Van der Poel has now built up impressive statistics in De Ronde. Participated four times, won twice, once second and fourth on his first participation. The Dutchman was out for revenge after he surprisingly lost the sprint to Kasper Asgreen last year.
In advance, Van der Poel – the winner of the 2020 edition – was considered the big favorite for the overall victory, partly due to the unsubscribing of Wout van Aert. For debutant Pogacar, the main question was: how well could he bounce over the cobblestones for miles? The answer was clear: very good. On Wednesday in Dwars door Vlaanderen he didn’t really get a chance to ‘cheat’ at Van der Poel, but the Slovenian turned out to be a fast learner on Sunday afternoon. A very fast one.
However, after barely 20 kilometers in the Tour of Flanders, Pogacar quickly became acquainted with the Flemish asphalt: the Tour winner fell early in the race. ‘Pogi’ was then mainly busy to find his power meter. That worked, just like continuing the course. Welcome to Flanders.
Of course there was also a flight of the day, a leading group of nine riders, with Taco van der Hoorn and Mathijs Paasschens as Dutch representatives.
Madhouse at Oude Kwaremont
In the meantime, it was counting heads at the first passage of the riders on the Oude Kwaremont. The sun had clearly lured the race fans out of their homes for the passage of the Tour of Flanders. It was therefore a pleasure when the hundreds of spectators loudly cheered the riders on.
Amateur bike change Van Baarle
What also happened in the meantime: an amateurish bicycle change by Ineos at Van Baarle. The shadow favorite of the British team put himself aside with technical problems and received a new bike from the support vehicle. But a few meters further, the Dutchman had to get off the bike again…flat tire at the front. Van Baarle lost a lot of time this way. However, he managed to recover more than excellently later in the race.
Pogacar explodes at Oude Kwaremont
The race was meanwhile heading towards the final. Pogacar flew past everyone on the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont. Van der Poel was just too far away and had to give it a big sniff to keep up with the Slovenian. ‘Pogi’ made an impression. Kasper Asgreen (winner 2021) and Thomas Pidcock were also on the lookout and joined. In addition to Pogacar, Asgreen and Van der Poel, we saw Van der Hoorn, Turner, Garcia, Küng and Mozzato join in.
Van der Poel suddenly led the dance on the Paterberg afterwards. Pogacar was able to follow just fine. What a debut in Flanders’ most beautiful for the Tour winner. Asgreen had to get off here, came back, but had to come off again a little later with bad luck. Van Baarle sneaked away after the Paterberg together with Fred Wright from the group of favorites.
Pogacar, Van der Poel and Valentin Madouas made an impressive selection together on the Koppenberg at just over 40 km from the finish. They joined Van Baarle and Wright a few kilometers later. The five seemed to end it for the victory in De Ronde. MvdP decided to drag miles in the lead again, towards the third ascent of the Oude Kwaremont.
Pogacar and Van der Poel very strong
Van Baarle had to pass here, just like Madouas and Wright. Pogacar drove off, with Mate in his wake. The two strongest men in the race were still left as a duo, 17 kilometers before the finish.
It turned out to be a blistering sprint, but because Pogacar and Van der Poel continued to play poker, the pursuers still closed and Van Baarle was second, Madouas third and an angry Pogacar still missed the podium. Due to the game of bluff poker, the Slovenian did not make it to the top 3 yet.
Bizarre moment just after the blistering sprint of the Tour of Flanders: suddenly just after the arrival of winner Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and co. a climate activist on the finish line.
He posed at the finish line wearing a shirt that reads ‘Climate Justice Now’ while there were still riders to enter.
The climate protest at the finish line.