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.
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.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix||6:18:30|
|2||Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers|
|3||Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|4||Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates|
|5||Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ||0:00:02|
|6||Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious|
|7||Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain Victorious||0:00:11|
|8||Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo||0:00:48|
|9||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Jumbo-Visma|
|10||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|11||Michael Matthews (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|12||Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain Victorious|
|13||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Jumbo-Visma||0:01:02|
|14||Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:01:05|
|15||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team||0:01:07|
|16||Danny van Poppel (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|17||Matis Louvel (Fra) Arkea-Samsic|
|18||John Degenkolb (Ger) Team DSM|
|19||Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|20||Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Movistar Team|
|21||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious|
|22||Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar Team|
|23||Kasper Asgreen (Den) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|24||Amaury Capiot (Bel) Arkea-Samsic|
|25||Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|26||Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Bahrain Victorious|
|27||Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|28||Anders Skaarseth (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|29||Niki Terpstra (Ned) TotalEnergies|
|30||Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|31||Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|32||Arjen Livyns (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|33||Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|34||Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|35||Ben Turner (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:01:11|
|36||Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-EasyPost|
|37||Kévin Geniets (Lux) Groupama-FDJ|
|38||Florian Senechal (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|39||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Team DSM|
|40||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||0:01:18|
|41||Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team||0:01:26|
|42||Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) Jumbo-Visma||0:03:29|
|43||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|44||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|45||Robbe Ghys (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||0:05:11|
|46||Jannik Steimle (Ger) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|47||Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|48||Sander Armée (Bel) Cofidis|
|49||Clément Russo (Fra) Arkea-Samsic||0:05:13|
|50||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|51||Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|52||Jhonatan Narvaez Prado (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers|
|53||Dion Smith (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|54||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team||0:05:16|
|55||Lewis Askey (GBr) Groupama-FDJ||0:07:44|
|56||Bob Jungels (Lux) AG2R Citroen Team|
|57||Mathias Norsgaard (Den) Movistar Team|
|58||Julian Mertens (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|59||Victor Koretzky (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|60||Sandy Dujardin (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|61||Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|62||Connor Swift (GBr) Arkea-Samsic|
|63||Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education-EasyPost|
|64||Johan Jacobs (Swi) Movistar Team||0:08:24|
|65||Cedric Beullens (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:08:50|
|66||Tom Devriendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|67||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|68||Lindsay De Vylder (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|69||Magnus Sheffield (USA) Ineos Grenadiers|
|70||Cyril Lemoine (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|71||Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team|
|72||Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|73||Sébastien Grignard (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|74||Ben Swift (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|75||Mick van Dijke (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|76||Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|77||Damien Touze (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team|
|78||Alex Kirsch (Lux) Trek-Segafredo|
|79||Otto Vergaerde (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|80||Quentin Jauregui (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|81||Arne Marit (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||0:10:13|
|82||Iñigo Elosegui Momeñe (Spa) Movistar Team|
|83||Luke Durbridge (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|84||Filip Maciejuk (Pol) Bahrain Victorious|
|85||Niklas Märkl (Ger) Team DSM|
|86||Artyom Zakharov (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|87||Jonas Koch (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|88||Rasmus Tiller (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|89||Jonas Rutsch (Ger) EF Education-EasyPost|
|90||Sander De Pestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|91||Max Kanter (Ger) Movistar Team|
|92||Stanislaw Aniolkowski (Pol) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|93||Szymon Sajnok (Pol) Cofidis|
|94||Markus Pajur (Est) Arkea-Samsic|
|95||Ludovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|96||Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo|
|97||Julien Vermote (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||0:10:16|
|98||Silvan Dillier (Swi) Alpecin-Fenix|
|99||Stan Dewulf (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team|
|100||Michael Schär (Swi) AG2R Citroen Team|
|101||Yevgeniy Fedorov (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|102||Marco Haller (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|103||Julien Morice (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Tom Bohli (Swi) Cofidis|
|DNF||Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Søren Wærenskjold (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Michael Gogl (Aut) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Erik Nordsaeter Resell (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Roger Kluge (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Daan Hoole (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||William Levy (Den) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Boy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Tobias Halland Johannessen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education-EasyPost|
|DNF||Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) EF Education-EasyPost|
|DNF||Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Adrien Petit (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis|
|DNF||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) EF Education-EasyPost|
|DNF||Christophe Noppe (Bel) Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education-EasyPost|
|DNF||Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team|
|DNF||Jelle Wallays (Bel) Cofidis|
|DNF||Kevin Ledanois (Fra) Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Jordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Kelland O’Brien (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Gianni Moscon (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Leonardo Basso (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Michele Gazzoli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Karl Patrick Lauk (Est) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Campbell Stewart (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Mathijs Paasschens (Ned) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Ryan Mullen (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Timothy Dupont (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Edoardo Affini (Ita) Jumbo-Visma|
|DNF||Jordi Warlop (Bel) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Timo Roosen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|DNF||Davide Martinelli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Alexis Gougeard (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Kevin Vermaerke (USA) Team DSM|
|DNF||Tim Declercq (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|DNF||Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Rui Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Alexys Brunel (Fra) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Felix Groß (Ger) Uae Team Emirates|
|DNF||Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Edvald Boasson-Hagen (Nor) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Daniel Oss (Ita) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Sam Bewley (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Anthony Turgis (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Vito Braet (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Martin Laas (Est) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|DNF||Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Kim Heiduk (Ger) Ineos Grenadiers|
|DNF||Tom Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Alex Edmondson (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Piet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis|
|DNS||Wesley Kreder (Ned) Cofidis|
|DNS||Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team DSM|
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.
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