No-one followed the Belgian when he accelerated out from a select group of favourites just prior to the final climb, the Bosberg. He crested that climb with a lead of about 10 seconds, he managed to solo to the finish and take victory on what was his first day of racing this season.
Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Victorious) won the sprint for second-place from a group of about 20 riders, with Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r Citroen) finishing behind in third.
Van Aert was greeted by a road from the Flemish fans upon arriving at the finish, who were celebrating the first victory at Het Nieuwsblad by a rider in the colours of the Belgian national champion’s jersey in 33 years.
Van Aert finished off what was a dominant performance from Jumbo-Visma. Teammate Tiesj Benoot led the group over the top of the Muur-Kapelmuur, having earlier attacked out of a strong lead group which Van Aert was also part of, along with, among others, other pre-race favourites Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Victorious), Stefan Kung (Groupama-DSJ), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal) Tom Pidcock.
Then, when Benoot was caught on the descent of that climb, Van Aert was still on hand to make his race-winning move shortly after.
Their performance contrasted sharply with QuickStep-AlphaVinyl, who were uncharacteristically missing from all of the key moves that were made throughout the race.
Even when the decisive selection was made on the Muur-Kapelmuur, few of their riders were present, with Bahrain-Victorious and Groupama-FDJ instead being better represented, and taking it upon themselves to chase when Van Aert attacked.
There was nothing they could do to stop the Belgian, however, who starts the spring looking in ominously good form.
Ride of the day came from Victor Campanaerts (Lotto-Soudal), who’s race appeared destined to come to a premature end when he crashed and was forced to have a bike change earlier in the race.Yet he persevered, and had the strength to not only make the final selection, but even sprint to finish fifth at the finish.
How it unfolded
Conditions were dry for the first Flemish classic of the weekend, sparing the riders the added trouble of wet cobblestones, but the relentless frequency of the climbs still made for a rude awakening for everyone getting back into the rhythm of classics racing.
In anticipation of the challenges to come, the peloton took it relatively easy for the first phase of the race, allowing a seven-rider break to get a maximum lead of over eight minutes.
In that breakaway group were Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Quentin Jauregui (B&B Hotels-KTM), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic) and Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X).
Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) attempted to join them, but couldn't quite bridge the gap, and consequently spent around two hours in no-man’s land between the ever-increasing gap between the leaders and the peloton.
Only when Paasschens was eventually caught around 115km from the finish did the gap begin to plummet, as the peloton upped the pace in anticipation of the business end of the race.
The onset of the climbs, beginning with the Kattenberg, prompted multiple small digs out of the front of the peloton, although nobody managed to go clear until Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers) on the approach to the Valeknberg, around 70km from the finish.
Sheffield was brought back a few kilometres later, by a peloton that remained intact despite an acceleration from former Het Nieuwsblad winner Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal) on the Valkenberg.
Tensions increased as Jumbo-Visma led the peloton into the Holleweg section of cobblestones, and a crash on the cobbles saw several riders go down, including Victor Campanaerts (Lotto-Soudal) and Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates).
On the next climb, the Wolvenberg, Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal) and Loic Vliegen (Intermarche-WantyGobert Materiaux) countered an attack by John Degenkolb (DSM), and the pair opened up a significant gap on the peloton.
A few riders in the bunch tried to attack and join them, but only Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) managed to do so successfully, and joined Vermeersch and Vliegen on the cobbled Kerkgate sector, 50km from the finish.
By now the original break had broken into several smaller groups, and Vermeersch, Vliegen and Kung were catching the stragglers. At 45km from the finish, they caught up with what remained of the original break to form a new nine-man group at the head of the race.
QuickStep-AlphaVinyl had uncharacteristically missed out on the move, and joined Jumbo-Visma in leading the chase in the peloton, which was over 30 seconds adrift of the leaders.
The peloton remained very large at this point, and in the cramped roads Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) was involved in a crash, appearing to break his collarbone. Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) was also briefly out the back shortly after when he had a mechanical.
With the gap now at 50 seconds, Jumbo-Visma’s Nathan van Hooydonck took action with an attack on the Leberg, but couldn’t instigate an attack and the bunch remained together.
But the team had more success on the next climb, Berendries, as an acceleration from Tiesj Benoot saw himself, teammate Wout van Aert, and the Ineos Grenadiers duo of Tom Pidcock and Jhonatan Narvaez, all go clear.
They were joined by Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Victorious), and together, with 26km still to ride, these five riders caught the six riders that remained ahead of them: Kung, Vermeersch, Vliegen, Healy, Hollmann and Hulgaard.
Surprisingly, QuickStep-AlphaVinyl had again missed to move, and so it was up to them to lead the chase in the peloton, which was now 30 seconds adrift. However, despite using the big engines of Yves Lampaert and Kasper Asgreen, and being helped by UAE Team Emirates and Trek-Segafredo, they were unable to make any inroads.
With the crucial Muur-Kapelmuur approaching, Benoot attacked at the front of the race 20km from the finish, shattering the cohesion of a group that were reluctant to give Benoot’s teammate Van Aert a free ride.
They were promptly caught at the foot of the Muur, leaving just Benoot out in front with a lead of just under 30 seconds with what was a very large peloton in pursuit.
Benoot saw his lead evaporate on the climb, as Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious) led the peloton over the top with many of those from the previous breakaway, including Van Aert, Trentin and Colbrelli, nearby.
Benoot was caught on the descent after, where the race came back together with over 20 riders still together.
Attacks in these circumstances were inevitable, with Oliver Naesen (Ag2r Citroen) among those to have a go.
But the big move happened just prior to the Bosberg, 13km from the finish, when race favourite Van Aert accelerated.
Van Aert extended his lead on the Bosberg to about ten seconds, and by now was fully committed. But despite his strength, he still had a big task on his hand holding off what was a very strong, and still very big (approximately 20 riders), group.
Despite the best efforts of the chasing group, who worked together relatively cohesively, Van Aert’s lead grew, and with 7km had reached 20 seconds.
Bahrain-Victorious’ Mohoric and Colbrelli and Groupama-FDJ were doing the lion’s share of the chasing, and so some of the impetus went out when Kung had a flat tyre.
A grimace on the Belgian’s face illustrated just how deep he was going, and by the time his advantage was up to 30 seconds with just a few kilometres to ride, victory was inevitable.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma||4:50:46|
|2||Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious||0:00:22|
|3||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team|
|4||Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team|
|5||Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|6||Rasmus Tiller (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|7||Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|8||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|9||Florian Senechal (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|10||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|11||Simon Clarke (Aus) Israel-Premier Tech||0:00:25|
|12||Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|13||Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Movistar Team|
|14||Matis Louvel (Fra) Arkea-Samsic|
|15||Alex Kirsch (Lux) Trek-Segafredo|
|16||Owain Doull (GBr) EF Education-EasyPost|
|17||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious|
|18||Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:27|
|19||Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ||0:00:32|
|20||Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain Victorious||0:00:42|
|21||Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:01:20|
|22||Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious||0:01:30|
|23||Amaury Capiot (Bel) Arkea-Samsic|
|24||Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|25||Dries Van Gestel (Bel) TotalEnergies|
|26||Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|27||Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|28||Fredrik Dversnes (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|29||Arjen Livyns (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|30||Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar Team|
|31||Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|32||Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|33||Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel-Premier Tech|
|34||Jhonatan Narvaez Prado (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers|
|35||Connor Swift (GBr) Arkea-Samsic|
|36||Jordi Warlop (Bel) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|37||Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Israel-Premier Tech|
|38||Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|39||Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|40||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|41||Bryan Coquard (Fra) Cofidis|
|42||Anders Skaarseth (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|43||John Degenkolb (Ger) Team DSM|
|44||Laurenz Rex (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|45||Stan Dewulf (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team|
|46||Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|47||Jonas Koch (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|48||Kévin Vauquelin (Fra) Arkea-Samsic|
|49||Ben Swift (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|50||Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo|
|51||Loïc Vliegen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|52||Damien Touze (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team|
|53||Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis|
|54||Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|55||Daniel Oss (Ita) TotalEnergies|
|56||Jonas Abrahamsen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|57||Jonas Iversby Hvideberg (Nor) Team DSM|
|58||Michael Gogl (Aut) Alpecin-Fenix|
|59||Ben Turner (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|60||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|61||Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|62||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|63||Oier Lazkano Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team|
|64||Rui Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates|
|65||Ward Vanhoof (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|66||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Jumbo-Visma|
|67||Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|68||Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) Jumbo-Visma|
|69||Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|70||Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel-Premier Tech|
|71||Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|72||Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|73||Hugo Houle (Can) Israel-Premier Tech|
|74||Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Bahrain Victorious|
|75||Ben Healy (Irl) EF Education-EasyPost|
|76||Kasper Asgreen (Den) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|77||Daniel McLay (GBr) Arkea-Samsic|
|78||Lewis Askey (GBr) Groupama-FDJ|
|79||Tom Bohli (Swi) Cofidis|
|80||Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|81||Kamil Gradek (Pol) Bahrain Victorious|
|82||Adrien Petit (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||0:02:16|
|83||Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||0:02:31|
|84||Sander De Pestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||0:05:04|
|85||Morten Hulgaard (Den) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|86||Juri Hollmann (Ger) Movistar Team|
|87||Erik Nordsaeter Resell (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|88||Louis Blouwe (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB||0:05:49|
|89||Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|90||Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|91||Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team|
|92||Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|93||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) EF Education-EasyPost|
|94||Senne Leysen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|95||Stanislaw Aniolkowski (Pol) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|96||Clément Russo (Fra) Arkea-Samsic|
|97||Otto Vergaerde (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|98||Peter Sagan (Svk) TotalEnergies|
|99||Jérémy Lecroq (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|100||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|101||Daan Hoole (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|102||Michael Schär (Swi) AG2R Citroen Team|
|103||Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team DSM|
|104||Lindsay De Vylder (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||0:08:33|
|105||Donavan Grondin (Fra) Arkea-Samsic|
|106||Timothy Dupont (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|107||Aaron Verwilst (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|108||Magnus Sheffield (USA) Ineos Grenadiers|
|109||Jan Maas (Ned) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|110||Ryan Gibbons (RSA) UAE Team Emirates|
|111||Luis Mas Bonet (Spa) Movistar Team|
|112||Dion Smith (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|113||Julien Morice (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|114||Jordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|115||Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|116||Ruben Apers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|117||Tobias Bayer (Aut) Alpecin-Fenix||0:11:56|
|118||Patrick Gamper (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|119||Arne Marit (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|120||Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Jumbo-Visma|
|121||Leonardo Basso (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|122||Gianni Moscon (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|123||Harry Sweeny (Aus) Lotto Soudal|
|124||Cyril Lemoine (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Christopher Lawless (GBr) TotalEnergies||0:11:56|
|DNF||Edoardo Affini (Ita) Jumbo-Visma||0:11:56|
|DNF||Marius Mayrhofer (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Lawson Craddock (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Leon Heinschke (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Edvald Boasson-Hagen (Nor) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Fernando Gaviria Rendon (Col) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Anthony Turgis (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Alexander Konychev (Ita) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Quentin Jauregui (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Iljo Keisse (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|DNF||Josef Cerny (Cze) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|DNF||Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Cyril Barthe (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Maurice Ballerstedt (Ger) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Tobias Halland Johannessen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Antoine Duchesne (Can) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|DNF||Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-EasyPost|
|DNF||Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Davide Martinelli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Michele Gazzoli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Yevgeniy Fedorov (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Marco Haller (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Markus Hoelgaard (Nor) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Ide Schelling (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Piet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis|
|DNF||Eddy Fine (Fra) Cofidis|
|DNF||Luke Durbridge (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis|
|DNF||Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education-EasyPost|
|DNF||Julius van den Berg (Ned) EF Education-EasyPost|
|DNF||Lawrence Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team|
|DNF||Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) EF Education-EasyPost|
|DNF||Mathijs Paasschens (Ned) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Ludovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Cameron Wurf (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers|
|DNF||Corbin Strong (NZl) Israel-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Johan Jacobs (Swi) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Szymon Sajnok (Pol) Cofidis|
|DNS||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNS||Nils Eekhoff (Ned) Team DSM|
|DNS||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Israel-Premier Tech|
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