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Mathieu van der Poel beats Tiesj Benoot in two-up sprint at Dwars door Vlaanderen

Mathieu van der Poel of Alpecin-Fenix won Dwars door Vlaanderen after a select group of eight riders attacked each other in the final kilometres in a battle of race tactics and raw attacking power.

The Dutchman missed several late attacks but produced a final, decisive surge to join Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma) with 1.5km to go and then blew his Belgian rival off his wheel with a long sprint to the line.

Benoot took second, with Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) third and Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal). Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers) were also in the move that went away over the Berg Ten Houte and Kanarieberg climbs with 70km to race. Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Kelland O'Brien (BikeExchange-Jayco) were in the early break but managed to finish with the attackers but were unable to match Van der Poel in the final kilometre.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) missed the decisive attack, claiming he was slowed by a crash. He tried to chase with a solo attack but eventually eased up and drove along the chase group. They kept the gap to below a minute for the final 50km but were unable to catch the eight riders left out front.

Pogačar looked strong and comfortable on the rough, often cobbled roads of Flanders but surely learnt a valuable lesson about Classics racing before the Tour of Flanders.

Van der Poel sat on the road as he tried to recover from his huge effort, drinking water to try to calm a cough, but clearly happy to have won in his first Belgian race of the spring after only recently returning to action following his back problems.

"I went pretty deep. I felt good but for sure not the strongest in the leading group,” he admitted.

“I had to close the gap a few times and it really hurt, but I think I rode a perfect final. I already saw that Tiesj was really strong and he deserves to be second as well.

"We went away on Berg Ten Houte and the cooperation was really good. We were all really strong guys and it was almost impossible to catch us.”

Van der Poel’s second victory in four years at Dwars door Vlaanderen makes him an automatic favourite for the Tour of Flanders.

“That’s a different race, especially because of the distance,” he warned. “I was good today, but not great. I hope to have a good rest in the coming days. That will be necessary to follow the best on Sunday.”

How it unfolded

Dwars door Vlaanderen is the final race before the Tour of Flanders and while Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and few other contenders opted out to skip the race to rest up for Sunday, the presence of Van der Poel, Pogačar and Pidcock was always going to inspire an aggressive, hard fought race.

There were five non-starters as illness and injury continued to force teams to shuffle their rosters and lower their expectations. Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious), Jenthe Biermans, Guillaume Boivin (Israel-Premier Tech), Jordi Warlop (B&B Hotels-KTM), Søren Wærenskjold (Uno-X), all failed to start, leaving Israel-Premier Tech with just three riders in the race.

The 183km course is dotted with short Flemish climbs and cobbled sectors and the early break wisely used the flatter opening 50km to go clear and build a lead.

Johan Jacobs (Movistar), Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Kelland O'Brien (BikeExchange-Jayco), Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal-Pauwels Sauces-WB), Aaron Verwilst (Sport Flanders-Baloise) jumped away after a fast opening 30 kilometres. The peloton soon let them gain 5:00 before Alpecin-Fenix, Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux and AG2R Citroën lead the chase.

Alpecin-Fenix clearly wanted a hard race for Van der Poel and to expose their rivals. They upped the pace in the peloton with 90km to go, inspiring others to join in.

A crash in the peloton raised the tension even further with Michael Gogl (Alpecin-Fenix), Alexys Brunel (UAE Team Emirates), Mick van Dijke (Jumbo-Visma), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal) all caught up. Later Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Alexander Edmondson (BikeExchange-Jayco), Oliver Naesen (AG2R Citroën), and Frederik Frison (Lotto Soudal) also crashed hard due to the speed and dangers of the narrow, twisting, often concrete roads of Flanders.

On the short but steep Berg Ten Houte climb with 70km to race, Turner and Pidcock combined to blow apart the peloton and force a selection. They clearly wanted to take control of the race rather than suffer the other team’s attacks.

Such was their speed and determination over the climb and the subsequent Kanarieberg, a select group got away and immediately began to work together. In the quality selection were Van der Poel, Turner, Pidcock), Benoot, Küng and  Campenaerts. Nobody shirked away from working on the front and they soon opened a 20-second gap on the peloton and began to close down the early attack

Pogačar was caught a few places back after being affected by a crash but suddenly set off in pursuit over the top of the Kanarieberg, sensing the attack of the day and the race was escaping him.

He managed to close the gap to just 10 seconds but even a Tour de France winner cannot always produce a Merckx-ian effort against eight strong and united riders. Pogačar was unable to get across to the move and was eventually convinced to ease up and wait for the chase group that had formed behind him.

He had two UAE Team Emirate teammates to help him and at least 30 other riders in the group. However the attackers extended their lead, sweeping up the early break with 48km to go after the Knokteberg climb.

The gap fell to just 25 seconds at one point but then the climbs and cobbled sectors allowed the attackers to impose their strength and expose the weaknesses of the chasers.

Pogačar tried several times to drag a small group clear with Tratnik and Madouas but only forced splits and convinced his rivals to sit on his wheel. His regret at missing the decisive move was stronger than his tactical sense.

Up front several riders from the early break were distanced but Politt and O'Brien managed to hang on, earning the right to sit on and hope for a result.

The eight riders still led by 40 seconds with 20km to race and that marked the start of the attacks for victory.

Van der Poel surged away on the Nokereberg but Turner chased him down, doing everything he could to favour Pidcock. Other attacks were exchanged but were chased down and the eight rode over the final Holstraat all together.

With just eight kilometres to go Campenaerts tucked into his sero position yet again and tried to skuttle clear, turning an 58-tooth chainring on a slight descent. He opened a gap on the rest and tried to time trial to the finish, forcing the other to go deep in pursuit.

Even Van der Poel seemed on the edge of defeat but then suddenly Benoot jumped across the gap, with Pidcock on his wheel. The race was suddenly wide open again, with nobody holding back. Benoot and Pidcock joined Campenaerts with five kilometres to go and then even Van der Poel joined them, with the rest in his slipstream.

Campenaerts made another try and Benoot went with him. Again Van der Poel and Pidcock closed, the Briton using his cornering skills to pull back precious metres.

With just 1.5km to go Benoot went solo again, knowing he had little chance in a sprint finish. He was strong and brave but not enough to distance Van der Peol, who was wise enough to share the work to ensure they reached the finishing straight alone.

From there Van der Poel knew what to do and started his sprint early and even distanced Benoot, who could only sit up, accept second and think about how close he was to victory. However the win went to Van der Poel, who confirmed he is back to his aggressive best and showing he is ready for Sunday’s Tour of Flanders showdown.

Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix 4:05:39
2Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Jumbo-Visma 0:00:01
3Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:05
4Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
5Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
6Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
7Kelland O’Brien (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
8Ben Turner (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:12
9Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain Victorious 0:02:08
10Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
11Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
12Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:03:48
13Amaury Capiot (Bel) Arkea-Samsic
14Jannik Steimle (Ger) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
15Magnus Sheffield (USA) Ineos Grenadiers
16Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team
17Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team DSM
18Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
19Matis Louvel (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
20Alexis Gougeard (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
21Niki Terpstra (Ned) TotalEnergies
22Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
23Bryan Coquard (Fra) Cofidis
24Johan Jacobs (Swi) Movistar Team
25Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain Victorious 0:04:09
26Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
27Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
28Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
29Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:04:12
30Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
31Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
32Piet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis
33Danny van Poppel (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe
34Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar Team
35Clément Russo (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
36Luka Mezgec (Slo) BikeExchange-Jayco
37Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
38John Degenkolb (Ger) Team DSM
39Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis
40Lewis Askey (GBr) Groupama-FDJ
41Victor Koretzky (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
42Hugo Houle (Can) Israel-Premier Tech
43Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
44Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels-KTM
45Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Bahrain Victorious
46Stan Dewulf (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team
47Arjen Livyns (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
48Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Team DSM
49Ward Vanhoof (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
50Jonas Rutsch (Ger) EF Education-EasyPost
51Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal
52Edvald Boasson-Hagen (Nor) TotalEnergies
53Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
54Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
55Wesley Kreder (Ned) Cofidis
56Connor Swift (GBr) Arkea-Samsic
57Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
58Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
59Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bahrain Victorious
60Filip Maciejuk (Pol) Bahrain Victorious
61Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
62André Carvalho (Por) Cofidis
63Jonas Koch (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
64Luke Durbridge (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
65Daniel Oss (Ita) TotalEnergies
66Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
67Kévin Geniets (Lux) Groupama-FDJ
68Otto Vergaerde (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
69Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
70Bob Jungels (Lux) AG2R Citroen Team
71Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers
72Anthony Turgis (Fra) TotalEnergies
73Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-EasyPost
74Aaron Verwilst (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:05:05
75Julius Johansen (Den) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:05:09
76Mathijs Paasschens (Ned) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
77Cedric Beullens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:05:21
78Jens Reynders (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:08:43
79Erik Nordsaeter Resell (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
80Mathias Norsgaard (Den) Movistar Team
81Artyom Zakharov (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan Team
82Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
83Markus Pajur (Est) Arkea-Samsic
84Yevgeniy Fedorov (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan Team
85Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Movistar Team
86Christophe Noppe (Bel) Arkea-Samsic
87Rui Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates
88Julien Morice (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
89Tim Declercq (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
90Marijn van den Berg (Ned) EF Education-EasyPost
91Ryan Mullen (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe
92Stijn Steels (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
93Kevin Vermaerke (USA) Team DSM
94Alexys Brunel (Fra) UAE Team Emirates
95Daan Hoole (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
96Anders Skaarseth (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
97Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education-EasyPost
98Ben Swift (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
99Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal
100Olav Kooij (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
101Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Israel-Premier Tech
102Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education-EasyPost
103Alberto Dainese (Ita) Team DSM
104Elia Viviani (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers
105Mick van Dijke (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
106Timo Roosen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
107Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) BikeExchange-Jayco
108Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious
DNFFabio Jakobsen (Ned) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
DNFJens Debusschere (Bel) B&B Hotels-KTM
DNFGijs Van Hoecke (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team
DNFJérémy Lecroq (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
DNFDavid Dekker (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
DNFAlex Colman (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFGilles De Wilde (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFAntoine Raugel (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team
DNFLudovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
DNFKim Heiduk (Ger) Ineos Grenadiers
DNFMartin Urianstad (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNFTord Gudmestad (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNFMikkel Bjerg (Den) UAE Team Emirates
DNFOliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
DNFKristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNFStanislaw Aniolkowski (Pol) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
DNFAttilio Viviani (Ita) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
DNFLawrence Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team
DNFLaurenz Rex (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
DNFJulien Vermote (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
DNFTimothy Dupont (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
DNFDries Van Gestel (Bel) TotalEnergies
DNFAaron Van Poucke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFMilan Fretin (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFOliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team
DNFWilliam Levy (Den) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNFKevin Van Melsen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
DNFImanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team
DNFMichael Gogl (Aut) Alpecin-Fenix
DNFDavide Martinelli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFIñigo Elosegui Momeñe (Spa) Movistar Team
DNFTaj Jones (Aus) Israel-Premier Tech
DNFGeoffrey Soupe (Fra) TotalEnergies
DNFMarco Haller (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFLeonardo Basso (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFTaco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
DNFLukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFAdrien Petit (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
DNFTobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ
DNFStefan Bissegger (Swi) EF Education-EasyPost
DNFJelle Wallays (Bel) Cofidis
DNFSam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFAlexander Konychev (Ita) BikeExchange-Jayco
DNFAlberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education-EasyPost
DNFNiklas Märkl (Ger) Team DSM
DNFAlex Kirsch (Lux) Trek-Segafredo
DNFQuinn Simmons (USA) Trek-Segafredo
DNFMichele Gazzoli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFTobias Bayer (Aut) Alpecin-Fenix
DNFCees Bol (Ned) Team DSM
DNFMaciej Bodnar (Pol) TotalEnergies
DNFToms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
DNFArnaud De Lie (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFCampbell Stewart (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco
DNFFrederik Frison (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFAlex Edmondson (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
DNFGianni Moscon (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFMax Kanter (Ger) Movistar Team
DNSSøren Wærenskjold (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNSJenthe Biermans (Bel) Israel-Premier Tech
DNSJonathan Milan (Ita) Bahrain Victorious
DNSGuillaume Boivin (Can) Israel-Premier Tech
DNSJordi Warlop (Bel) B&B Hotels-KTM

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.

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