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The Moment The Ronde Was Won

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Alberto Bettiol surges out of the lead group on the Oude Kwaremont just as the breakaway pair of Dylan van Baarle and Kasper Asgreen are about to be a caught. Behind the group is a constellation of star names but none of them can shape events from this point on and Bettiol quickly takes a 20 second lead which he’d keep until he sat up to celebrate.

The early action was negative with Niki Terpstra crashing and apparently losing conciousness. He was taken to the hospital and because of the concussion apparently his team doctor has ruled him out of Paris-Roubaix, a brave call for his health.

Over the Muur van Geraardsbergen and Astana’s Magnus Cort attacked and over the top a group of 35 riders went clear with all the big names minus Oliver Naesen, Alexander Kristoff, Sep Vanmarcke and Sebastian Langeveld. Normally a move like this seemed destined to stay away, the riders had an interest to eliminate the rest of the field and they had a minute’s lead. Lotto-Soudal and Katusha-Alpecin looked like they were ordered into a punishment chase but they started to bring the group back and it worked. Imagine how different the race would have been if Kristoff, Vanmarcke and Langeveld were out of the picture?

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Watching the race you wondered if there was going to be a sprint finish. Nobody seemed able to get away. Yes Kasper Asgreen, Stijn Vandenbergh and Vanmarcke were up the road and later joined by Dylan van Baarle but these felt like second fiddles doing a job for the team, or in the case of Vanmarcke, a workout before next Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. But they hung out there with van Baarle and Asgreen staying clear until the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont. Behind Jungels tried a move, Van Avermaet an acceleration and while these weren’t timid tests they didn’t force a selection either.

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Bettiol attacked on the Oude Kwaremont just as van Baarle and Asgreen were about to get caught, the perfect moment to go. Van Avermaet led behind but didn’t couldn’t accelerate any more and the gap grew. Once Bettiol took 15 seconds he had a gap that nobody behind could zip across with a quick sprint and soon the others behind began to mark each other. Onto the Paterberg and van der Poel surged over the top and if he had a few metres on the others he was caught on the descent by the others. They tried rolling together but the gap didn’t fall so Greg Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan tried solo moves but this took more cohesion out of the group and those that did take a pull would look over their shoulder for the next rider to come through only to see the pink jersey of Langeveld idly blocking the others, a piece of teamwork as useful as Vanmarcke’s earlier attack. As the chase approached the final kilometer Asgreen surged ahead and Jungels got on the team radio urging him to keep going as he’d got a gap and he collected second place on his debut while Alexander Kristoff won the sprint for third.

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The Verdict
A strange edition, the race never quite came alive. The dangerous move after the Kapelmuur was reeled in and if the big names were among the final group of 20 that began the Kwaremont-Paterberg, none of them seemed to shape the race. Did they cancel each other out? Bob Jungels tried an attack over the Hotond, Van Avermaet powered up the Kwaremont but each move got shut down as if they didn’t have an edge on each other. The most trenchant move came from Bettiol: this wasn’t a lucky break because he attacked right on the Kwaremont and rode away solo. He’s no household name – his victory salute of removing his sunglasses and pointing to his eyes was apparently a dig at the Italian media who don’t have eyes for him – but he’s long been a strong rider able to make people’s legs hurt in the final 20km of a race. In 2016 he finished the season ranked 47th in the world, not stardom but impressive for someone still eligible for the U23 ranks, and by placing in hard races like the GP Plouay. More recently he was strong rider in Tirreno-Adriatico this spring and Sanremo where he jumped on the Poggio. But here we are having to remind ourselves of this because he’s not a star name. In fact before the race the boss of Flanders Classics was vaunting the tough finishing circuit saying the likes of Bettiol simply couldn’t win on the course as it’s too hard. Oeps as they say in Dutch

Which brings us to the course. The circuit is becoming predictable. One of the features of racing in Flanders is knowing the terrain and the course. Only the large circuits around the Kwaremont and Paterberg reduce this technical aspect, as does the featureless run to the finish. It seems unlikely to change given this route compliments the VIP tents as guests can see the race three times but the more the riders race it, the more they know where to attack and also where not to, resulting in stalemate rather than action.

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Finally if Bettiol won, Mathieu van der Poel almost deserves a prize for effort and resilience. He’d been in an earlier attack then he had a mechanical – it looked like his fork steerer had snapped – and crashed had with 60km go to and for a moment was sat on the kerb in the fateful collarbone clutch position. But seconds later he was chasing and after a long pursuit, some of it solo, he made it back to the lead group. Dynamic on the Paterberg in the finish and only Kristoff beat him in the sprint.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Chris Dyke Sunday, 7 April 2019, 8:26 pm

    Presuming Vaughters has now revised his opinion on TUPE law?

    Agreed on MVdP for M.V.P, bike handling to avoid a second upending in the gutter once back at the front was a highlight

    • Anon Monday, 8 April 2019, 12:21 pm

      Please explain? Is this just mindless stirring or a real comment?

      • Ryan Francesconi Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 6:56 am

        VDP ended up doing the equivalent of a skateboard curb grind with his rear wheel while sliding along it. don’t think anyone else would of pulled that off without crashing.

        • Nick Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 1:33 pm

          Nor did he.

          • DNH Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 2:03 pm

            Separate incident, about 30km after the crash. This time he pulled it off.

        • Chris Dyke Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 8:00 pm

          At the risk of a DQ for the comment section equivalent of trying to move up with the aid of a cycle path, next time you’re touring in Britain you’ve a riding partner with a spare bike waiting for you Ryan (see if you can get your pruning saw through customs)

        • Adam Wednesday, 10 April 2019, 1:52 pm

          This might be a little harsh, but should there not be some questioning of MVdP’s bike handling and positioning to get himself *into* those two situations to start with?!

          The first one that resulted in the crash, he seemed to be the only rider that didn’t spot the massive concrete tree bed and with the latter ‘skateboard curb-grind’ he failed to hold his line around the corner.

          I only saw them the once in the live coverage so I might be being unfair, but not crashing into stuff to start with sounds like better bike-handling to me!

          • Adam Wednesday, 10 April 2019, 1:57 pm

            Apologies, I see there’s already ample discussion on this further below thanks to Larry!

      • Chris Dyke Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 9:53 am

        TUPE being a legal policy to protect employees during mergers and the like. Was a reference to JVs less than charitable comments concerning Bettiol when he came under his wing from Cannondale, although having subsequently re-signed him from BMC obvious he saw his true value given time.

        The acronyms proximity to TUE purely coincidental, no inflammatory intent here

        • Rob Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 5:50 pm

          Class comments and class puns from Chris Dyke here.

  • STS Sunday, 7 April 2019, 8:57 pm

    Thanks for the quick summary, INRNG.
    I disagree though that this edition never came alive. At the latest right before the second approach to the Kwaremont we had a race to watch, and I found it to be one of the best editions I saw in the last 25 years. It was unusual for Ronde-standards though that the group of contenders stayed so big but you can only make a difference if you’re able to make a difference. And it became obvious that nobody was a) able to do that and b) aware of being able except for Bettiol.
    For example I didn’t get van Baarle’s move as he was obviously on a great day and could have done more if he waited longer.
    And Asgreen would have deserved a protected role on DQS today. Apart from Bettiol he was my man of the race.
    As for EF they rode a perfect, intelligent race although it only showed in hindsight. Bettiol was clearly the strongest rider in the finale also thanks to the work his teammates had done and some clever pacing strategy in the hours before.
    Prior to the race we both erred with regards to “the monster” Kristoff’s ability to stay with the best right into the finale. He made it – although barely – and would clearly have beaten anyone in the sprint to the line. Give him one teammate who’s able to feature in the final and he would have bossed that race.

    • JEB Monday, 8 April 2019, 11:57 am

      Well I enjoyed the race.
      And I agree with your last sentence – Kristoff needs a teammate who can make it to the end of these races in the front group and cover some of the late moves, not much chance on his own as they are all gong to keep taking flyers off the front rather than drag him to the line.
      Last chance Roubaix then back to being a lead out man for the rest of the year?
      Glad he proved Inrng wrong after his ‘fat shaming’ 😀

    • frood Monday, 8 April 2019, 2:59 pm

      I thought Asgreen was tremendous, particularly when he launched his move. perhaps, in hindsight it was a bit early, but that’s the QS tactic. It could have worked, especially if there’d been a crash in the peloton (a la Sagan-GVA when Gilbert won). the same could be said for van Baarle, who made it across with such impressive ease, although it never looked like Sky were going to offer much else.

      the strength and timing of Bettiol’s move really made the difference, and he was ably backed up by his team mates. none of the big names had any help at the end, which is really what scuppered them on the long run in, especially with langeveld’s skilled ‘blocking’. from memory, only QS had multiple riders and they used this to good effect in getting Asgreen on the podium.

      overall, it was a really enjoyable race until the tension went out of it with 6km to go.

    • Tom Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 9:55 pm

      Kristoff hasn’t had the same results since his lead out man Luca Paolini got busted for coke.

  • Ecky Thump Sunday, 7 April 2019, 9:02 pm

    It looked a hard and fast race, there was plenty happening from a very long way out.
    Interesting point about the riders’ knowledge of the course, perhaps it needs poorer weather (wind) to off-set this?

    I certainly enjoyed the race though the finish was slightly under-whelming and frustrating.
    Not because of Bettiol’s victory – his team was superb and his break precision-timed – but the inability of a group of hugely-talented athletes to fail to cooperate for their own collective good for the fear of watching one of their number eventually succeed.
    Kristoff’s presence was surely key here, tracking the group like an orca waiting for weakness.

    But I cited in the race’s preview the analogy with cycling’s tactics and Brexit.
    This afternoon’s finish makes me fear for its eventual outcome.

    • maximflyer Sunday, 7 April 2019, 10:49 pm

      I share many of your thoughts Ecky, but after a km or two that Bettiol got a gap was obvious that this group won’t be able to work together. And why would they? 17 guys with Kristoff, MvdP, Sagan, Matthews and Valverde among them. I mean what’s the point for the other 12 to tow these guys to the line and get beaten?

      • Touriste-Routier Monday, 8 April 2019, 1:08 am

        @ maximflyer Because the race was already lost if they did nothing, you can’t lose twice, so there was nothing but potential upside. You never know who is going to crack or when. Some of them had teammates to burn, and to deliver counter attacks. Except for GVA and Sagan, they largely didn’t fail trying, they failed to try. If you have that little confidence, abandon and save it for another day, kermesse style.

        I’m expecting some to say (not necessarily here) that Bettiol, given his previous lack of wins, was an unworthy winner. That would be like victim blaming. He rode a brilliant race, and had tremendous help from his team. No one else deserved it, due to the largely negative racing coming after the Kwaremont.

        Really, 14k to close <30 seconds, with a strong group, and not chasing a World TT Champ… This is one day racing (and not Worlds or the Olympics); nothing should really matter but the win. Damn UCI points system. OK, there is a difference in prize money for the minor places, but, long term no one is going to remember who placed off the top step.

        • DBidwell Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 8:42 pm

          I completely agree. It makes no sense to give in with that much race remaining. But I think a group dynamic took over where no one wanted to ferry the sprinters to the finish. It’s an accepted mindset when such a sprinter is in the lead group. But when someone else is off the front that close to the finish that notion should be abandoned.

    • JEB Monday, 8 April 2019, 11:59 am

      “Like an orca whale”

      Haha, what an apt description. Good work Ecky, you’re starting to write like Inrng, obviously been here too long.

    • Jeff Monday, 8 April 2019, 6:40 pm

      Well put: “the inability of a group of hugely-talented athletes to fail to cooperate for their own collective good for the fear of watching one of their number eventually succeed.”

      This seems to capture the contradiction inherent in cycling group dynamics quite well.

      • Ecky Thump Monday, 8 April 2019, 8:27 pm

        Ha.
        I do find Inner Ring’s website tremendously enjoyable, informative and amusing.
        Inner Ring = #CyclingHero

  • Larry T Sunday, 7 April 2019, 9:09 pm

    Mathieu van der Poel deserves something, but I’m not so sure it should be an award. He seemed to be constantly bouncing around on the edge of the peloton, millimeters away from hitting something along the roadway’s edge, whether it was a spectator, curb or parked car. I was surprised he didn’t bounce back into the peloton a time or two, but then he ran directly over some road furniture during the antics and blew out his front tire. He tried to ride on with some circus-like one-handed silliness as he signaled for the team car until it looked like the tire finally came off and put him ass-over-tea kettle onto the ground. He’s lucky he wasn’t injured in a crash that should have been easily avoided and the DS (or perhaps someone in the peloton?) should tell him to stop wasting energy clowning around and concentrate on the racing.

    • JeroenK Sunday, 7 April 2019, 9:22 pm

      That’s a good point Larry, but everyone is on the edge of the road at some point in this race, as the roads are really narrow. VDP has not got a big horsepower team behind him to keep him in the front for long periods of time. He simply draws attention on TV because of his kit and because he’s VDP… Next Flanders, focus on some other riders and you will notice this race is one big kurb or gutter jumping fest.

      • Larry T Monday, 8 April 2019, 10:11 am

        I tuned in from the start (though I admit my eyes weren’t glued to the screen the entire time) and this guy seemed almost constantly on the edge of the road with acrobatics few others can manage. I’ve been watching this race in various ways (including in-person) for many years and this guy’s antics stood out, far out. Kudos to him from getting off the floor and back into the race, but I think a good DS (perhaps if/when he graduates to a top-tier team?) would suggest he spend more energy on the race and less on the ‘cross antics. They’d save money on equipment for sure!

        • The Inner Ring Monday, 8 April 2019, 10:15 am

          It does look expensive in terms of energy but it’s just his style, even his own father says he prefers to let Mathieu race “like he’s playing a game” rather than advising him to sit tight, because he’s having more fun this way and so enjoys road racing more. I think viewers are better off like this too for now

          • Larry T Monday, 8 April 2019, 10:25 am

            Fair enough. Only time will tell if “his style” will get him on a top-tier team (like his ‘cross rival already has) so he can face the top competition on a regular basis rather than hope to get in via promoter’s options. Your comments about his father letting him race “like he’s playing a game” make me wonder if this kid will take advice from anyone? His TV image is mostly of a spoiled (but extremely talented) brat, but perhaps that’s only on TV and he’s really a likeable, coachable young man with promise of a long and successful racing career?

          • Richard S Monday, 8 April 2019, 11:49 am

            I’d imagine its only a matter of (a very short amount of) time before VdP signs for a top team. I’d bet on INEOS seen as they are the most likely to offer him the most money, although I expect Patrick Lefevre is currently on a conference call to the heads of marketing at Lidl, Deceunick and Quik Step begging them for the funds to sign him. He stands out as far as Sagan did when he first came onto the scene, if not a bit more. Admittedly he could be seen jumping and hopping all over the place, and given that road bikes aren’t specifically designed to deal with that he probably caused his own mechanical and crash. But it was his first attempt, he still came fourth and he has already carried off a classic. I’m sure as soon as he signs for a top team the bunny hopping and ‘racing for fun’ will come to an abrupt end, especially if Dave ‘fun time’ Brailsford is his boss. And the big wins will no doubt follow.

          • Steve P Monday, 8 April 2019, 12:16 pm

            Where is that ‘spoiled brat’ comment coming from, Larry? In over five years of watching the huge talents that are MvdP and WvA, week in, week out dominating the (albeit comparatively small) cross scene, I’ve always been amazed at how balanced and polite they both seem for (local) superstar millionaire teenagers! As for the team situation, but for MvdP’s avowed primary aim of MTB gold at the next olympics, I have no doubt he could take his pick from any World Tour team that can afford him.

          • Larry T Monday, 8 April 2019, 2:29 pm

            Steve P. – sounds like you’ve watched a lot more ‘cross races than I have but when this kid doesn’t win he seems to sulk on the podium as if he’s somehow been robbed of the victory. He comes across like a spoiled brat to me but that’s based solely on the few TV broadcasts I’ve watched, so that certainly may not be the case. I hope he gets on a top-tier team so he can demonstrate his talents against the best in the sport on a regular basis, but if I was a betting man I’d bet on career more like Fons de Wolf than Eddy Merckx for this fellow.

        • Drew Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 12:11 am

          Based on the commentary coming from the Trek team car I would expect them to try very hard to sign him for a road contract.

          • Gelato4bahamontes Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 7:15 pm

            Nobody is gonna have a career like eddy

        • J Evnas Wednesday, 10 April 2019, 12:16 am

          He does seem to do a bit of the thing that Sagan used to – and that Van Aert also has a tendency to do – of showing how strong he is early in a race for ostensibly no reason.

          I’m with you on that thing he hit – plenty of riders go off course, etc., but he ploughed through that thing like he thought he was in a tank.

          Hopefully, he’s also learned that when you have a major problem with your bike like he did, it’s best to keep both hands on the handlebars.

          All that aside, he rode a very strong race.

          Kudos to Nils Politt who managed to sprint to 5th having been (I think) 2nd last man after the Paterberg. (And Asgreen.)

          • Ben Ez Thursday, 11 April 2019, 12:02 pm

            I think MVDPs leaping round the outside of the bunch is, like Sagan’s was once, due to being a lone rider without the team to shepherd him around. Give him an Oss, or similar rider, to help him make and hold position and he won’t need so many antics to hold position. If he wasn’t burning all the energy in the bunch how quick would he be then? 4th in GW, 4th in RVV with minimal team support,chapeau!

    • Leroy Sunday, 7 April 2019, 11:54 pm

      What a dumb and uninformed comment. He was doing what he needed to do. Have you ever watched de Ronde before?

      • Larry T Monday, 8 April 2019, 10:18 am

        Seems like RonDe is back folks! Leroy is his new moniker.

    • DJS Monday, 8 April 2019, 6:41 am

      It wasn’t the tire Larry, it was the wheel itself that broke when MvdP tried to jump the obstacle. At the speed involved it was inpossible to come to a complete stop quickly and MvdP showed extreme skill in controlling the bike until he hit a firehose cover which caused the crash. – instead of clowning as per your judgment. According to Sep Vanmarcke – interviewed with MvdP – he himself and many other riders would have crashed badly in the same situation.
      And comments from various DS was broadcast on Sporza – and all were in awe of the way MvdP rode and how he managed his comeback.

      • Steve P Monday, 8 April 2019, 11:55 am

        ….and he apparently only tried the jump that led to the failure because the peloton switched him into the road furniture. What is he to do is that scenario? Just accept the crash and not try to use his skills to avoid it? Inexperience and lack of a powerful team support are certainly factors. Seeing Luke Rowe mentoring Bernal so effectively at Paris-Nice recently makes me suspect that had MvDP had a Rowe figure to guide him through the bunch the outcome would have been very different.

      • Gabriel Constantin Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 11:36 am

        VDP was impressive all around. His only mistake was to take a hand off the handle bars to ask for assistance before gaining full control. He might have not crashed. 10 seconds deficit and soreness could have been avoided. But he was very eager to get back in as fast as possible. He knew his potential that day.

        If not for his long chase back, he might have been able to follow the other youngster’s move and the result might have been different. He showed his willingness to attack, but was not able anymore.

        The top 4 places have incredible merit. The rest were not able or not willing to do better.

        I eat my words regarding Kristoff’s bulk. He might be on to something.

  • Mattgc Sunday, 7 April 2019, 9:19 pm

    After last Sunday and today, Kristoff is surely a 5* pick for Paris Roubaix.

    • STS Sunday, 7 April 2019, 9:53 pm

      Yeah, but rather a 4*, right? Because other than Boonen, Sagan or Cancellara he probably won’t ride away from anyone else from a distance when they don’t want to ride to the finish with him. Or will he?

      • Mattgc Monday, 8 April 2019, 2:30 pm

        Yeah maybe. Does anyone know if Gaviria is riding PR?

        • STS Monday, 8 April 2019, 6:40 pm

          He was cited yesterday as having said that he will also ride P-R.

      • Rooto Monday, 8 April 2019, 6:38 pm

        Agreed. Nobody can be 5* for P-R, too much can happen. Except maybe “Mal Chance”.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 8 April 2019, 7:50 pm

      He’s never thrived in the race so isn’t an automatic big pick. Paris-Roubaix hasn’t been far off a bunch sprint happening in recent years so is a pick like that but the hard part is seeing how he’d get in a break and go to the finish for a win, if he’s back to being as strong as 2015 then he’s got a good shot at making the top-10 again. We’ll see with the conditions, they could help as it looks like it will be dry but promises to be windy and cold which should make it harder and the tougher the race the better he is.

      • Richard S Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 8:54 am

        ‘Looks like it will be dry’

        Well, there’s a surprise. I can remember when I was a kid it was in the news a lot that the Sahara Desert was likely to extend north into Spain. Turns out they underestimated it and it’s all the way up into northern France now!

  • STS Sunday, 7 April 2019, 9:49 pm

    With regards to the race course, if a race is so great as the Ronde typically has been we obviously want it to be perfect. But is it realistic to make it even better?
    I think the combination of Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg creates a very good climax with the Kwaremont clearly responsible for the lion’s share of race-defining potential. And then even the rather long “feature-less” section to the final somehow makes sense as it tests whether it’s really the strongest rider of the race who wins. And it adds to the suspense, doesn’t it?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 8 April 2019, 7:56 pm

      For the long road to the finish doesn’t add too much either, if anything Asgreen’s move this year was a rare event of something actually happening. But it’s the large circuits, they seem to take a bit of intensity out in the finish. This isn’t saying it’s hopeless, just that the race is so exalted it could have something more. The sadist in me points out that once over the Paterberg, the Koppenberg lies in the direction of the finish in Oudenaarde.

      • Gabriel Constantin Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 11:40 am

        True!
        Do you want that order with an uphill finish 🙂 It’s not like they will come in as bunch over that one.

  • escarabajo Sunday, 7 April 2019, 10:08 pm

    Basically EF did a Quickstep today. Perfect teamwork.

    Agree with Ecky above that the final had a frustrating feel to it. The riders should be kicking themselves for allowing that to happen. They rode the last 10km unable to attack, unable to work together.

    Congrats Bettiol – well deserved. Will GVA ever win the Ronde??!

  • Rooto Sunday, 7 April 2019, 10:37 pm

    I believe both Belgian teams had 2 riders in the chasing group. It’s a shame neither had one guy able to sacrifice himself with a 3 km chase to give his teammate a chance of first rather than second, and give us a little more tension at the end.
    Easier said than done, I realise.

    • StevhanTI Monday, 8 April 2019, 9:58 am

      Keukeleire for Lotto was probably spent, he’d done a lot of chasing earlier on. Jungels seem to have tried but well, you know the QS adage, they’re not going to chase for somebody else to win. I guess it would ‘ve made a huge difference if GVA or WVA would’ve had one more helper in that group

      • Rooto Monday, 8 April 2019, 6:40 pm

        That’s a very fair point. From the TV spectators point of view, the wrong teams had the spare men.

  • Richard S Sunday, 7 April 2019, 10:46 pm

    Regarding the finale, Quick Step had 3 riders in the chase group. Surely they should have burned two of them (like how Vanmarke burned himself in the run in to the Kwaremont) to bring Bettiol back. They might just have set up Kristoff but they might also have set up Jungels for a 1k effort. Easy to say I suppose, Asgreen had already been away and Lampaert was clinging on.
    I agree about the course being slightly unsatisfactory. Clearly the toughest climb in Flanders is the Muur. Having it so far from the finish is a waste and makes the race less selective. If it was with 20 or even 30 to go I don’t think you’d have had a bulldozer like Kristoff in 3rd or so many dropped/distanced riders getting back in so easily.

    • Richard S Sunday, 7 April 2019, 10:48 pm

      Also well done to Bettiol, he did a great ride. I remember a few years ago he got a lot of abuse for amassing lots of world tour points in minor races. Showed he’s the real deal today.

    • Morten Reippuert Knudsen Monday, 8 April 2019, 8:17 am

      Jungels was also just only hanging on over the final two climbs. Think he was the the last man to regain contact. (ex Steuyven didnt and chased alone for the final run in).

    • Karl Monday, 8 April 2019, 3:47 pm

      I agree with the Muur being pretty much wasted – 100k from the finish makes it only marginally selective. I bet they can’t get enough VIP areas around it.

    • steveh Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 11:33 pm

      To be fair Å tybar and Jungels have both been winning since #openingsweekend
      As Se̱or Ring has said many times there are good reasons why no one has won Het Nieuwsblad and De Ronde in the same season Рgood for the first means spent by the second. ZS went pop on the last Kwaremont, and Jungels said afterwards he was dead. Fair play to Asgreen for taking it on.
      The footage of Bettiol going clear makes it look easy, but if Greg Bananaman (ht @ukcyclingexpert) couldn’t sleep up then he deserved the win.
      Amazing recovery by VdP but was at the back at the wrong moment – 2020 for him?

  • Tim Mitchell Sunday, 7 April 2019, 11:20 pm

    Well, I called it wrong and I wonder how many minor classic DQS would swap for today?

    As ever thanks to Mr Ring for the write ups and to the people of Flanders for being the best hosts. Onwards to Sunday.

    • StevhanTI Monday, 8 April 2019, 10:00 am

      Don’t forget they won this the last two years and they have MSR in the bag for this year, that justifies some poker play on their part I’d say… But ultimately they were beaten to their own game by E.F., this must be such a boost for them and with Sep back in form right on time for his favourite race of all…

  • brent Sunday, 7 April 2019, 11:48 pm

    This was a great race and I actually like the finishing circuit. Its a great idea for the spectating to see the race several times and the crowd there felt really part of the action. I see the reason its hard to break away is not because of the circuit but because there is no group of a few people so much stronger than the rest they can just force away. Like a boonan, cancerella, sagan and gva in there prime. Bettoil showed it can be done you just have to be superior. I remember when this circuit was first introduced and the complaint was the circuit was to hard only the few best would get away each time.

    Although quickstep lauds its depth in strength sometimes it works against them with many strong riders unwilling to pull because they are waiting for there own chance to be in the lucky break. With 3 in the final group it was silly they could not even try to pull if only to keep the group close enough one of them might break away and catch the lead rider.
    My favourites GVA and sep van marke road well if without individual success so I think next week suits them better with the longer efforts and greater cobble skills required.

  • Stig Monday, 8 April 2019, 3:10 am

    The top 5 of this edition had a bit of a generational change feel to it.

  • Augie March Monday, 8 April 2019, 5:01 am

    Not the first time we’ve seen multiple Quick Step riders in a finishing group all seeming to look out for themselves rather than sacrificing for a leader, perhaps the problem with having so many big talents is imposing a hierarchy. Contrast this to EF with Vanmarcke’s attacks and then Langeveld’s blocking which was real teamwork in action.

    Also a great ride from Matthews in his first Ronde.

    Finally I agree that the course is becoming predictable, could it be that the convenience of corporate sponsor doesn’t make for the most exciting racing?

  • IanP Monday, 8 April 2019, 5:06 am

    I think you call it right on the circuit nature, i cant imagine Valverde rocking up and finishing in the front group when it was the ‘traditional’ route. Way too predictable, and im not sure i even like the race anymore.

    As for Betiiol, great ride, all the riders beforehand said, strongest wins… and so the case is proven. He had it as soon as he attacked, you can just see it… my wife said how long left just before he attacked i said give me 30 minutes, he attacked and i simply said, all done 🙂

    Great Win, so-so race, losing its status as ‘unofficial worlds’ if you ask me.

  • DJS Monday, 8 April 2019, 7:06 am

    Fantastic race and great tactical nous from EF which helped Bettiol to a deserved win – what a jump on the Kwaremont! Three comments:
    – Quickstep or Lotto not pulling in the pursuit – but who for? Both didn’t have a sprinter in a group with several fast finishers. Jungels was hanging on at the back of the group on the final climbs, I don’t think he would have managed to jump and stay away. Asgreen was impressive.
    – Finishing circuit vs old finish – like Brent mentioned when it was introduced there were many comments fearing a LBL-like finish – with riders too afraid to go ‘long’ resulting in sprints from reduced size groups. Instead we have seen various solo wins (yesterday, but also, Terpstra, Gilbert, Sagan). And the old finale had the Muur followed by the not-that-steep Bosberg with a subsequent 10+ km run-in to the finish. Not exactly the same but also not all that different, in my view.
    – The weather may have played a decisive role in the size of the group in pursuit – the race was hard, but add wind and rain and the number of crashes and flats increases, which reduces the numbers of riders up front.

  • Michael B Monday, 8 April 2019, 10:09 am

    As well as blocking Langeveld played a key role for Bettiol in dragging Kristoff back into the second group. I’m not even sure if it was deliberate but after Bettiol had gone it was split and Kristoff was off the back of the chase group before grabbing Langeveld’s wheel in no-man’s land and hauling himself back on. I’m sure him being in that group added to the lack of cohesion – who wants to drag Kristoff to the finish?!

    MVPD is awesome and I can’t believe he still got fourth. He’s always in the wind! The crash was bad, and I could be wrong as I haven’t seen it again, but it looked to me like he could have stayed on the road to avoid the kerb / flower bed which gave him the puncture / mechanical, which led to his crash. But he’s so confident in his bike great handling skills he just thought he could bunny hop it but I don’t think he was expecting it to be an uneven flowerbed when he landed.

  • Mark Monday, 8 April 2019, 10:29 am

    It was definitely a strange edition, seemed more like a Gent-Wevelgem than what is usually the hardest and most fractured race of the season. I have a theory that DQS were underpowered compared to in recent races, Stybar definitely feeling off along with Gilbert. We’re still not sure about sagan either as he would always have done something in a race if he could thatas just the way he is. If there is one thing that neutralises a race its when the field is assuming top riders are stronger than they actually are as it makes covering moves easier.

  • plurien Monday, 8 April 2019, 11:01 am

    Well here we all are commenting on what must be the finest possible opening win of a pro career. Bettiol has been making himself highly visible yet hasn’t been rated. It’s not his fault to be an unexpected overwinnaar able to stay away with supposedly the best riders in the world only 20 seconds behind.
    Really, can’t we just be pleased to have witnessed one of the best finishes, oh, since last year.
    The parcours is absolutely fine as it is. There’s no need for more climbs or steeper ones near the finish because the whole thing with DeRonde is precisely the elimination race and then the tough run in where power vs the bunch gets to be so finely balanced.
    Probably the biggest variable that nobody’s commented on was the near perfect calm weather which didn’t hinder some tactics, some riders and didn’t favour others.
    Bettiol was the best on the day, and if he wasn’t, well that’s not his problem.
    Chapeau. Live for today, prepare for tomorrow.

    • Warren Monday, 8 April 2019, 11:20 am

      Finally, yes he rode a great race. Chapeau Bettiol. Every team knew what the weather was going to do, they also knew the course, everyone had an equal chance. Too many potential winners in a chasing bunch with too few team mates willing to sacrifice themselves.

  • Sam, G Monday, 8 April 2019, 11:32 am

    Anyone who powers away on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont is worthy winner of the race.

    However as strong as Bettiol was, his team were just as strong and up to the task. An excellent individual and team display. For me this is why none of the big names won, their teams didn’t (unusually this time in the case of QS) the strength in depth to allow the leader to shine. A nice example of the importance of a team in cycling. Something that can be overlooked in the classics.

  • Vegar Monday, 8 April 2019, 11:44 am

    The strongest rider won. This point shouldn’t go unnoticed. Bettiol certainly deserves this status despite never winning before and not being a four or five chainring pick before the race.

    1. He has been the fastest or among the fastest riders in the hellingen all spring – in a classics campaign where few specialists have been able to outshine the others.

    2. As we have seen in this race before with Gilbert, Cancellara and many others, it is not merely the constellation of the chasing group that creates a tactical stalemate. Rather, the relentless speed of the sole leader has a huge psychological effect on the chasing group. To put it starkly, Bettiol didn’t win because Kristoff was in the chase; he won because he was fast.

  • noel Monday, 8 April 2019, 2:20 pm

    I think the course is fine in it’s current form. This was a different race from the previous 2 where the winner took off with approx 50k remaining. As has been mentioned I think the conditions made it more likely that a larger group would get closer to the finish this time. Chapeau to Bettiol for taking advantage of the situation., and the final result was uncertain until the final 3km (I love all those after the event comments ‘oh, it was soo obvious when he went that he would be the winner’…).
    Women’s race was great too – check out Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig’s post race interview if you get a chance – highly entertaining.

  • Bernie S Monday, 8 April 2019, 2:32 pm

    Watch Nils Pollitt ,hes going to win big soon

    • Motormouth Monday, 8 April 2019, 4:59 pm

      Dude I know!! He attacked so many times I thought for sure he was cooked but there he was in the finale sprinting for places.

      Whitest teeth in the peloton!

  • SLO_cyclist Monday, 8 April 2019, 2:49 pm

    Too many big names together, all watching each other and playing tactics. And Sagain in a terrible shape for his standards. Every time we end up in such a situation, I say to myself…I hope they get punished for it…and this time they did, big time. One more year and one more de Ronde are around, and “onze Greg” as the Flemmish like to call him was left empty-handed once more, as one example. It often takes balls to win de Ronde (e.g. Gilbert couple of years ago). We all know Bettiol (the fact that I needed to scroll up to check how to spell his name says a lot about it) has an easier job hiding inflated balls than the big shots but still….sometimes you simply need to try.

  • John Irvine Monday, 8 April 2019, 3:47 pm

    Judging by how 38 year old Valverde did, Van Avermaet might have five more attempts to go.

  • Rooto Monday, 8 April 2019, 6:54 pm

    Just to agree with those saying that Bettiol was a very worthy winner, and that it wasn’t his fault that the chasing group’s failure to collaborate is the main talking point. He broke away on the Oude Kwaremont, but his ability to climb the Paterberg as fast as anyone (except probably MvdP) just after shouldn’t be forgotten. After all, the climb is every man for himself, no collaboration required or even possible, and he was as good as any of them.

  • RQS Monday, 8 April 2019, 10:43 pm

    I have to agree that the fireworks never went off on this one. I got home just after the race finished having the misfortune to break my viewing at the inopportune time due parental duties I rewound the race to the point where ‘the race was won’ with Bettiol jumped on the Kwaremont. In that time I was wondering how little known Bettiol could get himself off the front and stay there.
    There’s no doubting the level of kick that Bettiol put in, but beyond a vain attempt by GVA to enervate the trailing group there seemed to be a critical mass in the group of favourites so massive that none could escape its gravity.
    Sure shots were fired, but these were like pee shooters from the trenches, and the big guns never went off. Damp squibs all around. Sagan seemed to be particularly sour faced. He’s often outnumbered and resents being tracked. I thought he was only doing enough to keep himself in touch, but was looking for someone to make the jump with.
    Given Valverde’s age and that he was near the sharp end I did wonder if he would lay it all out since he’s unlikely to ride it again (statistically speaking anyway), but maybe he was struggling too.
    Bettiol is a worthy winner, and I did expect a revelation given that the star riders are not in top form, but unlike in other races a selection didn’t really occur. Bettiol could’ve been reeled in if they had ridden together. Hesitation and shoulder gazing keep the chasers at bay.
    Hopefully the Paris-Roubaix doesn’t disappoint.

  • Stuie Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 2:52 am

    I found the race, as a whole, underwhelming, but Bettiol’s attack and solo to the line was really special. On to Roubaix.

  • Joe K. Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 8:17 am

    I concur with Mr. Inrng that the course has become a bit formula-ic with the breakaway on the last (or penultimate) big hellengen serving as the launching point for the winner in the past three editions, but that kind of formula can be seen in the M-SR as well, with the Poggio as the obvious launch point. Yet, despite this formula, it’s a lot of fun to watch. The overall speed was very fast with no letting up despite the distance–it must be those newfangled energy gels! Can’t wait to see Remco join in on the action at the Classics in the coming years! As for VanderPoel, what a brute; he rides the road like he’s riding cyclo-cross. Seriously, not many can come back to the front group after wiping out and lying on the pavement at the Ronde.

  • Anonymous Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 10:53 am

    thought it was great edition of the race, seeing the efforts of the big hitters come to nothing, almost feeling the pain in the legs of the riders, great weather and to cap it all a winner not favoured! Fantastic.

  • Steppings Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 10:57 am

    Flanders feeling a bit “Disneyfied” to me now, not keen on the Corporate segregations, though appreciate they need the mugs cash. Chapeau to the winner, nice to have a new name and jersey on the podium.

  • Paul Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 11:47 am

    What a great opportunist grab as always a great race with surprises

  • Gabriel Constantin Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 11:59 am

    I hate those tents. I felt like a second tier spectator because of them taking the best spots and blocking the passage to others.
    I’ll go to the folks spots from now on, the climbs off the circuit basically.
    And to the less popular races, those attract a better crowd.

    • Larry T Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 12:06 pm

      Perhaps a good topic for a future feature? The pros and cons of the commercialization schemes of Flanders Classics? More details on that https://www.velonews.com/2019/04/news/qa-flanders-director-sunderland-on-building-a-year-round-cycling-business-in-belgium_492094

      • Richard S Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 3:22 pm

        Yes because more tin pot one day races in August lining up to be in the already massively over subscribed World Tour is what cycling needs right now.

    • noel Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 12:08 pm

      Gabriel – as a first timer on the Kwaremont I was actually pleasantly surprised at the ability to park within 15 mins walk and then move about between passes, grab a beer and a bratwurst, and find spots to see the race despite the crowds.
      Maybe I’m just too used to those locked down spaces and enclosures that are a feature of all big sporting events these days…

    • SLO_cyclist Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 5:03 pm

      Yeah, these tents are a bit annoying…except for one year when I managed to get a ride from 3 local ladies, one of them knew a son of Willy Naessens who got us all VIP tickets for the tent at the top of Koppenberg (that was still a Ninove edition where being on top of Koppenberg was one of the places to be).

  • John Irvine Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 2:42 pm

    Cosmo has a nice recap here: https://cyclocosm.com/2019/04/how-the-race-was-won-tour-of-flanders-2019/
    He points out some questionable choices by CCC, and just how impressive Asgreen was.

  • Simon Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 8:22 pm

    I also felt that this was a very exciting race. A total war of attrition. In retrospect, EF played the long game – the attack with Sep VanMarcke was masterful and focussed the chasers on his danger. He played on his sore knee so had nothing to lose and everything to gain. His work and the clever marking from Langeveld was the perfect foil for Bettiol.
    Additionally the cyclocross boys showed their special magic again & Valverde was imperious as ever. I watched the whole race – I felt as though I’d ridden it afterwards. Exhausting.

    • John Irvine Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 10:35 pm

      Agreed. From about 100k out there were splits and attacks, any one of which could have been decisive, and all of which contributed to the overall level of stress and fatigue.

  • J Evnas Wednesday, 10 April 2019, 12:09 am

    If you’re watching Eurosport online (in the UK, at least), you can not only watch advert-free on ‘E’ instead of ‘E1’, but in big races like this you get Rob Hatch and Tony Gibb doing a ‘sparing’ commentary (or at least that’s what happened for the Ronde). Not only do you miss adverts and Kirby’s yammering nonsense, but because they’re only speaking when necessary they actually focus on the race (rather than telling you for the 900th time that MvdP is the CX WC), even accurately telling you who is in the break – it was like a different world once I found this after 3 or 4 hours of the dross on the regular channel (Matt Stephens is fine, but Quigley knows nothing and Kelly seems to have been phoning it in for years now – can’t remember the last time he said anything interesting).

  • J Evnas Wednesday, 10 April 2019, 12:19 am

    If the organisers were worried about predictability, but want to keep all their corporate tents, etc., couldn’t they shuffle the bergs around a bit, so that they still go up the Oude K. three times past the tents? (Horrible reason to base the course around, but such is life.)
    I think the cobbled races have been a bit quiet this year because of the clement weather. The ‘new’ Ronde route does seem to lead to it being settled in the final two climbs, but that hasn’t actually been the case in that many editions.

    • SLO_cyclist Thursday, 11 April 2019, 1:28 pm

      But they do go up Oude K. 3 times or did you mean Koppenberg? And fair point, Gilbert and Terpstra recently won it prior to the last climb.