The Moment The Ronde Van Vlaanderen Was Won

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165 starters reduced to duel. The third time up the Paterberg couldn’t separate Tadej Pogačar from Mathieu van der Poel. A sprint into Oudenaarde loomed and try as you might to cite factors as to why Pogačar might win, van der Poel had his rival right where he wanted.

The Ronde was back to its popular glory, spectactors allowed for the first time since 2019. No other one day race plays a role like it, one million people were forecast to be roadside, how many other events get such crowds in the world? If the crowd was out, so were plenty of riders. Wout van Aert led the non-starters and another absentee was the wind, predicted gusty conditions were moderated by the weekend.

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The race began with an early crash from Tadej Pogačar but the race settled into the expected format. The early break had Stan De Wulf as a potential relay point for his Ag2r leaders plus breakaway specialist Taco van der Hoorn but otherwise the nine were on a day trip; if they weren’t going to win, at least enjoy the day out. Once upon a time a breakaway like this would get 10 or even 15 minutes and crucially some hope. Now it just gets four minutes.

The first time up the Oude Kwaremont was the halfway point and the race came alive. You could see it on TV, a striptease as riders began to peel off layers of clothing and the peloton just looked busier, like an ants’ nest that got poked and riders were being flicked into the ditch.

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There’s a blog post titled “optionality” for another day, for now a paragraph to note there’s a value in being up the road in the cobbled classics that isn’t there in other races. Attack with 90km to go in, say, the Tour of the Basque Country, and you’re burning matches like a bored arsonist. Not so in Flanders where you’re taking a front row seat and buying an option on future events. In Dutch it’s anticiperen, to get ahead of events. With 92km to go and the Berendries cleared, a big danger move of 13 riders formed with two Quick-Steppers, two Jumbos, Mads Pedersen, “Big” Ben Turner and rather than list all of them, it’s easier to cite the fossil-fuelled chasers of UAE, Total and Bahrain because they’d missed the move. The move was dangerous in a secondary manner, its menace forced leaders stuck behind to react.

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Then UAE got to work. With 55km to Matteo Trentin led into the Oude Kwaremont and if he was being deployed here it had to presaged a Pogačar attack because the Italian was his last helper going. The Kwaremont’s not steep, it’s not even long if you’re a Tour de France contender but it was plenty and the Slovenian soared up the straat as if it was the Col de Romme. Only Kasper Asgreen could follow as Pogačar gripped the brake hoods and his head shaking sideways like someone coming to the end of their spinning class. A constellation of stars was close behind and they regrouped for the Paterberg moments later and for a change it was another Slovenian in Jan Tratnik who stormed up. Two riders who’d missed the split were Dylan Teuns and Valentin Madouas but they made it back after the descent just as Dylan van Baarle and Fred Wright drifted clear.

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Next came the Koppenberg, the hardest climb and Pogačar launched again. In Milan-Sanremo his multiple attacks on the Poggio came to nothing here the terrain was more suited to multiple efforts and only Valentin Madouas and Mathieu van der Poel could follow, Mads Pedersen just had to watch them ride away.

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Van der Poel, Pogačar and Madouas swept up van Baarle and Wright to make a quintet but it looked like two stars and three stowaways. This was relative of course, they were in the lead while others, including whole teams, were floundering behind. But surely it was going to be Van der Poel or Pogačar? Van Baarle is consistent but an infrequent winner; Madouas has the makings of a French version of this as he thrives in the sixth hour of a race. Fred Wright is promising but wasn’t going to steal the show. The quintet built up a minute’s lead and behind the chase was more a series of competing efforts to get clear.

On to the final Kwaremont climb and sure enough van Baarle, then Wright and then Madouas were dropped to leave the two stars. They duelled up the Paterberg and for the briefest moment van der Poel looked to be losing ground but he just got his line wrong. He closed the gap and the pair began the long run to the finish. Van der Poel was now on favourable terrain.

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Now you might think taking van der Poel to the line was madness for Pogačar. But he’d pushed on the Paterberg and didn’t fancy trying again on the flat road. Besides after 270km it’s not an ordinary sprint and Pogačar can win sprints too, if not because of wild watts but because he’s still got something left in the tank. Besides a year ago van der Poel came to the finish with Kasper Asgreen and got smoked by the Dane. Was another Poel-idor moment coming? You could ask these questions like someone at the circus wondering if the tightrope walker was going to slip. It could happen. But in this Flemish circus van der Poel knows the ropes it was Pogačar who risked the greater fall. Van der Poel had won here before and he packs the bigger sprint.

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The plot twist was van Baarle and Madouas closing in. They’d been at 30 seconds on the final stretch to Oudenaarde, within sight and working well together but all they could see was the third step of the podium. Only the two leaders began to look at each other, then slowed, then a stand-off as Pogačar wanted to stay second wheel. Suddenly with 250m to go they were swamped. There’s a joke about two hikers who spot a bear in the woods and one bends down to tighten up the laces on their boots, “you can’t outrun a bear” says their companion, “I know,” says the one who’s finished adjusting their boots, “I just have to outrun you”. Van der Poel went from having to launch the sprint into the wind to having the advantage of being a bike length ahead and surged clear just as the chasers drew level and Pogačar got mauled. You don’t need a whole bunch to get boxed in, just one rider in front, one to the left and another to the right. Pogačar complained and his UAE team went to the commissaires. It’s hard to see foul play, he was just overtaken on both sides and blocked in traffic. This must be the first time he’s lost his cool, the usually unflappable rider was all theatrical hand gestures in the finish zone. Understandable given he’d not just seen the Ronde slip through his fingers, he’d fallen off the podium.

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The Verdict
A lively race that began to stir from the halfway point, became nervous with 90km to go and then a tense final, thrilling in the moment because if van der Poel was the obvious pick for the sprint, it was never certain and more so given Asgreen had got the better of him a year ago. Yet this was not a sophisticated race, it was reduced down to the two superstars, the two strongest. For all the micro-moments of positioning, crashes and mechanicals, the big moves went at obvious points on the circuit: the Kwaremont-Paterberg-Koppenberg tripel is decisive. It was less art and more a Hollywood action movie albeit with a Dutch director given the ending, entertaining but not subtle. Pogačar didn’t unpick an intricate Flemish lock, he kicked the door down on the Kwaremont and only van der Poel was left.

For Van der Poel, a triumph. Sanremo’s podium showed he could handle the distance, his riding in the Coppi e Bartali and Dwars Door Vlaanderen showed the power was back and he combined it all to get another big win. For Pogačar a loss compounded by finishing fourth despite being the strongest in the race yet perhaps there’s value in Pogačar stuffing up the finish? He can’t win everything, every time. Plus coming this close means he’ll want to return because he knows the win is within reach and that’s already an enticing prospect.

The sport is being recalibrated to Pogačar’s standard, not long ago a grand tour winner simply didn’t venture onto the pavé; Vincenzo Nibali had a go at the Ronde and Alejandro Valverde’s top-10 in 2019 was remarkable at the time. Yes Geraint Thomas had two top-10s as well but he wasn’t a grand tour guy in 2014 was he? Statisticians will record Claudio Chiapucci had a top-10 in the 1990s but historians will know he didn’t shape the race; we go back to 1994 for Gianni Bugno’s win as a comparison point or failing that to the seventies and… oh no, not another comparison. We’ll have to leave it there.

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94 thoughts on “The Moment The Ronde Van Vlaanderen Was Won”

  1. To paraphrase a comment I saw elsewhere, it takes some skill to be in a two up finish and come in fourth!

    Matthieu Van de Poel and Tadej Pogacer did seem to be on a different level though both Quickstep & Jumbo Visma were missing so not necessarily something to be repeated in future editions.

    • Tough for Quick-Step, another roasting in the Flemish newspapers awaits but Asgreen was close if not for that mechanical and maybe a top-10 was possible. Jumbo too had a tougher time, Laporte had that crash and a long chase but was still strong at the end and you wonder what van Aert made of it all from his sofa. You think he’s bound to win at some point but van Avermaet was supposed to as well and never did, Sagan should have won Sanremo etc.

      • Rewatching the key moments of the race, it’s clear that Asgreen went poof after following Pogi on Kwaremont, he was slow on the following Paterberg and on Koppenberg even before his mechanical.

        I was very impressed by Van Baarle, he was far back over that Kwaremont, but quickly caught up and went to the front before Paterberg, where he was ‘slow’, before attacking and gaining ground before Koppenberg. Likewise previously in the race when he came back from his mechanical and was in good position again before Molenberg.

        • Indeed Asgreen did the bored arsonist thing when trying to follow Pogacar in his first attack, he said himself that he wasn’t strong enough and the mechanical didn’t make the difference.

          • M. RING – For some reason this Basque quip leaves me uneasy, which is unusual for your measured tone. If I have become a snowflake then please send me a ill wind.

  2. Good recap! As someone pointed out Pogacar somehow finished 4th in a 2-man sprint. He won’t make that mistake again! I’m sad to read he whined about something that was 100% his own fault – now that MVdP’s far less of a drama queen is Pogacar gonna take his place?
    Chapeau to VanBaarle – wasn’t he the one given a spare bike with a flat front tire earlier in the race? I expected a Bjarne Riis type bike throw after that, but he kept his cool and came close to winning the race despite the marginal FAILURE of his team.

    • This kicked my Schadenfreude into full gear. Nice to see someone get gazumped for sitting second wheel, but also happier it was Pogacar. He seems like a nice guy, but I don’t know what he’s pedalling.

  3. Great writing. Thank you.
    Rare to see a podium where all three are just delighted to be there. Pogacar had a learning experience there.
    For Madouas this was better than he could ever have expected and he’s Tryer of the Day for repeatedly heaving himself back to the lead group.
    Ben Turner also is performing at the level of a way more experienced rider and it’s probably time to give him free rein.
    Pogacar continues to amaze with his souplesse and power, but he needs to study the tactics of those who can win whilst definitely not being the strongest. But yeah, he could completely clean up in the Ardennes. He sure is exciting to watch, if only because he forces all the others to play harder, and none more so than Vanderpoel.

    • Madouas has been going well all spring, as have Le Gac and Kung. FDJ have been visible at the sharp end of every race and seem to have joined that front rank of teams that contest the wins.
      Re Pogacar, I agree that he could conceivably clean up in the Ardennes, he’s definitely the number 1 favourite for Liege at least. It’ll be interesting to see if he pays for his efforts now in any visible way in July.

  4. An excellent race, entertaining as always. It does feel like cycling has changed fundamentally compared to most of the time that I have been a fan/viewer. Whether it came in with Lemond, Indurian or even Armstrong its a fact that Grand Tour contenders did nothing other Grand Tours and their associated warm up races pretty much from the end of the Lemond/Fignon era up until now (you could argue that Bugno was primarily a one day rider who ‘somehow’ won a GT). Through the last decade one day riders even split off into cobble and Ardennes specialists. Now you’ve got Van der Poel who has finished in the top 10 of all the monuments in no time at all, and could conceivably win 4 or even all of them, Van Aert who seems to be able to do anything, and Pogacar who can do anything.
    I’m probably in a minority but I don’t particularly like the Oude Kwaremont as the centre piece of the race. I’d prefer a steeper climb in its place at the end. Maybe I’m just saying that because I’m disappointed Pogacar wasn’t able to drop MvDP!

    • I think you will find that the reason that the Oude Kwaremont has become the centre piece of the race is down to how many “VIP tents” can be installed alongside. The proceeds from beer, other catering & ticket sales goes towards paying for the race.

      • I’d love to know how valuable the tents to the race because it feels like the race doesn’t tour Flanders because it has to lap past the VIP zones and the peloton has the measure of the circuit now when for a few years it didn’t. Some change to the final circuits could help disrupt things, if not then we need the wind to get up to change things.

        • Unsure if this is a bad thing. For a relative newcomer to the sport, it has a pretty iconic stadium-like quality that’s absent from climbs like the Poggio or anything in Strade Bianche. Much like the Poggio, it doesn’t look that tough, but is enough for the elastic to snap, and ensure the cream rises to the top after the distance of the race and the repeated efforts. MVDP/Pogacar, MVDP/Asgreen, MVDP/WVA (plus Alaphilippe…) as recent finishing lead groups indicates the race is doing something right in terms of selection. Saying that, it’s a shame there’s no Kapelmuur at the moment and I’m sure there are many different routes that could provide the same selection.

        • Changing the route sometimes, or alternating it with the old route, would possibly liven up the racing. It’s still a great race, but in danger of becoming a bit formulaic a bit too often.

      • How does the number of beer tents have any effect on the race? Riding that cobbled section (other than crowd noise or maybe being sprayed with beer? And yes, I have ridden it myself) is the same whether there are a bunch of tents there or not.
        Richard S – you are selling LeMond short – watch this
        These TV shows really turned me into a bike racing fan. I can watch ’em over and over 🙂

      • Exactly. And the beer tents can fit around it because its surrounded by open fields. Its out of character from the rest of the climbs which are usually claustrophobic and surrounded by either terraced houses or trees, as well as steeper. It isn’t a patch on the Muur.

    • I think Lemond represented the last of the Tour winners that were truly well-rounded riders. Don’t forget that he has a 4th place at Roubaix, a 2nd at MSR, a top ten at Flanders, and a world championship win in the form of a four up sprint against the likes of Sean Kelly. His palmares in 1985 and 1986 are quite well-rounded. Indurain’s results, on the other hand, were heavily skewed toward his grand tour goals.

      • I know Lemond was a very good one day rider in his day who rode the classics but I got the impression, perhaps wrongly, from somewhere that towards the end of his career he concentrated on the Tour as that was where the money was, and that others caught on to the effectiveness of that.

        • After the hunting accident, it was most definitely the case that he focused on the Tour (though he did take 9th at Roubaix in his last year as a pro). 1989 and 1990 seemed to be transition years, though. Claudio Chiapucci, who took second at Le Tour behind Lemond in 1989, won MSR in 1990 (and took third at Le Tour). Erik Breukink, who took third, was very much a stage racer.

        • I think LeMond has pretty much admitted that post-shotgun he was good only for 2-3 weeks each year so concentrated on the biggest thing going, but prior to that he was up there, racing all year. IMHO that late LeMond, Indurain, BigTex and probably up to Froome era is an anomaly, but it’s a period that so many who post here grew up with that they think somehow it’s always been this way. I’ll be happy to dance on the grave of the Froome era…he should be calling-it-a-career pretty soon, I hope.

          • Agreed! Pogacar learned a hard lesson yesterday, but I’m hopeful that he builds on it and manages a couple of spring classic victories in the same year as a grand tour victory.

      • LeMond is a good comparison had some great results in Roubaix, but I wonder how much did he shape / make the race? Presumably at times but hopefully a reader who can remember or has studied the races from them knows more, was it as much as Pogačar was doing yesterday? A similar story for Fignon and like Hinault he didn’t race Flanders much either.

    • Interesting take on the Oude Kwaremont.

      I was surprised how hard it felt when I rode it and can completely understand why it’s so decisive. It certainly feels more climb-y than it looks on TV.

      And jc is certainly on the money!

      • I dont think it’s so much the difficulty of the climb, but the predictability of the final circuit changes the racing and usually makes it less aggressive.

        • Indeed – and that was obviously the point the Inner Ring made in his comment.
          If the three or four decisive climbs in the final stage of the race are the same and and in the same order year after year so that teams and riders know exactly what to expect that can in a way be detrimental to the race.
          Or, at the very least, it could sake things up nicely and bring a welcome element of added uncertainty, if some of the five or six last hellingen were different or in a different order every year. It would still be the Ronde!

    • As I already pointed out below for Dave, what you say is quite reductive, unless we speak of cobbles only, although of course I agree about the general trends.

  5. Refreshing to see Pog in the mix with the classics guys. I’ll be interested to see how he applies the lessons learned to future stage races (not that he needs much more help). I just read Spartacus’ column on the CN page where he suggested he began his sprint in the wrong gear. Its one thing to outsprint climbers after a day in the Alps; quite different when you’re up against one day specialists.

    Hope to see more from Madouas this classics season.

    Great write up (&preview yesterday) Inrng!

    • It was refreshing.
      You could maybe also say chastening because, if the weather was benign, Pogacar blew the field away like a storm crashing in.
      Basically, any race with a couple of hills in, he’s capable of winning.
      There was the briefest of moments yesterday, in the last 5km or so, when Pogacar allowed a smile to pass his lips and he looked across to van der Poel.
      There was respect there, I’m not sure what if anything it said about Pogacar’s confidence going into the run-in.
      The Dutchman blanked him.
      And that said everything.

      • Not sure what you are suggesting here with the smiling/blanking. I think VdP was just concentrated on recovering as much as he could for the sprint. From what I hear, VdP and Pogi respect and like each other. Mathieu said in his post race interview that he would have wanted for Pogacar* to be on the podium since he was the strongest man in the race.

        *If anyone knows of a more accurate translation for the Dutch “gunnen” in this context please correct me.

        • Your translation is correct. I don’t see any direct equivalent in english, but gunnen means something as « to grant, to allocate, to reward ».

  6. It seems to me that the ‘recalibration’ is also in how some contenders are planning their season. In recent years it seemed pretty standard for GT GC guys to just gradually ramp up the season to peak in July, but now they seem to be aiming to be in peak condition twice, with a break late spring/early summer. The new way looks more natural and it’s definitely more entertaining, but there is still serious thought and preparation behind it all.

  7. Another Ronde, another lovely turn of phrase ‘another Poel-idor’, which I will borrow. History won’t record the absences on the start line, but I missed them.

    The Ronde and Roubaix are, for me, the high mass of cycling and this year I was not disappointed. I am starting to worry that Wout won’t ever win either of them.

    Ronderful race and write up.

  8. Fantastic Ronde.
    Possibly best I can remember, at least since the Gilbert victory.

    Generally I vastly prefer Grand Tours to one day races but having a genuine Grand Tour winner properly mix it with the best one day racers really upped my enjoyment, and for more than a ten minute flash of brilliance that we got with Nibali in MSR!

    I’m also a fan of the best riders coming to the fore, so to see a heavy weight contest of MVDPvsPOG rather than a smaller name sneaking away or having the one magic day of their career was likewise special. (I know everyone likes an underdog or a good tactician but it’s so rare to get the best riders genuinely facing off in cycling due to illness/form/crashes/team budgets/age etcs – I’m happy when it happens)

    Just wish Pog had nabbed it!
    Great review INRNG!

    • Lombardia is still a one-day race, besides being a Monument 😛 , and Nibali beating Alaphilippe in 2017 is pretty much a GT winner having the best of a “very top” one day racer (quite longer than 10 minutes, too).
      As Nibali’s been doing since that old Plouay where he beat the likes of Flecha or Pozzato, then through his whole career (at Bernocchi over Trentin, Tre Valli etc.). Even when he eventually lost the race he was there with the best (ahead of them, actually, until the very finish) at Liège, and let’s not forget that his winning Sanremo wasn’t pure chance, he had already come close to a victory… most notably in 2012 when he podiumed, squeezed right between Cancellara and Sagan.
      Nibali doesn’t come even close to Pogi in terms of sheer physical gifts (does anyone in recent decades?) but to only remember that Sanremo is reductive, short term memory of sort.

      We’d also have plenty of examples with Valverde beating great Classics riders: he’s technically a GT winner and has podiumed in all the three GTs, but I’d indeed say he’s pretty much one of the best one-day racers who’s exceptionally good in GTs rather than the other way around.

      However, then you also have the likes of Andy Schleck, Vinokourov, Cunego, Di Luca (thinking also about Amstel of course)… and I’d add Purito, too, although technically not a GT winner.

      I actually thought you were really meaning “cobbled Classics” (where Nibali and Valverde were at the start seldom and late, offering very reduced glimpses of what might have been – and nobody else is worth naming in recent years, I think, barring the strange but worthy cases of Wiggo and G), but still you named Sanremo which isn’t cobbled. So… let’s highlight those who had this sort of merits.

    • The guy may have won 2 Tours, and against tougher opposition than in many a year, but to put Pogacar in a category as a ‘GT and therefore not one day classics’ rider is a bit previous when he’s 23 years old!!

      At 23 this rider would still have been carrying the bidons and working all day to deliver some sinewy kapo to fight for GC seconds when the day’s work came to an end. With a bit of luck, he might have been allowed to contest the white jersey.
      Not any more.
      Instead we have athletes coming through on physical merit to lead races and take whatever they can, be it GC seconds or one day classics. They don’t have to serve time in the squad, and they maybe come with a range of tactical awareness, but I’d take this any day over the days of bullying, doping and long twilights of kapos’ careers.
      Pogacar is exceptional at any age for winning 2 Tours on the trot, and more so for having the stamina to do this from 21 yrs old, but it would be a great shame to put a wall around what he can do.
      Procycling has become a lot less processional and predictable – remember all thise Giros that Basso was going to win, which held back all the better young talent on the team? – with more scope for talent to come through quickly. It will take a while to see how this develops and it might make things really hard for riders, but it’s great to watch and I hope young riders prefer things this way.

      • Pretty much agree with your post, more or less (still don’t forget Gauss and talent, and it’s not like Contador, Valverde, or even Aru, Quintana, Cunego etc. ever did that much water-carrying).
        “remember all thise Giros that Basso was going to win, which held back all the better young talent on the team?”
        You mean, *one*? That is, 2012, when, by the way, younger Nibali was focussing on the Tour? He was a winner in 2010, fidn’t race in 2011 or 2013, then he was working elsewhere as pure luxury gregario.

        • Sure, was also thinking of a young Sagan on that team, but it’s a dim memory and I probably should have looked it up.
          Just remember Basso being like the old man who takes two young dogs on a walk. They all go the same route, but the dogs have energy to cover each step ten times over, yet he won’t let them off the leash.

          • Sagan never raced the Giro with Basso at Cannondale because Specialized wanted him always doing Cali for sponsorship reasons. Disgusting, but, hey, he also was having fun and agreed (yes, we lost huge fun at the Giro along the way, but so it goes).

    • It’s a guestimate from the Belgian TV news that day. But with the roads having two sides of course that’s 1.8 for every meter on both sides. A lot given many empty stretches but some places were packed ten deep. Other estimates say the Rio carnival got 1.5 million a day and that’s plenty, a million for Belgium is big.

  9. A question for readers. Do the pictures work ok?

    I use embedded images from Getty to illustrate these pieces and ask because I can see them but that’s because I’ve put them in. Other readers might get served annoying ads in their frames or something else unwanted. Is it ok? A few replies and I can know and leave them / adjust etc.

  10. The pictures display OK on my work laptop (Chrome browser), which is a welcome surprise: on most previous posts I’ve just seen an icon and a white space. That must be specific to the setup, maybe because I’m on a VPN or behind a firewall. They always display on my home PC.

  11. I understand the appeal of the narrative, but I think MVdP’s win was more inevitable than that. Once it was clear that Pogacar couldn’t drop MVdP on the climbs, it was very unlikely MVdP would lose. Too much raw power, too much explosiveness, too much skill on the bike, too much drive to win.

    We know now he was burned out and had back issues at Flanders last year. He looks much fresher this year. The fact that he’s reached this level with so little training and racing is incredible.

    Pogacar is probably unbeatable in the grand tours, and maybe even in the climber classics. But at a race like this against a healthy MVdP, forget it. For me, the narrative isn’t “it’s amazing MVdP found a way to win,” it’s more “amazing Pogacar was able to get that close.”

    And let’s not forget MVdP’s appearance at the Tour. Imagine if he had his own TT gear and spent time in the wind tunnel.

    Hope he focuses on the road and drops the mountain bike. He has a few years left where he can be incredible.

    • Nah, lets hope he doesn’t – he just becomes another road rider. Mixing disciplines, and World Class at them all is the sign of a true great.
      Only current rider with World Tour, World Cup CX, World Cup XCC, World Cup XCO race wins. The MTB is un-finished business, there’s a World & Olympic title available to him; we didn’t see the best of him last year in his MTB races.

  12. Re the earlier comments about the Oude Kwarmont.
    It is the length and the wide open adjacent fields that make it so attractive to the organisers. It might not be the most difficult or decisive climb but by taking the race through on 3 occasions they can create a space for paying spectators that other sports take for granted. I understand that a big part of the attraction of watching cycling is that anyone can simply stand at the side of the road and see the race go by but sources of income are an ongoing issue so I can see why this has become a regular feature.

    • Personally i like the circuit. If i was a spectator i would love it that the race comes by 3 times and each time the group has changed and reduced or reformed. Lots get dropped there so its obviously steep enough but sometimes if they keep close then can get back on. Its a great mix.

      As to the riders knowing whats coming. Well it does it matter that they do it 3 times. Its not like the riders and ds don’t do days of recon for this race in addition to every climb in the area being well known. There is no chance this race will have a finish not planned for unless they announce the course after the race starts.

  13. Being a Fleming and racing enthusiast, “De Ronde” is an annual pilgrimage to the Holy Mass. It could well be that there were around 1 million on the sidelines yesterday. The start is Antwerp was already 100,000 for the entire city area. And I’ve been going to the Old Karemont for years and never knew it was so full. And then we are quickly talking about just over 40,000 people. As for the tents, they are simply necessary to survive, and leave it free for the people. I once experienced a VIP on the “Steenbeekdries” and the experience is just the same if you just stand next to the road. The only difference is that it is more luxurious. You have to realize that from the opening weekend “De Omloop” and “Kurne-Brussels-Kurne” everything is in function of that first Sunday in April. And 2 weeks before “De Ronde”, the madness is fully underway, with numerous competitions in Flanders. From today on, the countdown has started again to the first Sunday of April in 2023.


  14. On this: “This must be the first time he’s lost his cool, the usually unflappable rider was all theatrical hand gestures in the finish zone.”
    LBL 2020, when Alaphilippe made wave to Hirschi and he in turn did the same to Pogačar. In the heat of the moment, after having lost thrust, Pogačar tried to restart the sprint, but no way, so he shakes head wildly as crosses the line and perhaps also bashes the bars…

  15. It is always comical when the big names find themselves together in a group (or pair) off the front and with the line approaching. In this case though you could probably say that MVdP knew what he was doing.

  16. Great race and wonderful write-up. I’d imagine Pogacar had Asgreen’s win in mind, along with his own sprint win at LBL, but when there’s a two-up sprint of a non-sprinter versus someone hugely powerful like MVDP (not dissimilar to Dwars – a better race this year?), is there any benefit from launching super-early (say 700 m) and rely on 45s power? Very rarely seem to see this approach – is it simply just too difficult to jump far enough away to prevent MVDP from having an “easy” draft? Seem to remember van Vleuten doing this successfully against Demi Vollering earlier this year although perhaps not that distance.

    • I think there’s something in a long sprint for riders like Pogačar or van Vleuten who can turn on the power rather than peak for 10 seconds… Plus it also depends who has what left and by long I’d say 350m more than 700m… and van der Poel’s got this on tap too, remember his Amstel win and how he kept going and going?

      • Very true about van der Poel! Arguably his two stand-out moments for me (oddly not his Flanders wins) are the displays of sustained power at the finishes of Amstel and Strade Bianche.

    • You can probably by right call me a fanboy, but did Pogačar “scream” and if he indeed did, did he scream “abuse”? To me it look like he gesticulated and didn’t much care if he was loud, but it was still a far cry from te kind of antics your description of it suggests.
      And the relevant point is whether van Baarle did anything wrong, but whether it may have appeared from Pogacar’s point of view that he did something that wasn’t proper and simply isn’t done. From the overhead shot it appears that it indeed could’ve looked to him that van Baarle changed his line in a manner whcih may have reminded Pogacar of Alaphilippe.
      OK, I too would have been happier if Pogacar could have bottled it and refrained from expressing his critisim to anyone but his DS and his team mates in the privaacy of the team bus – but I also like to think that the subsequent comments in the press release etc were quite genuine and not just a PR effort to downplay the incident.
      PS I don’t think I need to remind that it serves no purpose to expect young men to behave as maturely or to remain as cool in emotionally high situation as we old buggers are 🙂

      • ‘Scream’ was certainly hyperbolic, but in this video –
        – from after the race, he certainly seems to say ‘F___ you’ twice.
        But I agree with you, these are young guys, and I certainly did many much worse things in my youth.
        van Baarle does come over a wee bit, but by that point, Pogacar is already coming 4th as his sprint is going nowhere. Both van Baarle and Madouas had to follow Mathieu for more drafting, and this was a fair and normal sprint.

        • In fairness, watching again, Pogacar probably would have beaten Madouas for 3rd (glad he didn’t – 3rd must mean a lot to Madouas, who did brilliantly to hang on to the top two for as long as he did) had van Baarle not been in his way – and might even have beaten van Baarle – but Pogacar’s mistake (other than the huge one of not sprinting with 350m to go and hoping stamina would win out, or at least ensuring 2nd) was that once van Baarle and Madouas are in front of him, he tries to force his way through a gap that isn’t there, whereas what he had to do by that point was go to the left of van Baarle.

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