Mathieu van der Poel suffered terribly in the wheel of Pogacar: ‘Was about to unload’ | cycling

VideoMathieu van der Poel took part in the Tour of Flanders for the fourth time on Sunday and won the classic for the second time. It had to come a long way for the Dutchman from Alpecin-Fenix, but after a sprint that will go down in the history books as one of the most exciting denouements ever, Van der Poel turned out to be slightly faster than Dylan van Baarle.

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Tadej Pogacar and Van der Poel gave the 106th edition color, a lot of color. On every slope Pogacar tried to drive his rival off, but the Dutchman stuck to the wheel with some difficulty. On the Paterberg, Pogacar had one more chance to drive the Dutchman off, but again Van der Poel did not give up. ,,He rode up really, really fast at Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. I was about to unload on the Paterberg.”

But that didn’t happen. Together they drove to Oudenaarde for the denouement. With a nice lead in their pocket, Dylan van Baarle and Valentin Madouas seemed to be riding for third place at most, but due to a strong piece of bluff poker from Van der Poel they returned in the last hundreds of meters. ,,I boosted myself and gave everything I could in those last meters. I was a bit surprised because those other guys were coming up hard, so I took it myself,” said the winner on Eurosport. Van der Poel then took the sprint, Pogacar was closed in and finished only fourth.

Offensively driving Pogacar

Mathieu van der Poel called Pogacar the strongest in the race and he had even awarded the “offensive driving” Slovenian the victory, but the Dutchman was ultimately the best in the final sprint in the Tour of Flanders. ,,It was a situation that I experienced for the third year in a row, so you know what to do. I am incredibly happy, I worked hard for this. At first it was not even certain that I would ride the classics and now after Dwars door Vlaanderen I will also win the Ronde van Vlaanderen”, Van der Poel concludes in disbelief.

It was a similar scenario with 2020 when he defeated Wout van Aert in a sprint-à-deux and last year when he was defeated by Dane Kasper Asgreen. ,,In terms of power, I think this was my best Tour of Flanders of the three. Pogacar was impressive on the climbs, but I was able to follow. The sprint went as expected. No one is going full into that last kilometer anymore. No, I have not felt any stress. I was confident enough and focused on my sprint. It was different with the audience on the side again. It’s nice to have the fans back.”

Mathieu van der Poel. © AP

,,This is very beautiful”, is the satisfied number 2 Dylan van Baarle. ,,I have been in the area a few times, but to now end up on the podium is very nice.”

Van Baarle seemed to be able to prepare for a sprint against Madouas for third place, but suddenly participated fully for the win. ,,It went so fast in the last few meters. You know they’re going to look at each other. If you look back at the finals of recent years, that was also the case then,” explains the Ineos Grenadiers rider. “We came closer quickly, I don’t think they expected that. Unfortunately, Mathieu was just a bit too fast.”

Mathieu van der Poel sprints to his second victory in the Tour of Flanders, right next to him Dylan van Baarle.
Mathieu van der Poel sprints to his second victory in the Tour of Flanders, right next to him Dylan van Baarle. © BELGA

Shortly after the finish, Van Baarle had heard some angry words from Pogacar. ,,It was not a congratulation, no’, said de Zotermeerder, who also finished second at the World Cup in Leuven last autumn. ,,I did my sprint and there was no room for him. That’s cycling. I have yet to see it again, but I think I did a fair sprint.”

Pogacar had come to that conclusion moments later. The Slovenian had taken some time to calm down after the finish and then saw that his competitors were not to blame. ,,I was very disappointed,” said the Tour winner at Sporza. ,,Because I was closed in and I couldn’t sprint. But that’s cycling. Sometimes you are locked in, sometimes you have a free job. It may have looked like I was mad at someone, but I wasn’t. I was frustrated with myself because I couldn’t sprint.”

Pogacar had enjoyed it and will therefore return: ,,The atmosphere gave me goosebumps. I like this course and the Oude Kwaremont.” On the Paterberg, the Slovenian saw how strong Van der Poel was. ,,He came next to me and I tried to accelerate, but there was not enough left in my legs. Mathieu was really good, we were evenly matched on the climbs. I wanted to try and beat him in the sprint, but it was not my day.”