Tour of Flanders: Asgreen beats Van der Poel

The Danish Champion Kasper Asgreen wins his first ever Monument victory on clinchers at the end of an incredible Tour of Flanders – beats Mathieu van der Poel in two up sprint

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Tour of Flanders: Asgreen beats Van der Poel

Kasper Asgreen brings home Ronde van Vlaanderen for Elegant – Quick-Step

Photo: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images

Kasper Asgreen rode straight into the history books on Easter Sunday, powering to an incredible victory at Ronde van Vlaanderen, which he won after being part of all the major moves during the race. The first Dane in 24 years to triumph in Flanders, Kasper completed a prestigious E3 Harelbeke – De Ronde double and confirmed his status as one of the peloton’s finest Classics riders.

Kasper Asgreen “I can’t believe it! Ronde van Vlaanderen is the most beautiful race in the world for me, the cobbles and steep hills make it awesome, and to win it two years after I podiumed in my debut here feels incredible! It’s three years to the day I raced for the first time with this team and to be on the top spot at Flanders makes it even more special. It was a hard day, but I felt good and I couldn’t be happier with this win that capped off a stellar job of my Elegant – Quick-Step teammates”, an elated Kasper said after the biggest victory of his career.

Comprising 19 hills and seven cobblestone stretches, this year’s 254.3km Ronde van Vlaanderen witnessed another masterclass of Elegant – Quick-Step, who came into the race with several cards to play and once again controlled things with the likes of Davide Ballerini, Tim Declercq and Bert Van Lerberghe, who did a superb job in chasing down the breakaway and putting pressure on the peloton in the last 100 kilometers.

Racing the Ronde van Vlaanderen for the second consecutive year in the rainbow jersey, Julian Alaphilippe was another rider who played a big role in the team’s success, going clear on the gruesome ramps of the Koppenberg and forcing the other favourites to show themselves earlier than expected. A regrouping took place on the descent, Kasper Asgreen being among those to join the World Champion, who continued to be the driving force of that leading group.

Another dig of Alaphilippe on the Taaienberg distanced some of the riders, paving the way for an attack of his Danish teammate with 27 kilometers to go. Only Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) could follow, and the three worked well together, quickly opening a comfortable gap over the chasers. On the Oude Kwaremont, the Dutchman went full gas and put some distance between him and his companions, but Asgreen gritted his teeth and joined him on the descent.

Not even the Paterberg – where our rider led the way – could change the status quo, and the duo continued to soldier on, extending their lead to more than 30 seconds over a chasing group featuring Florian Sénéchal by the time they went past the 10km-to-go mark. Many were expecting Kasper to gamble everything on an all-or-nothing attack in the closing kilometres of the race, but the 26-year-old Dane had something different in mind and continued to trade turns with the defending champion until the final kilometre.

There, knowing the advantage they had over the chasers was unbridgeable, Asgreen played his cards perfectly and waited for Van der Poel to show his intentions before opening his sprint. A powerful kick saw him surge past his opponent with 50 meters to go and claimed a historical win on the clinchers, and with it, Elegant – Quick-Step’s eighth win in 19 years at the iconic Belgian race.

Kasper: “I am grateful to the entire team. Tim, Davide and Bert did an incredible race to keep us protected and having Julian in that front group helped as well. It wasn’t all smooth today, as I got caught behind a big crash with more than 60 kilometres to go and that took some energy to come back, but I still felt good after that effort and could follow all the attack on the climbs, which gave me a lot of confidence. That’s why I attacked inside the final hour of racing and seeing I made an important selection, I kept going together with Mathieu and Wout until the last time up the Oude Kwaremont.”

“I was briefly distanced just before the top, but gave my best to come back and on the Paterberg me and Mathieu rode full gas, never looking back and determined to increase our lead. I didn’t have enough in the legs for an attack in the final kilometres, so I decided to trust my sprint. I wanted to do my best there, so I decided to start it from the back, as I felt it was the best way to control it. I produced a powerful turn of legs, but it was only with ten meters to go that I believed I could win. I was confident in my sprint and I am extremely proud I could finish off my teammates’ incredible work! It’s been an incredible Classics campaign for us and to power to victory on my Specialized bike and add to my palmares this race which I used to watch on TV as a kid is insane”, said the ninth rider in history to complete the E3 Harelbeke – Ronde van Vlaanderen double in the same season.


Tom Pidcock: “I had fun. It was a good race and it wasn’t perfect, of course. I forgot the basics of eating well and fuelling well but I enjoyed racing and I’m excited to come back next year. I’ve got to take the positives and today, that was just who I am – I’m a racer, I like racing. Going on the move probably wasn’t the best thing to do if I wanted to get a result today but I’d rather do that and try and then get dropped at the end, rather than roll round and finish in the top 20.”

Mathieu van der Poel: “I would have liked to win myself. I can accept it because he was just stronger. A sprint after 260 kilometers is not the same as a sprint after 200 kilometres. It was sprinting to my limit.”

Van der Poel was one of the leaders in the race. On the climbs he was able to put pressure on his opponents several times. “The cobblestone climbs suit me very well. They’re also from the saddle, but Asgreen was able to follow my moves every time. So we quickly realized that we were going to need each other.”

“Asgreen is certainly the deserved winner. He made a point of riding to the finish together. That says enough. He felt good. In the sprint I could turn it on for five seconds, then it was just on. He is someone who have a go and who dares to ride to the finish, I like that.”

Wout van Aert was with Van der Poel and Asgreen but an attack from Van der Poel saw Van Aert dropped and he had to settle for for sixth place in the Tour of Flanders.
“I had hoped for a better feeling because this was my main goal, but it was no longer possible. The second time up Kwaremont I already felt that I had no extra left” said Van Aert. “I just wasn’t good enough in the end. I kept on fighting, but in the finale it was finished. I thought: let it be over as soon as possible, because I was no longer good enough. De Paterberg was even too much (he zigzaged it). “After that I tried to stay out of in front the next group, but I couldn’t anymore. Am I disappointed? Yes and no. I had hoped for a better feeling. This was the main goal of my spring. I just need to recover from this.”

Greg Van Avermaet 3rd “This was certainly the highest achievable,” says Van Avermaet. “I was not among the better riders, certainly not among the best three,” said the Olympic champion. “I knew from experience that I had to stay in the chasing group and that I could compete for the podium. In the last three kilometres I attacked at the perfect moment with Jasper Stuyven from that group. I am therefore very pleased that I am still on the podium in the Ronde.”

“I didn’t have the punch to follow the front men” Van Avermaet speaks of a difficult and long final. “It was a fast pace from the Molenberg and certainly not easy. I was good in the chase, but I didn’t have the punch to follow the big men at those moments ”.

The fact that he beats the on paper faster Stuyven in the sprint for third place, shows the tough course. “You feel that everyone is a little less at the end. At those times you are never really sure about your sprint. With a little energy you win the sprint and I felt that I had something to spare to beat Jasper ”, says Van Avermaet. “I am happy to be able to stand here. I can build on this for the following competitions. ”

Peter Sagan: On the bergs in the final, the Slovakian leader of BORA-hansgrohe had to drop away from the battle to win. “My current form was not good enough to respond to the decisive attacks,” said Sagan. “The Tour of Flanders was very difficult and fast, as I expected,” says the three-time world champion, who recently won a stage in the Tour of Catalonia. “I want to thank my teammates for their work, but unfortunately I was unable to follow the attacks in the final. I have to keep working to reach the level I had before my corona infection.”

Jasper Stuyven: “My feelings were on and off today, but I am happy that I kept fighting.” In the final 50 kilometers, Jasper Stuyven did not have the legs to follow the attacks on the steep cobbled climbs in Ronde de Vlaanderen, but he never gave in. Often on the back-foot and chasing back to the leaders, he used his savviness to get back into podium contention when all looked lost after the Kruisberg – the moment the race-winning move happened, and the chasing group he was with, fell over 30 seconds behind.

“I had to ride smart today. In the finale, I also had to ride smart, but the strongest were upfront. In my opinion, there was a group of 5 who were alternating who was better on which climb. We had good group behind; we kept it rolling. For some climbs, I was feeling really good, but I was struggling a bit with the steep ones today. My feelings were on and off, but I am happy that I kept fighting,” said Stuyven.

“I didn’t react immediately and then thought, okay, let’s go. I mean, I felt it was going to be super hard, and also, when he took over from me, I could feel there was a difference in power,” explained Stuyven. “In the sprint, I tried, but it was pretty clear that I didn’t have the legs anymore for third.”

“I think it’s nice to get a 4th place in the end,” added Stuyven. “In Flanders, it’s my best result, and it’s not so bad to get 1st and 4th in the first two Monuments of the season. I have to be happy; of course, I wish that I would have finished it with a podium, but that’s how it is.”

Dylan van Baarle: “I didn’t have the best day. I could feel it a little in the beginning, fighting for position was a bit hard, and I was too far back the second time up the Kwaremont. Then a crash happened in front of me and from then on I was chasing all the time. I came back a few times but never really recovered from it and if you don’t have the best legs then you try to follow and wait for your moment. It didn’t happen today.”

“Van Avermaet and Stuyven went and nobody reacted, Van Aert went, everyone went with him and I thought OK, this is my moment. I went but Van Aert closed it straight away again. That would have been the moment to try and catch Van Avermaet and Stuyven. It’s another chance gone. I know I can be better and that’s a bit frustrating but for the feeling I had today I gave 100%.”

“But in the next few weeks I can look back and know I got a win on Wednesday, I got four top 10s – it wasn’t so bad. But as an athlete you always want to have more, want to have better. There are a few things I can now look back on and say that went right, that went wrong, and I can take those with me through to next year.”

Michael Matthews: “Everything seemed to be going to plan up until the second run-in to the Kwaremont. With about 10km before there was a crash on the left side which I was involved in, then we had to chase to get back and then we caught another crash basically at the bottom of the Kwaremont.

I had super good legs which is really disappointing, I kept coming back all the time but second time up the Kwaremont, if you’re not at the front with the front guys it is a difficult race from there.

I just kept trying to fight and get my way back into the race but in the end, I ended up in the third group, so I am definitely disappointed with the legs that I had today. I think the result should have been much better.”

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