having a hard time with that. But now I have time to let pride dominate. It is not self-evident to be in top shape for such a long time. After Strade Bianche I have not lost my good legs.”

Tom Steels (Quickstep) on Alaphilippe’s crash when leading: “Unfortunately, he couldn’t fight for the win because of that incident with 35 kilometers to go. Cycling is a sport that involves a lot of risks, but some of these should be taken out from races. We aren’t pointing the finger, we aren’t blaming anybody, just saying that the moto should have been more careful, they had enough room to let the riders pass. Lessons should be learned from what happened, so that this kind of incidents are avoided in the future.”

1. Mathieu van der Poel Alpecin-Fenix 5:43:17
2. Wout Van Aert Team Jumbo – Visma + 00
3. Alexander Kristoff UAE Team Emirates + 08
4. Anthony Turgis Total Direct Energie + 08
5. Yves Lampaert Deceuninck-Quick Step + 08
6. Dimitri Claeys Cofidis + 08
7. Oliver Naesen AG2R La Mondiale + 08
8. Dylan Van Baarle INEOS Grenadiers + 08
9. John Degenkolb Lotto Soudal + 08
10. Tiesj Benoot Team Sunweb + 08

50. Luke Rowe INEOS Grenadiers + 4:05
69. Jack Bauer Mitchelton-Scott + 8:26
99. Christopher Lawless INEOS Grenadiers + 10:30
101. Owain Doull INEOS Grenadiers + 10:30

Full Result Here:

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