Tour of Flanders: Kasper Asgreen takes upset victory over Van der Poel

Kasper Asgreen (Elegant-QuickStep) took a sensational win in the Tour of Flanders to beat defending champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) in a two-man sprint. 

The pair were the strongest riders in the race and dropped their remaining opponents on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont before setting up a sprint finish.

Asgreen was expected to attack in the closing stages, with Van der Poel the favourite for the sprint, but even though the Dutch rider started a long sprint he was forced to sit up with 50m to go as Asgreen took the biggest win of his career.

Greg van Avermaet won the sprint for third.

"I felt good in the last kilometres still so I decided to try and trust my sprint. Going into the last kilometre I got Mathieu on the front and I heard we still had more than 30 seconds so I decided to stay in the wheel, so I could decide when to go. It was a really hard race. We were both on the limit. It was a question of the margins at the end," said Asgreen.

"It was the plan to start to jumping after second time Kwaremont and we did. We rode a perfect race all day. The guys were incredible - a huge thanks to them. A huge thanks to Tom [Steels] and Wilfried [Peeters] in the car. They prepared this race so well and we know every single metre of the course. It's just an incredible team to be a part of."

Van der Poel and Asgreen went clear with 27km to go in the race when the Dane attacked at the top of the Kruisberg. They were joined by Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) with the trio establishing a 20-second lead over a group that contained Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep), Marco Haller (Bahrain Victorious) and Anthony Turgis (Total Direct Energie). 

The three leaders went into the penultimate climb of the Oude Kwaremont with their advantage intact but, as the road rose up, Van der Poel stamped on the pedals. Van Aert was immediately dropped, while Asgreen had to close the gap on the short descent. The pair climbed the final climb of the Paterberg side by side, while Van Aert was eventually caught by the chase group 10km from the finish.

In the run-in to the line, Asgreen and Van der Poel traded turns while the chase group fractured several times as riders attacked each other.

Van Avermaet and Jasper Stuyven jumped clear in the final stages with the Olympic road champion taking his fourth podium place but it was Asgreen who claimed the spoils and became Denmark’s first Flanders winner since Rolf Sorensen in 1997.

The Elegant-QuickStep rider was in every major move in the race and attacked several times alongside Van der Poel before a major break of six formed on the Taaienberg. Julian Alaphilippe attacked from that move on the Kruisberg and neatly set up Asgreen, who was quickly joined by Van Aert and Van der Poel. Despite going up against last year’s top two finishers the Dane kept his cool and claimed a memorable victory.

How it unfolded

The early break formed after just a handful of kilometers with a group of five merging with another two riders to create a move that included Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo), Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), Jelle Wallays (Cofidis), Fabio Van Den Bossche (Sport Vlaanderen Baloise), Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal WB), Hugo Houle (Astana-Premier Tech), and Nico Denz (Team DSM). The leading seven established a healthy advantage almost immediately but there was an altercation back in the peloton as tempers flared.

Yevgeniy Fedorov (Astana-Premier Tech) launched a tentative attack with 240km to go but the Astana rider was quickly marked by Otto Vergaerde (Alpecin Fenix). Fedorov had no patience for being followed and jumped on his brakes with the Alpecin rider glued to his wheel. Vergaerde’s reaction was to ride alongside Fedorov and shoulder barge him, and while neither rider came down in the incident, the UCI officials took swift action and expelled both riders from the race. 

The breakaway, unaware of the ruckus that took place behind them, quickly built up a sizeable lead with the seven out front establishing an 11-minute lead by the time they took on the Kwaremont for the first time with around 140km to go.

Back in the bunch, UAE Team Emirates began to set the pace ahead of the first major climb before Jumbo-Visma and Bahrain Victorious took control on the Kortekeer with the gap to the break rapidly dropping below nine minutes. 

On the Eikenberg the gap was down to eight minutes with several riders including Nils Politt, Marco Haller, Michael Schar and Marcus Burghardt all experiencing mechanicals in quick succession while Tim Declercq moved to the front as he and his teammates began to take control over the top of the climb.

The Elegant-QuickStep team put the hammer down on the Molenberg with 101km to go but on the Berendries it was Kevin Geniets (Groupama-FDJ) who stormed clear and was quickly joined by Davide Ballerini (Elegant-QuickStep), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Total Direct Energie), Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Nathan van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma), Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers), Joris Nieuwenhuis (Team DSM), Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels), Boy van Poppel (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Oscar Riesebeek (Alpecin-Fenix) and Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën). This prompted a reaction from the peloton and within just a few kilometres the counter-attack was brought back.

Heading into the final 80km the breakaway held an advantage of 3:10 over the peloton. Søren Kragh Andersen (DSM) skipped clear on the Kanarieberg but Bora-Hansgrohe and Jumbo-Visma marked the move. With 66km to go a crash took down or held up Oliver Naesen, Michael Matthews, Alexander Kristoff, Kasper Asgreen and Julian Alaphilippe, with the incident causing a huge split in the field. Alpecin-Fenix lost two riders in the crash but there was a general regrouping before a frantic sprint into the base of the Oude Kwaremont. The pace and panic caused another fall just before the climb with Owain Doull and Nieuwenhuis among the fallers with the latter forced to abandon.

Heading onto the climb, the breakaway held a gap of 1:36 with Bissegger kicking clear of his fading companions. Stefen Küng took a fall on the Oude Kwaremont itself after colliding with another rider but the rest of the main contenders held firm before Elegant-QuickStep accelerated with Yves Lampaert. The move was marked by Tim Wellens and Alaphilippe but at the crest of the Kwaremont, Van der Poel caught the move and then accelerated with only Asgreen able to keep pace with 54km to go. It was Van Aert who closed the gap singlehandedly on the descent with a group of fewer than 25 riders still in contention. 

Asgreen accelerated once gain on the Paterberg and once more only Van der Poel could follow with Van Aert once more forced to bring his two rivals back. Just as the move was caught Wellens and Tom Pidcock accelerated with Haller, Senechal and Turgis making a powerful group of four before Alaphilippe and Laporte joined forces with those riders and the remnants of the early break, minus Bissegger, who had 46 seconds with 46km to go.

Onto the Koppenberg and Alaphilippe set the pace for the second group, well aware that he had Van Aert and Van der Poel on the back foot. At the top of the ascent, the world champion had made contact with Bissegger, while pockets of riders were split all over the road. Van der Poel brought a group of riders across that included Pidcock, Van Aert, Haller, Laporte, Turgis, and Wellens. Caught behind and in a fourth group back were Kristoff, and Peter Sagan.

Haller accelerated on the Steenbeekdries while the Alaphilippe group was caught by a group that included Trentin, Van Avermaet, and Asgreen. Haller started the Taaienberg with 17 seconds of a lead but once more Asgreen and Van der Poel accelerated. This time Van Aert was onto them instantly, with Alaphilippe making the juncture with 37km to go and Haller swallowed up to make a break of five. Dylan Teuns added to Bahrain’s firepower on the descent with Jasper Stuyven, Pidcock and Van Avermaet forced to chase.

The six leaders - Alaphilippe, Van Aert, Van der Poel, Asgreen, Haller and Teuns -  hit the Kruisberg with just a 12-second lead but the world champion set a relentless pace before attacking at the top. Van Aert was quick to respond as Haller began to struggle and Turgis bridged across to make it seven at the front with 28km to go and the gap holding at 15 seconds. Trentin suffered a rear wheel puncture that effectively ended his challenge.

Turgis and Haller accelerated but it was Asgreen's powerful counter-attack that pulled Van Aert and Van der Poel away with 27km to go, leaving Bahrain and Turgis to chase while Alaphilippe sat on.

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep 6:02:12
2Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix
3Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team 0:00:32
4Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:33
5Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation 0:00:47
6Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
7Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
8Anthony Turgis (Fra) Total Direct Energie
9Florian Senechal (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep
10Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers
11Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
12Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team DSM 0:00:49
13Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos 0:02:15
14Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
15Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
16Danny van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
17Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
18Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
19Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation
20Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious
21Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange
22Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
23Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar Team
24Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Israel Start-up Nation
25Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
26Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation
27Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Team Qhubeka Assos
28Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education-Nippo
29Clément Russo (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
30John Degenkolb (Ger) Lotto Soudal
31Arjen Livyns (Bel) Bingoal WB
32Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Total Direct Energie
33Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team
34Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
35Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious
36Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic 0:02:20
37Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
38Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos
39Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
40Marco Haller (Aut) Bahrain Victorious 0:02:24
41Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:02:35
42Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep
43Michael Gogl (Aut) Team Qhubeka Assos 0:02:52
44Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ 0:03:19
45Mathias Norsgaard (Den) Movistar Team
46Cyril Lemoine (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
47Cedric Beullens (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:04:00
48Cyril Barthe (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
49Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
50Stan Dewulf (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team
51Robert Stannard (Aus) Team BikeExchange
52Kévin Geniets (Lux) Groupama-FDJ
53Damien Touze (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
54Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
55Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious
56Rui Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates
57Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:09:00
58Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team DSM
59Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
60Thimo Willems (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
61Piet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis
62Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
63Nico Denz (Ger) Team DSM
64Ryan Gibbons (RSA) UAE Team Emirates
65Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
66Juri Hollmann (Ger) Movistar Team
67Gonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Movistar Team
68Jelle Wallays (Bel) Cofidis
69Luc Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal WB
70Benjamin Perry (Can) Astana-Premier Tech
71Mathijs Paasschens (Ned) Bingoal WB
72Michal Golas (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers
73Connor Swift (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic
74Boy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
75Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
76Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Qhubeka Assos
77Matis Louvel (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
78Johan Jacobs (Swi) Movistar Team
79Hugo Houle (Can) Astana-Premier Tech
80Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Bingoal WB
81Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech
82Jack Bauer (NZl) Team BikeExchange
83Luis Mas Bonet (Spa) Movistar Team
84Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Total Direct Energie
85Loïc Vliegen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
86Niki Terpstra (Ned) Total Direct Energie
87Luke Durbridge (Aus) Team BikeExchange
88Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
89Stefan Bissegger (Swi) EF Education-Nippo
90Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
91Artyom Zakharov (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech 0:13:00
92Maarten Wynants (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
93David Dekker (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
94Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
95Bert De Backer (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
96Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
97Timo Roosen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
98Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Start-up Nation
99Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Bahrain Victorious
100Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ
101Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
102Frederik Backaert (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
103Christophe Noppe (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic
104Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
105Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
106Wesley Kreder (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
107Daniel McLay (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic
108Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
109Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education-Nippo
110Fabio Van Den Bossche (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
111André Carvalho (Por) Cofidis
112Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain Victorious
113Damien Gaudin (Fra) Total Direct Energie
DNFJordi Warlop (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFKiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo
DNFRuben Apers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFQuinn Simmons (USA) Trek-Segafredo
DNFMads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
DNFRyan Mullen (Irl) Trek-Segafredo
DNFGeoffrey Soupe (Fra) Total Direct Energie
DNFArne Marit (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFGijs Van Hoecke (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team
DNFTosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFRoger Kluge (Ger) Lotto Soudal