When Kasper Asgreen suddenly stopped near the top of the Koppenberg, dismounted, and fiddled with his chain, it looked as if the defending champion’s title challenge - and QuickStep’s spring hopes as a whole - had gone up in smoke.
However, Asgreen refused to fall back on any such excuses.
The Koppenberg was the crucial Tour of Flanders race-ending moment but Asgreen revealed he had read the writing on the wall much earlier, when Tadej Pogačar made his first big attack on the Oude Kwaremont and Mathieu van der Poel later went with him.
Asgreen couldn’t follow the large group formed by the Tour de France champion and he immediately knew he wouldn’t be lifting the race winner’s trophy for a second time. Even though things came back together by the time they swung around to the Koppenberg, Pogačar lit it up again and Asgreen was in terminal trouble even before he was forced to a halt.
“My chain fell off,” he explained after finishing in the first big group, adding that it didn’t make any difference to his 23rd place finish.
“As far as I know, they went away on the Kwaremont and I would have not have been able to follow [on the Koppenberg]. I would have been in the group behind and we ended up coming back to that group anyway at 2km to go.”
Asgreen was QuickStep’s best finisher in what was another bruising encounter for the Belgian team this spring, blighted by illness, injury and below-par results.
The day had started out well, with Tim Declercq controlling the early breakaway before Zdenek Stybar and Jannik Steimle joined an early selection on the Berendries with 90km to go. However, once Pogačar decided to move, that was that.
“We rode a very good race as a team,” Asgreen insisted. “We were in control until quite far into the race. When the first moves went, we had Zdenek and Jannik up there which was perfect.
“And then yeah, on the Oude Kwaremont, I tried to follow Tadej but he was too strong. I just exploded.”
By the Koppenberg, the point was underlined.
“In the end he completely slaughtered me.”
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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