Mathieu van der Poel will have been patient and surgical, on Wednesday, in a final of A Travers la Flandre animated by many attacks, because most of the eight strong forwards feared having to face the Dutchman in the sprint in Waregem.
In the last ten kilometres, Stefan Küng, Victor Campenaerts twice and Thomas Pidcock had tried their luck in turn, failing to create a crippling gap. In the end, it was the two smartest who made it. Tiesj Benoot, the powered leader of the Jumbo in the absence of Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte, had thus countered Pidcock with less than two kilometers to go while everyone was suffocated. A perfect move, except for one detail: the Belgian would have preferred that it was not Mathieu van der Poel who got on his wheel because he knew he had no chance against him in a heads up.
The Dutchman from Alpecin-Fenix, who was contesting his first race in the Flanders countryside after perfecting his condition in Italy last week, during the Coppi and Bartali Week, was very restless throughout the race and accelerated on several occasions, more than 90 km. from the finish already, then on the Nokereberg (21 km from the finish) to test the competition. His win at Waregem puts him in an ideal position ahead of Sunday’s much-anticipated showdown with Wout van Aert in the Tour of Flanders, which the Jumbos of Benoot and Tom Pidcock, third on Wednesday and on the rise after a month of March turbulent by the stomach. problems, he will want to referee.
The decisive move had begun at Berg ten Houte, about 70km from the finish, when Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers) started for their leader Tom Pidcock. The forcing of the 22-year-old British youngster put into orbit a solid group, with Tiesj Benoot, Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Soudal). The Quick-Steps found themselves stuck, as did the Treks of Mads Pedersen and Quinn Simmons or Tadej Pogacar, who was competing in his first race in Flanders before Sunday’s Ronde.
Pogacar and a group with two French tried to return, in vain
The two-time Tour de France winner tried to plug the hole atop the Kanarieberg, but stayed in the hunt for a long time, about ten seconds away, never making it back. On the coast of Trieu, 50 terminals from the end, Jan Tratnik for his part tried to bring everyone back, but the group made up of Pogacar, Bryan Coquard (Cofidis), Greg van Avermaet (AG2R-Citroën), Soren Kragh Andersen ( DSM) and Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) also stumbled and never managed to get closer than twenty seconds. The latter, the first Frenchman to finish, finished 11th.
In the lead, Victor Campenaerts was trying to go solo for the first time (47km from the finish), then Tiesj Benoot accelerated up the Ladeuze hill, a novelty of the route with 37km from the finish, which eliminated most of the breakaways. He resumed ten terminals earlier, with the exception of the experienced Nils Politt (Bora) and the amazing Kelland O’Brien (BikeExchange), but it didn’t change the situation. The leading group had to run together to Waregem, where they had to endure the power and sight of Mathieu van der Poel.