Tadej Pogačar of UAE made 21st century history today and dramatically expanded his incredible, rapidly growing repertoire with a powerful statement victory today at the Ronde van Vlaanderen. By dropping double-winner Mathieu van der Poel of Alpecin Deceuninck on the final climb of the Oude Kwaremont, Pogačar managed to get the space he needed to take the victory without the threat of a sprint disappointment the likes of which he experienced a year ago. Pogačar entered the final climb having followed van der Poel’s explosive attack on the Kruisberg, where the pair distanced Jumbo Visma’s Wout Van Aert and then reeled in the front group as they approached the last two climbs. When the double-Tour de France winner went again on the Oude Kwaremont’s steepest section, even van der Poel couldn’t hold on, and could never quite close the gap into Oudenaarde. Trek’s Mads Pedersen, one of the day’s most active protagonists, won the sprint for third.
The victory ticks a lot of boxes for Pogačar’s place in history. He is the first rider since Eddy Merckx to win this and the Tour in his lifetime, and he will vie to become the first rider to win them both in the same year since Merckx in 1969. He joins only Philippe Gilbert in winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Lombardia along with Flanders this century. He won the fastest ever edition of Flanders. And he denied Mathieu van der Poel the chance to join a suite of triple-winners of Flanders, the current record.
The day got interesting just before the climb of the Molenberg, when Pedersen left the peloton in search of the day’s early breakaway, bringing with him five other riders, which became an octet including Groupama-FDJ’s Stefan Küng and Americans Matteo Jorgenson of Movistar and Nielson Powless of EF Education EasyPost. Pogačar had teammate Matteo Trentin there as well, as did Van Aert have Nathan Van Hooydonck placed well. The group had three minutes before the penultimate Oude Kwaremont, then saw a minute dropped away. Pogačar made a brief move and drew Jumbo’s Christophe Laporte, forcing van der Poel to chase with INEOS’ Tom Pidcock, but they made the juncture before the Koppenberg, after which everyone in the peloton dropped away, leaving the superstar trio chasing the front goup.
Pedersen then made his move coming into Ronse where he got free of the six remaining riders in the front, and van der Poel made his move to reduce his chase to himself and Pogačar. Pedersen was alone in front of the race coming back around to the Oude Kwaremont, but had too little gap to Pogačar and van der Poel, and by the Paterberg he was caught by the chasers behind the two remaining contenders for victory. Van Hooydonck pulled Van Aert back to the chase group but he couldn’t come by Pedersen for the final sprint.
Powless took fifth behind Van Aert for the best American finish since Tyler Farrar’s fifth place sprint in 2010.
- POGAČAR Tadej, UAE Team Emirates6:12:07
- VAN DER POEL Mathieu, Alpecin-Deceuninck, at 0:16
- PEDERSEN Mads, Trek - Segafredo, at 1:12
- VAN AERT Wout, Jumbo-Visma
- POWLESS Neilson, EF Education-EasyPost
- KÜNG Stefan, Groupama - FDJ
- ASGREEN Kasper, Soudal - Quick Step
- WRIGHT Fred, Bahrain - Victorious
- JORGENSON Matteo, Movistar Team
- TRENTIN Matteo, UAE Team Emirates