Kasper Asgreen out-sprints Mathieu van der Poel to win the Tour of Flanders
Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) bested defending champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) in a dramatic two-rider sprint in Oudenaarde to win the Tour of Flanders on Sunday. Thirty-two seconds later, Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën) out-sprinted Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) to nab the final spot on the podium.
Van der Poel and Asgreen formed part of an elite lead group that hit the Kruisberg together in the last 27 km, and they got clear with Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) on the cobbled climb. A big surge from Van der Poel on the Oude Kwaremont then dropped Van Aert, and from there, Van der Poel and Asgreen worked well together on the run-in to Oudenaarde, where things came down to a sprint. Van der Poel led out the sprint but Asgreen surged past with a hundred meters to go to claim his first Monument victory.
“It’s been an incredible Classics campaign this year and I’m so happy to finish it off like this,” said Asgreen, who took his first WorldTour one-day win nine days ago at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, and whose Deceuninck-Quick-Step team has won four of the seven WorldTour one-days so far this year.
“It was the plan to start to jump when we entered the hilly zone after the Kwaremont the second time and we did. We rode a perfect race all day, the guys were incredible,” Asgreen said. “Huge thanks to them, huge thanks to Tom [Steels] and Wilfried [Peeters] in the car. They prepared for this race so well and know every single meter of the course. It’s just an incredible team to be a part of.”
How it happened
The 105th Tour of Flanders got underway under cool conditions in Antwerp, and the early breakaway formed quickly. Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo), Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), Jelle Wallays (Cofidis), Fabio Van Den Bossche (Sport Vlaanderen Baloise), and Mathijs Paaschens (Bingoal Wallonnie Bruxelles) broke clear within minutes, and they were then joined by Hugo Houle (Astana-Premier Tech) and Nico Denz (DSM) to make for a seven-rider break on the day. The peloton quickly allowed the group to work out a hefty advantage.
The break spent the next several hours out front, but there were plenty of storylines in the pack. Some 15 km into the race, Yevgeniy Fedorov (Astana-Premier Tech) and Otto Vergaerde (Alpecin-Fenix) engaged in a scuffle that would see both kicked out of the race. The break’s advantage topped out at around 12 minutes before the peloton starting cutting into that gap on the early cobbles and climbs.
With around 115 km to go and the pack nine minutes behind the break, Michael Schär (AG2R Citroën) threw a bottle to the side of the road while off the back after a mechanical. He worked his way back up to the group he had been in only to be disqualified from the race for disposing of his bottle outside of a designated zone under new UCI rules that were announced in February and came into effect at the start of this month.
The next hour saw multiple crashes and a few attempts to bridge from the pack to the break as the race rolled over one sector of cobbles after another. With around 55 km to go and the gap to the bunch down under two minutes, Bissegger soloed out of the break on the second of three trips up the Oude Kwaremont. As his former breakaway companions were caught behind, Bissegger pressed on solo while attacks flew from the pack. Splits formed on the Paterberg with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) one of a few riders leaving the larger pack behind, and then Alaphilippe surged across the Bissegger on the Koppenberg.
A select group that included Van der Poel, Van Aert, and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) formed a dedicated chase behind, and they caught up to Bissegger and Alaphilippe with around 42 km to go. Just behind, Van Avermaet and others were chasing hard with the larger pack a little ways back. Marco Haller (Bahrain Victorious) then shot off the front on the Mariaborrestraat sector of cobbles as the groups began to shed riders. Haller pressed on solo as Van Avermaet’s group caught up to Van der Poel’s group.
Moments later, the new lead selection hit the Taaienberg. Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Start-Up Nation) led onto the cobbled climb but Kasper Asgreen quickly pulled onto the front and put in a big surge. Van der Poel responded and then took over at the front with Alaphilippe and Van Aert close behind and Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) coming across. Leaving the pack behind, they caught up to Haller to make for a new lead group of six. Behind, Van Avermaet, Pidcock, Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), and several others formed a big chase group that kept the gap within around 20 seconds for the next 10 km.
The lead group dropped Haller on the Kruisberg but he quickly caught back on, and then Anthony Turgis (Total Direct Energe) bridged up from the chasing group to make it seven out front with 27 km to go. Within a minute, however, Asgreen put in a big surge that only Van der Poel and Van Aert followed, and that trio pulled away and quickly built a gap to Haller, Teuns, Turgis, and Alaphilippe. With around 19 km to go, those four behind were joined by the chasing group that included Van Avermaet, with Asgreen, Van der Poel, and Van Aert 25 seconds up the road and the Oude Kwaremont looming.
The lead trio stuck together on the early slopes of the Kwaremont before Van der Poel put in a powerful attack with 17 km to go. Van Aert lost touch and lost ground almost immediately, while Asgreen kept Van der Poel within striking distance and then caught back up to him after a short chase. With 15 km to go, Van Aert was 15 seconds behind the two leaders, with the larger chase group a further 15 seconds back. Those gaps grew slightly over the ensuing kilometers as Van der Poel and Asgreen collaborated well together, and then Van Aert was absorbed by the larger chasing group. With 5 km to go, it was clear that the win would come down to the two out front.
Van Avermaet and Stuyven jumped out of the chasing group inside the last few kilometers and Van der Poel and Asgreen started playing the positioning game ahead of the final sprint. Van der Poel led into the last 500 meters with Asgreen tight on his wheel, and with 250 meters to go, Van der Poel launched. Asgreen responded quickly and although it took a few moments, he began pull even and then pull away. With 50 meters to go, Van der Poel eased off the throttle, and Asgreen sailed over the line in celebration.
1 ASGREEN Kasper (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 6:02:12
2 VAN DER POEL Mathieu (Alpecin-Fenix)
3 VAN AVERMAET Greg (AG2R Citroën) 0:32
4 STUYVEN Jasper (Trek-Segafredo) 0:33
5 VANMARCKE Sep (Israel Start-Up Nation) 0:47
6 VAN AERT Wout (Jumbo-Visma)
7 VERMEERSCH Gianni (Alpecin-Fenix)
8 TURGIS Anthony (Total Direct Energie)
9 SÉNÉCHAL Florian (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
10 VAN BAARLE Dylan (Ineos Grenadiers)