A fast and chaotic edition of the midweek race raised big question marks ahead of the Tour of Flanders as Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Julian Alaphilippe – plus much of the world champion’s Deceuninck-QuickStep team – looked well off the pace.
Van Baarle, however, who had a strong showing at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, rode his way into the bracket of favourites for Sunday, holding off a string of chasing groups for more than an hour.
Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) was the last survivor of that chase, sprinting to second place at 25 seconds, while Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) was third as the main bunch caught up in the final kilometre.
“To win a semi-classic is super special. It’s really important. Last year was a difficult year with everything that happened, but now we are on the good way,” said Van Baarle.
“We’re approaching the Classics a bit differently this year – much more attacking. It’s nice to race like this. I’m happy I could finish it off.”
Van Baarle made his move on the Berg Ten Houte, the eighth of 13 short climbs on the menu in the Flemish Ardennes. At that point, after a fast start run off at nearly 50km/h, the race had just exploded on the Taaienberg.
Van der Poel was in the main group of 25 as the peloton split over the top, but Deceuninck-QuickStep were notable by their absence. Florian Sénéchal was their only representative as Alaphilippe and E3 winner Kasper Asgreen were well back, and Davide Ballerini fell away completely.
Van Baarle emerged in a lead group of seven and decided to attack them on the Ten Houte with 52km to go. There looked to be plenty of firepower in the groups behind, but he was never seen again.
The Dutchman was able to establish his advantage during a period of flux in the groups behind. However, it looked like the tables were about to turn when the race exploded again on the Knoketeberg with 36km to go. There, the chase was concentrated into a strong group of eight: Laporte, Sénéchal, Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën), Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka Assos), Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange), and Rui Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates).
Van der Poel, meanwhile, completely fell away on the climb. He was caught and passed by Alaphilippe, who made a stinging attack of his own to try to recover the situation, but both riders had to settle into the larger main bunch.
From there, Van Baarle steadily pressed on and maintained a largely stable 30-second advantage over the eight chasers. Van Avermaet did the forcing on the Vossenhol, while Stuyven gave it a nudge on the Holstraat, but the pace would dip between the accelerations. Still, it was hardly a mess of a chase, making Van Baarle’s performance all the more impressive.
Van der Poel did the lion’s share of the work in trying to bring the main bunch back, and almost ground to a halt when the job was done. By that point, however, they’d only reached the chasing eight, and Van Baarle was already savouring his first major one-day win.
How it unfolded
There were blue skies and warm conditions in Roeselare, with most of the riders in shorts and short sleeves. With 184 kilometres ahead of them, they were ready to race from the gun, and the opening hour saw them cover an eye-watering 50km.
A short neutralisation for a truck that had entered the course slowed their progress a little, but they hit the first climbs after 70km with no breakaway allowed to go clear. There were attempts on the Kluisberg and Nieuwe Kwaremont but it was only after that opening duo, with 85km to go, that a group went clear.
Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) sparked it, and was joined by Jelle Wallays (Cofidis) and Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal), although the latter was dropped on the first ascent of the Knoketeberg. Hayter and Wallays only took 30 seconds over the Kortekeer, after which Elia Viviani (Cofidis)) crashed out of contention.
With 60km to go, Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) started drilling it, leading down the Stationsberg descent and into the foot of the Taainberg. Up front, Van Avermaet and Laporte pressed on, while Asgreen and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) were caught at the back, while Ballerini seemed to explode completely. The bunch split into two groups of 25 over the top, with Alaphilippe and Asgreen both caught behind.
On the flat, Van Baarle went clear with Hayter, Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Stan Dewulf (AG2R Citroen), Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), and Bram Welten (Arkéa-Samsic). They barely had time to settle into their rhythm when Van Baarle decided to leave them behind on Berg Ten Houte.
Various attacks followed behind before things came back together in a group of 25. Van der Poel was there but Alaphilippe and Asgreen were still in the next group on the road and seemingly out of the picture.
Durbridge, Rui Oliveira, and Campenaerts attacked from the group and stayed away until the Knoketeberg with 36km to go. That’s where the action happened, as Van Avermaet’s forcing closed the gap and created the selection of nine behind Van Baarle, while Van der Poel fell away and Alaphilippe surged forward.
The world champion joined forces with Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates) and the AG2R duo of Oliver Naesen and Michael Schär, but they soon had to settle back into the bunch, where Alpecin changed tack and looked to set up a sprint for Merlier, with Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) in there also.
By the Vossenhol, the third last climb with 22km to go, Van Baarle led the chasers by 30 seconds. The remnants of the earlier 25-man group were chasing 25 seconds further back as an 11, while the main bunch was another 25 seconds back. Van Avermaet accelerated again on the Vossenhol, with Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) dropped to leave eight, but Barguil’s calls for collaboration suggested things were uncoordinated. Campenaerts in particular looked reluctant to contribute, perhaps pointing to the presence of sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo in the group behind.
The penultimate climb of Holstraat soon followed, where Stuyven launched an attack, but failed to split the group. Durbridge was the next to go but the group kept coming back together, and Van Baarle’s lead kept nudging back out to 30 seconds.
With 14km to go, Politt and Ivan Garcia Cortina (Movistar) attacked from the third group on the road but didn’t stay out much longer as Alpecin-Fenix brought the main bunch back.
The final climb was the Knokereberg with 11km to go, and Van Avermaet attacked again, but as ever, the others responded comfortably enough. As they entered the final 5km, with the gap still 30 seconds to Van Baarle, any remaining urgency drained from the chase and the bunch was upon them under the flamme rouge.
There were a couple of last-ditch attacks, with Laporte successfully taking a gap into the home straight to claim second, but Merlier came through to lead the bunch home.
Meanwhile, Van Baarle was already soaking it up and no doubt looking forward to Sunday with renewed confidence.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers||3:58:59|
|2||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis||0:00:26|
|3||Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|4||Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|5||Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|6||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|7||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|8||Anthony Turgis (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|9||Florian Senechal (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|10||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|11||Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|12||Boy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|13||Luke Durbridge (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|14||Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|15||Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|16||Jordi Warlop (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|17||Arjen Livyns (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|18||Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious|
|19||Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|20||Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|21||Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|22||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|23||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team DSM|
|24||Ryan Gibbons (RSA) UAE Team Emirates|
|25||Owain Doull (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|26||Rui Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates|
|27||Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar Team|
|28||Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|29||Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|30||Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|31||Bram Welten (Ned) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|32||Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Total Direct Energie|
|33||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|34||Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|35||Luis Mas Bonet (Spa) Movistar Team|
|36||Stan Dewulf (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|37||Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|38||Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|39||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|40||Cyril Barthe (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|41||Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|42||Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|43||Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|44||Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious|
|45||Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-Nippo|
|46||Michael Schär (Swi) AG2R Citroën Team|
|47||Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|48||Danny van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|49||Jelle Wallays (Bel) Cofidis|
|50||Anthony Jullien (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|51||Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic||0:00:39|
|52||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Total Direct Energie||0:00:46|
|53||Cyril Lemoine (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM||0:00:47|
|54||Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos||0:00:54|
|55||Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Cofidis|
|56||Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:01:09|
|57||Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||0:01:12|
|58||Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix||0:01:41|
|59||Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||0:01:58|
|60||Damien Gaudin (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|61||Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) Team BikeExchange||0:02:00|
|62||Silvan Dillier (Swi) Alpecin-Fenix||0:04:28|
|63||Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|64||Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation||0:05:45|
|65||Juri Hollmann (Ger) Movistar Team|
|66||Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation|
|67||Ruben Apers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||0:08:14|
|68||Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Bahrain Victorious|
|69||Lawrence Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|70||Rudy Barbier (Fra) Israel Start-up Nation|
|71||Yevgeniy Fedorov (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|72||Yevgeniy Gidich (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|73||Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious|
|74||Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama-FDJ|
|75||Clément Russo (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|76||Patrick Gamper (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|77||Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Israel Start-up Nation|
|78||Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Team DSM|
|79||Niklas Märkl (Ger) Team DSM|
|80||Mathias Norsgaard (Den) Movistar Team|
|81||Connor Swift (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|82||Timothy Dupont (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|83||Luc Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal WB|
|84||Sébastien Grignard (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|85||Roger Kluge (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|86||Hugo Houle (Can) Astana-Premier Tech|
|87||Jack Bauer (NZl) Team BikeExchange|
|88||Tom Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal WB|
|89||Jonathan Milan (Ita) Bahrain Victorious|
|90||Christoph Pfingsten (Ger) Jumbo-Visma|
|91||Gonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Movistar Team|
|92||Jérémy Lecroq (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|93||Emil Vinjebo (Den) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|94||Michal Golas (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers|
|95||Florian Maitre (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|96||André Carvalho (Por) Cofidis|
|97||Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|98||Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|99||Frederik Backaert (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|100||Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|101||Leonardo Basso (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers|
|102||Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|103||Alex Edmondson (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|104||Maarten Wynants (Bel) Jumbo-Visma|
|105||Bert De Backer (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|106||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|107||Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team|
|108||Lasse Norman Hansen (Den) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|109||Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo|
|110||Stijn Steels (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|111||Wesley Kreder (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|112||Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|113||Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain Victorious|
|114||Cameron Wurf (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers|
|115||Jos van Emden (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|116||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|117||Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|118||Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education-Nippo|
|119||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) EF Education-Nippo|
|120||Stefan Bissegger (Swi) EF Education-Nippo|
|121||Marco Haller (Aut) Bahrain Victorious|
|122||Otto Vergaerde (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|123||Kenny De Ketele (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNS||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNS||Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education-Nippo|
|DNS||Jonas Rutsch (Ger) EF Education-Nippo|
|DNF||Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Davide Ballerini (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|DNF||Ivo Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Ryan Mullen (Irl) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Quinn Simmons (USA) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Andreas Nielsen (Den) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|DNF||Nils Eekhoff (Ned) Team DSM|
|DNF||Alberto Dainese (Ita) Team DSM|
|DNF||Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team DSM|
|DNF||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Team DSM|
|DNF||Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team BikeExchange|
|DNF||Barnabás Peák (Hun) Team BikeExchange|
|DNF||Alexander Konychev (Ita) Team BikeExchange|
|DNF||Johan Jacobs (Swi) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Frederik Frison (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Edoardo Affini (Ita) Jumbo-Visma|
|DNF||David Dekker (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|DNF||Olav Kooij (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|DNF||Alexis Renard (Fra) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNF||Norman Vahtra (Est) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNF||Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNF||Ludwig De Winter (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education-Nippo|
|DNF||Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis|
|DNF||Tom Bohli (Swi) Cofidis|
|DNF||Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis|
|DNF||Jordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Nikita Stalnov (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Artyom Zakharov (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Benjamin Perry (Can) Astana-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|DNF||Christophe Noppe (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Benjamin Declercq (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Daniel McLay (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Adrien Petit (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|DNF||Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|DNF||Jens Debusschere (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|DNF||Milan Menten (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|DNF||Laurenz Rex (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|DNF||Ludovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|DNF||Jens Reynders (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Aaron Van Poucke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Ward Vanhoof (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
As Features Editor, Patrick is responsible for Cyclingnews' long-form and in-depth output. Patrick joined Cyclingnews in 2015 as a staff writer after a work experience stint that included making tea and being sent to the Tour de Langkawi. Prior to that, he studied French and Spanish at university and went on to train as a journalist. Rides his bike to work but more comfortable on a football pitch.
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