Tour of Flanders: five conclusions from the men’s race

“],” filter “: {” nextExceptions “:” img, blockquote, div “,” nextContainsExceptions “:” img, blockquote “}}”>

Get access to everything we publish when> “,” “name”: “in-content-cta”, “type”: “link”}} “> join VeloNews or Outside +.

First, we have to commend what happened, and in most of Sunday’s epic tours of Flanders debutant Thaddeus Pogachar was at a touching distance from perfection. There was a small accident at the starting kilometers, but such episodes can happen to any rider, and when the race began to open for the last 80 km, the Slovenian was always on the front leg and dictated the course.

The young man clearly learned a lesson from Dwars Door Vlaanderen when it came to deadlines, and that Flanders is a challenge that is best fought with aggressive thinking. Pogachar’s attacks on Copenberg and the last two ascents of Quarantine formed the key moves of the race. Everything else, starting with the early break, where Trek, Jumbo-Visma and Quick-Step dominated, proved to be the filler as soon as Pogačar started the race.

The inability to distance van der Poel cannot be called a criticism – the Dutchman won two of the last three releases of the race and finished second otherwise. However, where you can consider the punishment of Pogachar, it is his actions at the last kilometer.

The lack of a final jerk at the front, remaining less than 1,000 meters, could never determine the final fate of Pogacar, but it began a chain reaction that the Slovene could not understand, and eventually canceled.

Pogachar’s best hope of victory over van der Poel has always been a long and protracted sprint against racer Alpecin. The shorter the sprint, the better the chances of van der Paul winning due to his natural raw strength. The best window for Pogachar’s victory was about 250-300 m before the end, before van Baarle and Maduus joined the leading pair. If Pogachar had accelerated just before the denouement was made, he could have overtaken van der Paul. However, once he let the hunters back, the sprint became much more challenging, and Pogachar moved from a race for second at worst to an ill-fated fourth.

Van Baarle and Maduus had impetus in the final lineup, and the initial gap created by van der Poel showed that victory was destined for him. However, when Maduus wisely went to the barrier, and van Baarle rushed to the opposite side, Pogachar choked and blocked.

Even when van Baarle made his move, Pogachar still had time to save his place on the podium. The right choice would be to radically change your line, even if it meant hitting the brakes and then deviating into the wide expanses of the road on the left. However, as soon as he tore his hands off the barbell, he was about to finish fourth.

Call it the chair tactic, if you will, but here’s what Robbie McEwan said about it – one of the best sprinters of the 1990s and 2000s.

“He was so squeezed between them, but he really did what you have to call, with all due respect to Thaddeus Pogachar, a junior mistake in such a sprint. You just can’t let the riders come back with such momentum. He did it for himself, sorry. It’s another learning experience, maybe drop out of university and go back to elementary school if it comes back to sprinting to the finish line. “

Robbie knows better.

Van der Poel will only get better

Although the Flanders Tour was only his eighth day of competition this year, van der Poel reached a near peak. In fact, one could easily argue that this is the best version of the Dutchman we have ever seen. He not only possesses the physical abilities of a racer at the peak of his career, but also participates in races with such a high level of maturity. He won his second edition of Flanders through brains and muscles, and several key points stood out.

The first was that he did not panic when Pogachar tried to break the race on Kwaremont 55 km before him. Casper Asgrin, the racer who defeated van der Poel in the sprint together in 2021, blew up the engine while trying to track the racer of the UAE team. Van der Poel’s position when Pogachar took off in that first attack seemed suspicious, but the Dutchman returned to the front and has never let Pogachar out of sight since. He matched Pogachar on Copenberg, and, except for a fraction of a second of hesitation on Paterberg, was able to hold on tight every time the Slovenian pressed the pedal.

Most of the discussion around the finish in the sprint will naturally focus on how Pogachar lost the race. That’s right – the cycling world has rarely seen a young rider make a mistake, so finding out this fact will fill the pages of discussions until Pogachar “takes revenge” – assuming the wording of the media. However, all this obscures how well van der Poel fought. He was present at all the key moves, he was the only racer who could keep track of the best climber in the race, and then he made Pogachar – in McEwan’s words, not ours – look like a junior in the sprint finish. Yes, Pogachar subjected his remarks, but it was van der Poel who wrote and uttered this script in the final 1000m.

Jumbo-Visma is solved by tireless races

The Dutch team remained a serious threat to race, even due to the loss of Waut van Art from their list. Theis Ben and Christophe Laporte have been in the form of an assault since the beginning of the year, but after COVID-19 withdrew their main weapon, the question of the powers of Benut and Laporte always arose. One had only two wins in his name, and the other just a few months ago was a decent but unproductive sprinter. Yes, Benut won the Strade Bianche, but there is a huge difference between 200km in early March and almost 300km in one of the most relentless places that a bike can offer. Had it not been for a significant difference then, Benut – as good as he was – would have won even more races.

The Laporte crash at the end of the race certainly affected Flanders, but both Nathan Van Huydonck and Mick Van Dyke were sent on the road during the break. This effectively isolated two of their leaders after Athens burned itself. Laporte returned and snatched a respectable ninth place, while Benutt fought for 13th. It was far from a disaster, but the two riders found themselves on the back foot for most of the last two hours of racing and never looked like big players once Pogačar started blowing up the race on the second climb at Kwaremont. The Jumbo-Visma were always chased, and in the end they were left empty-handed.

It was still a very impressive spring for Jumba Visma, and if van Aert is able to regain his health beyond Paris-Roubaix, then they will once again become the team to be defeated.

The troubles of Quick-Step continue

It was a terrific campaign for Patrick Lefebvre’s team, and Fabio Jacobsen’s victory at the Course covered the cracks. The illness was an excuse for the Belgian team, but every division of WorldTour suffered on this basis. Said one team boss VeloNews on Sunday night that both all his lists in Paris-Nice and Tyrrhenia-Adriatic suffered from the mistakes that devastated the European peloton this spring.

If Bahrain-Victorious and Groupama-FDJ – two teams that looked weaker on paper than QuickStep, which is part of this major block of races – can revive a major race, why not the number one team in Belgium? The fact is that several teams have stepped up in terms of recruitment, while Lefebvre’s team has lost too much weight, building around Alaphilippe and Evenepoel. The team has not backed up its classics for several years, and such as Zdenek Stybar and Yves Lampart have remained stagnant either through age or lack of form. All this means that if Kasper Asgreen is not in color, there is no one to step up. The results give irrefutable answers with the best result through Gent-Wevelgem, Dwars Door Vlaanderen and Flanders through 14th place Jannik Steimle in Wevelgem. This is not enough for a team of such a classic origin.

The biggest disappointment of the leadership will be that, despite Asgrin’s apparent lack of supreme condition, no one else has managed to fill the void, and the collective strength that has been the hallmark of this team has been replaced by a collective sense of frustration.

It’s a good team, far from it, actually. This year they still won a remarkable 17 races and they could still improve their score to 60 with a surplus from 2021. However, the spring classics have so far been written off. It may be fortunate that the Paris-Roubaix was moved a week later, but at the moment it is still difficult to understand where the turn will come and who can push it.

New faces on the road and in the comments field

The clash between Van der Poel and Pagakar was not a big surprise, but there were a number of great performances from the strong cast.

Valentin Maduus became one of the discoveries of the paving company when the 25-year-old Frenchman became the epitome of the classic Groupama-FDJ team, which is constantly improving. Maduous was present in every key move and was the last rider to break when Pogachar made the final acceleration on the last ascent of Kwaremont. Mark Mediot’s man fought flawlessly, and even when he was at a distance, he still had enough intelligence and strength to work with van Baarle to limit their losses. Had they not done so, the fight for the last step on the podium would have led to a sprint of two, rather than a pulsating attempt by four people. Along with Stefan Kung, Olivier Le Gac and Kevin Janiet, the team has a formidable unit headed by Paris-Roubaix.

Fred Wright also deserves high praise for his efforts. The British rider and his teammates were at the forefront, when it was most important, of several key attacks over the last 45km. In the winter, Bahrain-Victory re-signed Wright, and through a demonstration he held on Sunday, it was a wise decision.

Van Baarle was not a spring chicken at 29, but he came back from a double mechanical and still secured a second. It has looked very consistent throughout the spring and may well get another serious result when spring opens.

Finally, a few words about Robbie McEwan. The Australian was released in the winter by a home broadcaster, but made an instant impression on Eurosport over the past few weeks. It’s not just his expertise on Belgian roads and culture, but also how he can explain the race situation to both beginners and more educated fans without feeling or confusing any of the groups. He naturally compliments anyone with whom he is in the comment booth, and he should be invited by the end of spring and on grand tours.

Leave a Comment