Van der Poel tops Van Baarle in a Tour of Flanders thriller

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) won the Tour of Flanders in a finale for the ages after the Dutchman went on the attack with Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) after a high-speed, selective race.

It was just Van der Poel’s eighth day of racing after an off-season back injury and gradual return to riding disrupted his spring. Yet when Pogačar attacked on the final climb of the Oude Kwaremont, he managed to hold onto his wheel.

The two built a solid enough lead that it should have been a two-man sprint for the victory. However, Pogačar played cat and mouse far too much and a 30-second gap on chasers evaporated.

That allowed Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) and Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) to latch back on in the final hundred metres and contest the sprint.

When Van der Poel started the sprint, Pogačar was shut out and could only finish fourth behind Van Baarle and Madouas. Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) was the first chaser home at two seconds.

Van der Poel only began his season at Milan-San Remo two weeks ago, racing to third place. To win his second Tour of Flanders, he said, was incredible.

"I worked so hard for this one. At first, it wasn't even sure if I would get to the Classics and to win is incredible."

"They were coming really fast from behind, so I decided to sprint from far out. It was amazing that [Pogačar] was busy with me and not with the others coming back. It was a bit of a shock to see it play out like that."

Van der Poel admitted he suffered as he tried to stay with Pogačar earlier in the day, however.

 "He went up Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg really fast. I was almost at the point of dropping. At the end, it was a scenario I've had three times before, so I knew it already. I was only taking Tadej into account.

“I just tried to recover a little bit every time I was in the wheel, but I was just hurting a lot. I've worked extremely hard for it and I just went 100 per cent. I'm really happy it has worked out.”

How it unfolded

After two years of coronavirus restrictions, the crowds returned to the Tour of Flanders, and not even the absence of home favourite Wout van Aert could dampen the general enthusiasm at the start in Antwerp’s Grote Markt.

After snow fell over Flanders earlier the week, the peloton was flagged away beneath clear blue skies, though the temperature was still scarcely above freezing at the start.

That doubtless encouraged a rapid opening phase, with the early break forging clear just outside Antwerp and covering some 47.8km in the first hour. The nine escapees were Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroën), Sebastien Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Lindsay De Vylder (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal-Pauwels Sauces-WB), Manuele Boaro (Astana Qazaqstan), Luca Mozzato (B&B Hotels-KTM), Tom Bohli (Cofidis) and Max Kanter (Movistar). They built a maximum advantage of over four minutes after 100km.

Behind, debutant Tadej Pogačar was caught up in a low-speed crash, but he quickly remounted and his UAE Team Emirates squad helped to contribute to the pace-making at the head of the bunch alongside Jumbo-Visma, Alpecin-Fenix and QuickStep-AlphaVinyl, who deployed Tim Declercq in his familiar role.

The break hit the first ascent of the Oude Kwaremont – the first of the day’s 18 hellingen – with 140km remaining and 4:30 in hand over the peloton, and their advantage began to contract thereafter.

With each passing climb, the tension in the bunch ratcheted a little further, with UAE Team Emirates and Trek-Segafredo prominent in front. The opening gambit from the favourites’ teams, however, came from Jumbo-Visma, when Nathan Van Hooydonck accelerated on the Molenberg in the company of Jonas Koch (Bora-Hansgrohe).

That counter-attack grew significantly in danger when it swelled to 13 riders as Ivan Garcia Cortina punched clear on the Berendries, bringing Ben Turner (Ineos), Zdenek Stybar, Jannik Steimle (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Fenix), Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost), Marco Haller (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mads Pedersen, Alex Kirsch (Trek-Segafredo), Olivier Le Gac (Groupama-FDJ) and Mick van Dijke (Jumbo-Visma) with him.

With 88km remaining, the race suddenly had an altogether different configuration. Jumbo-Visma, QuickStep-AlphaVinyl and Trek-Segafredo all had two men apiece up the road, while Vermeersch was also on hand for Van der Poel and Alpecin-Fenix. Back in the peloton, the pace-making duties now fell upon Bahrain Victorious and UAE Team Emirates.

The injection of urgency also intensified the battle for positions, and Christope Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) was a faller on the rapid approach to Berg ten Houte with 80km to go, when the bunch trailed the break by two minutes and the counter-attackers by 20 seconds.

The climb saw Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates), Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal) and Kasper Asgreen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) force the pace, whittling down the peloton still further, but that surge failed to make any immediate inroads into the advantage of the counter-attackers.

As the pace dissipated from the bunch, Connor Swift (Arkea-Samsic) attacked on the Kanarieberg with Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) and Kevin Geniets (Groupama-FDJ) and they managed to bridge across to the chasers, who were now rapidly closing in on the break and amassing sizeable advantage over the pre-race favourites.

On the flat run-in to the second ascent of the Kwaremont, UAE Team Emirates and Bahrain Victorious again set about stitching the race back together, with Trentin again to the fore on behalf of Pogačar.

Enter Pogačar

The entire complexion of the Ronde changed in the space of two breathless kilometres on the first climb of the Oude Kwaremont, as Pogačar surged violently from the peloton, quickly closing the 20-second gap to the chasers and then simply cruising past them and the remnants of the early break. It was incredible to witness.

Asgreen had the strength to respond immediately, while the Pogačar express also picked up some passengers, including Pedersen, Turner, Garcia Cortina and Van der Hoorn.

Behind, there was only panic, as men like Van der Poel and Tom Pidcock picked their way through the splintering peloton and scrambled to catch back up to Pogačar. Fortunately, they made it.

Once the dust settled, there were 20 or so riders left in front, but there was little time to take stock as the Paterberg was next up. Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious) stretched things out here, with Van der Poel and Pidcock also to the fore, while Pogačar was pedalling with notable fluidity.

Tratnik’s teammate Fred Wright went on the attack over the other side, and he was joined in his escape by Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers), building a lead of 20 seconds by the base of the fearsome Koppenberg.

The 22% slopes were the site of Pogačar’s second onslaught, as he stretched the group of favourites to breaking point with a long, seated acceleration. This time, Van der Poel was immediately on his wheel, with Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) joining the Big Two in the day’s key move.

Asgreen, so comfortable through the earlier hellingen, was absent, thwarted by a mechanical issue, his hopes of a second successive win evaporating.

Van der Poel, Pogačar and Madouas joined Wright and Van Baarle in front on the Taaienberg with 37km remaining, where they already had 40 seconds in hand on the rest of the pre-race contenders.

Van der Poel set the pace on the two-part punch of the Kruisberg-Hotond, where the break stretched its advantage over the chasers to 1:10, and it was already long clear that this quintet would decide the race between them on the grand finale over the Kwaremont and Paterberg.

When the gradient began to hurt, Pogačar once again upped the pace, leaving first Wright, then Madouas and Van Baarle to create his mano-a-mano battle with Van der Poel.

The Dutchman struggled at one point but hung on and survived over the top and even shared the work on the ride to the Paterberg. Pogačar tried another surge but the advantage tipped towards van der Poel.

The 13km ride to the finish in Oudenaarde saw them open a lead of 30 seconds on the chasers but they gave it all away by playing games with the finish in sight.

Van der Poel used his experience from victory in 2020 and defeat in 2021 to win, starting his sprint early and holding off his rivals as they fought for the best position near the barriers.

As Van der Poel celebrated, Pogačar could only sit up, frustrated in defeat, and watch Van Baarle and Madouas also snatch the podium places from his grasp.

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix 6:18:30
2Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers
3Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
4Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
5Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ 0:00:02
6Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious
7Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain Victorious 0:00:11
8Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:48
9Christophe Laporte (Fra) Jumbo-Visma
10Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
11Michael Matthews (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
12Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain Victorious
13Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Jumbo-Visma 0:01:02
14Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:01:05
15Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team 0:01:07
16Danny van Poppel (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe
17Matis Louvel (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
18John Degenkolb (Ger) Team DSM
19Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
20Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Movistar Team
21Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious
22Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar Team
23Kasper Asgreen (Den) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
24Amaury Capiot (Bel) Arkea-Samsic
25Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels-KTM
26Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Bahrain Victorious
27Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
28Anders Skaarseth (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
29Niki Terpstra (Ned) TotalEnergies
30Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
31Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
32Arjen Livyns (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
33Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
34Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
35Ben Turner (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:01:11
36Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-EasyPost
37Kévin Geniets (Lux) Groupama-FDJ
38Florian Senechal (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
39Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Team DSM
40Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:01:18
41Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team 0:01:26
42Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) Jumbo-Visma 0:03:29
43Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
44Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
45Robbe Ghys (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:05:11
46Jannik Steimle (Ger) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
47Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
48Sander Armée (Bel) Cofidis
49Clément Russo (Fra) Arkea-Samsic 0:05:13
50Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
51Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
52Jhonatan Narvaez Prado (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers
53Dion Smith (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco
54Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team 0:05:16
55Lewis Askey (GBr) Groupama-FDJ 0:07:44
56Bob Jungels (Lux) AG2R Citroen Team
57Mathias Norsgaard (Den) Movistar Team
58Julian Mertens (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
59Victor Koretzky (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
60Sandy Dujardin (Fra) TotalEnergies
61Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal
62Connor Swift (GBr) Arkea-Samsic
63Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education-EasyPost
64Johan Jacobs (Swi) Movistar Team 0:08:24
65Cedric Beullens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:08:50
66Tom Devriendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
67Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
68Lindsay De Vylder (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
69Magnus Sheffield (USA) Ineos Grenadiers
70Cyril Lemoine (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
71Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team
72Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
73Sébastien Grignard (Bel) Lotto Soudal
74Ben Swift (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
75Mick van Dijke (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
76Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal
77Damien Touze (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team
78Alex Kirsch (Lux) Trek-Segafredo
79Otto Vergaerde (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
80Quentin Jauregui (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
81Arne Marit (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:10:13
82Iñigo Elosegui Momeñe (Spa) Movistar Team
83Luke Durbridge (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
84Filip Maciejuk (Pol) Bahrain Victorious
85Niklas Märkl (Ger) Team DSM
86Artyom Zakharov (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan Team
87Jonas Koch (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
88Rasmus Tiller (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
89Jonas Rutsch (Ger) EF Education-EasyPost
90Sander De Pestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
91Max Kanter (Ger) Movistar Team
92Stanislaw Aniolkowski (Pol) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
93Szymon Sajnok (Pol) Cofidis
94Markus Pajur (Est) Arkea-Samsic
95Ludovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
96Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
97Julien Vermote (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:10:16
98Silvan Dillier (Swi) Alpecin-Fenix
99Stan Dewulf (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team
100Michael Schär (Swi) AG2R Citroen Team
101Yevgeniy Fedorov (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan Team
102Marco Haller (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
103Julien Morice (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
DNFTom Bohli (Swi) Cofidis
DNFXandro Meurisse (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
DNFSøren Wærenskjold (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNFMichael Gogl (Aut) Alpecin-Fenix
DNFTobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ
DNFErik Nordsaeter Resell (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNFRoger Kluge (Ger) Lotto Soudal
DNFDaan Hoole (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
DNFWilliam Levy (Den) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNFBoy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
DNFTobias Halland Johannessen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNFTom Scully (NZl) EF Education-EasyPost
DNFLukasz Wisniowski (Pol) EF Education-EasyPost
DNFKristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
DNFAdrien Petit (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
DNFKenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis
DNFJens Keukeleire (Bel) EF Education-EasyPost
DNFChristophe Noppe (Bel) Arkea-Samsic
DNFAlberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education-EasyPost
DNFGijs Van Hoecke (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team
DNFJelle Wallays (Bel) Cofidis
DNFKevin Ledanois (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
DNFJordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFVegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
DNFKelland O’Brien (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
DNFGianni Moscon (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFLeonardo Basso (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFManuele Boaro (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFMichele Gazzoli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFKarl Patrick Lauk (Est) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
DNFCampbell Stewart (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco
DNFMathijs Paasschens (Ned) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
DNFRyan Mullen (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFTimothy Dupont (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
DNFEdoardo Affini (Ita) Jumbo-Visma
DNFJordi Warlop (Bel) B&B Hotels-KTM
DNFTimo Roosen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
DNFDavide Martinelli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team
DNFHeinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious
DNFAlexis Gougeard (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM
DNFKevin Vermaerke (USA) Team DSM
DNFTim Declercq (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
DNFGeoffrey Soupe (Fra) TotalEnergies
DNFKenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFRui Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates
DNFAlexys Brunel (Fra) UAE Team Emirates
DNFFelix Groß (Ger) Uae Team Emirates
DNFOliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
DNFEdvald Boasson-Hagen (Nor) TotalEnergies
DNFMaciej Bodnar (Pol) TotalEnergies
DNFDaniel Oss (Ita) TotalEnergies
DNFSam Bewley (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco
DNFAnthony Turgis (Fra) TotalEnergies
DNFJasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
DNFVito Braet (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFMartin Laas (Est) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFBert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
DNFNikias Arndt (Ger) Team DSM
DNFKim Heiduk (Ger) Ineos Grenadiers
DNFTom Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB
DNFAlex Edmondson (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
DNFPiet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis
DNSWesley Kreder (Ned) Cofidis
DNSSøren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team DSM

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