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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, April 5, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2020 Giro d'Italia

The audiobook version of The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1 is available.

I feel coming on a strange disease - humility. - Frank Lloyd Wright

Tour of Flanders, the Inside Story

Current racing:

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Latest completed racing:

Tour of Flanders team reports

We posted the report from the race organizer with the results.

Here's the report from winner Kasper Asgreen's Elegant-Quick Step team:

Kasper Asgreen rode straight into the history books on Easter Sunday, powering to an incredible victory at Ronde van Vlaanderen, which he won after being part of all the major moves during the race. The first Dane in 24 years to triumph in Flanders, Kasper completed a prestigious E3 Harelbeke – De Ronde double and confirmed his status as one of the peloton’s finest Classics riders.

Kasper Asgreen

2021 Tour of Flanders winner Kasper Asgreen. Photo: Tim De Waele/Getty Images.

“I can’t believe it! Ronde van Vlaanderen is the most beautiful race in the world for me, the cobbles and steep hills make it awesome, and to win it two years after I podiumed at my debut here feels incredible!”

“It’s three years to the day I raced for the first time with this team and to be on the top spot at Flanders makes it even more special. It was a hard day, but I felt good and I couldn’t be happier with this win that capped off a stellar job of my Elegant – Quick-Step teammates”, an elated Kasper said after the biggest victory of his career.

Comprising 19 hills and seven cobblestone stretches, this year’s 254.3km Ronde van Vlaanderen witnessed another masterclass of Elegant – Quick-Step, who came into the race with several cards to play and once again controlled things with the likes of Davide Ballerini, Tim Declercq and Bert Van Lerberghe, who did a superb job in chasing down the breakaway and putting pressure on the peloton in the last 100 kilometers.

Racing the Ronde van Vlaanderen for the second consecutive year in the rainbow jersey, Julian Alaphilippe was another rider who played a big role in the team’s success, going clear on the gruesome ramps of the Koppenberg and forcing the other favourites to show themselves earlier than expected. A regrouping took place on the descent, Kasper Asgreen being among those to join the World Champion, who continued to be the driving force of that leading group.

Another dig of Alaphilippe on the Taaienberg distanced some of the riders, paving the way for an attack of his Danish teammate with 27 kilometers to go. Only Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) could follow, and the three worked well together, quickly opening a comfortable gap over the chasers. On the Oude Kwaremont, the Dutchman went full gas and put some distance between him and his companions, but Asgreen gritted his teeth and joined him on the descent.

Not even the Paterberg – where our rider led the way – could change the status quo, and the duo continued to soldier on, extending their lead to more than 30 seconds over a chasing group featuring Florian Sénéchal by the time they went past the 10km-to-go mark. Many were expecting Kasper to gamble everything on an all-or-nothing attack in the closing kilometers of the race, but the 26-year-old Dane had something different in mind and continued to trade turns with the defending champion until the final kilometer.

There, knowing the advantage they had over the chasers was unbridgeable, Asgreen played his cards perfectly and waited for Van der Poel to show his intentions before opening his sprint. A powerful kick saw him surge past his opponent with 50 meters to go and claimed a historical win on the clinchers, and with it, Elegant – Quick-Step’s eighth win in 19 years at the iconic Belgian race.

“I am grateful to the entire team. Tim, Davide and Bert did an incredible race to keep us protected and having Julian in that front group helped as well. It wasn’t all smooth today, as I got caught behind a big crash with more than 60 kilometers to go and that took some energy to come back, but I still felt good after that effort and could follow all the attack on the climbs, which gave me a lot of confidence. That’s why I attacked inside the final hour of racing and seeing I made an important selection, I kept going together with Mathieu and Wout until the last time up the Oude Kwaremont.”

“I was briefly distanced just before the top, but gave my best to come back and on the Paterberg me and Mathieu rode full gas, never looking back and determined to increase our lead. I didn’t have enough in the legs for an attack in the final kilometers, so I decided to trust my sprint. I wanted to do my best there, so I decided to start it from the back, as I felt it was the best way to control it. I produced a powerful turn of legs, but it was only with ten meters to go that I believed I could win. I was confident in my left and I am extremely proud I could finish off my teammates’ incredible work! It’s been an incredible Classics campaign for us and to power to victory on my Specialized bike and add to my palmares this race which I used to watch on TV as a kid is insane”, said the ninth rider in history to complete the E3 Harelbeke – Ronde van Vlaanderen double in the same season.

“It’s the first Monument won with clinchers. We’re really proud. It’s about using the best, Specialized has the best and we just execute. It’s truly unbelievable! Kasper is such an amazing bike rider and he did it. The team was once again tremendous. In Flanders you don’t win by luck. We should all be proud and when I say ‘we’, I mean the team and Specialized. They are part of the victory big time”, added Ricardo Scheidecker, Elegant – Quick-Step’s Technical and Development Manager.

Here's the post from 3rd-place Greg van Avermaet's Ag2r-Citroën team:

Greg Van Avermaet:
“Even though I didn't have the same legs as in A Travers la Flandre on Wednesday (7th), I managed to be present in the final. With my experience in this race, I managed to grab the podium. know that on a classic like the Ronde Van Vlaanderen with 254 kilometers, I still have resources at the end of the race.
The podium was the goal of the day, I have no regrets today. I am happy to bring this first podium at AG2R CITROËN TEAM which has invested a lot in the Flandrian Classics. The whole team worked well this winter, we are happy to be racing together and it is working."

2021 Tour of Flanders podium

The podium: from left: Matheiu van der Poel (2nd), Kasper Asgreen (1st) & Greg van Avermaet (3rd). Sirotti photo

Julien Jurdie:
“We went through all the feelings today. The group was well in place in the first kilometers. The exclusion of Michael Schär  destabilized us. At the same time, Greg has never given up, he has always been of forward. He was able to fill the holes to come back. He has the character of a champion and he showed it again today. We will be looking for our first podium in this race, it was a great moment to experience that! After the podiums at E3, Gent Wevelgem, we manage to be among the three best of the greatest classic in the world. We can be proud and that gives a lot of motivation for the future."

The number: 4
Since 2014, Greg Van Avermaet has participated seven times in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen. He finished four times on the podium in 2014 and 2017 (2nd) and 2015 and 2021 (3rd).

Here's the report from 6th-place Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team:

Wout van Aert has finished sixth in the Tour of Flanders. The winner of Ghent-Wevelgem could not follow Mathieu van der Poel and Kasper Asgreen on the last time on the Oude Kwaremont and had to settle for a ‘place of honour’.

A breakaway group were allowed to develop a lead fairly quickly from the start in Antwerp and on behalf of Team Jumbo-Visma Edoardo Affini kept the escapees under control. Van Aert was invariably up front and the team was quite active in the front line in the middle of ‘Vlaanderens Mooiste’. In the final Van Aert was able to counter the attacks of the favourites several times, but on the final climb of the Oude Kwaremont he had to leave a gap. Van der Poel and Asgreen then raced to the Paterberg, where Van Aert could not close the gap.

Wout van Aert

Wout van Aert on the Paterberg. Sirotti photo

In the twelve remaining kilometres to Oudenaarde the Fleming tried to return, but he ended up in the chasing group. In a sprint for the places of honour, the 2020 number two eventually squeezed out a sixth place finish.

“I wasn’t good enough to win”, Van Aert said. “From the second climb of the Oude Kwaremont I already noticed that I no longer had any power to attack anymore. I was glad that I was actually still in the right place at that point. In the end it was just gone. On the third and final time up the Oude Kwaremont, it wasn’t easy anymore. The legs were not there. Especially on the Paterberg, it was a struggle to get to the top.”

“Still, I didn’t foul up”, he continued. “I tried to get everything out of it, but obviously I had hoped for something more. In the coming week I’m going to rest to appear at the start of the Brabantse Pijl and the Amstel Gold Race with good form. The Ronde was of course the highlight of the spring, so this has to sink in first.”

And Team Bora-hansgrohe sent me this report:

While the drama in most races tends to rise to a crescendo in the last 50km the Tour of Flanders is full on from kilometre zero to its finish in Oudenaarde 254.3km later. The 150th edition of ‘Flanders’ Finest’ lived up to its reputation as one of cycling’s five Monuments, with seventeen cobblestone sectors and nineteen tough climbs to contend with.

Every rider knew that in this race, timing is everything, and so there was a frantic effort to be on the front to control the race, with Daniel Oss working to shut these down, but ultimately, even his efforts couldn’t stop a small group managing to make the jump ahead, joined shortly after by more riders, who swiftly built an advantage of twelve minutes over a peloton that seemed unsure whether to chase or let them go. It was from here that BORA-hansgrohe took control of the situation, pushing the pace with Marcus Burghardt and Lukas Pöstlberger working to bring the gap down to seven minutes with 100km remaining.

Old Kwaremont

The pack hits the Old Kwaremont. Sirotti photo

Hitting the Koppenberg with 45km to go, the gap was below two minutes, and it was here the attacks started from the chasing peloton, while crashes on the tight, cobbled roads created splits that saw some of the favourites dropped. In the third group, the BORA-hansgrohe presence was strong, with both Peter Sagan and Nils Politt in the mix here, just seconds behind the attack group as the break was caught and the focus of the race changed to the finish, now 40km away.

The long and straight roads showed just how close the groups were, and the gaps remained small as the race neared its end, but with more than 200km in tired legs, it simply wasn’t possible to follow the big moves and it was the attacks that sealed the day’s result, with Asgreen taking the win, leaving the bunch to fight it out amongst themselves for the remaining positions.

From the Finish Line:
"The Tour of Flanders, as expected, was very hard and fast. We had a strong squad and I'd like to thank them for their work but, unfortunately, when the decisive attacks came, my current form just wasn't enough to respond and follow them. I need to keep working in order to reach the level I had before being infected with Covid." – Peter Sagan

"I don't think we need to be looking for excuses today, we simply weren't good enough. Our preparation for this race wasn't the ideal one but still, even taking this into consideration, for a team of our calibre we should have had at least one rider in the second group. We can take comfort in the strong effort the helpers put in until the final 80km. Everybody worked really well, Daniel Oss jumped in the dangerous moves, Lukas Pöstlberger did a tremendous job for nearly 150km but in the closing kilometres, our leaders simply didn't have the legs. There isn't much more we could have done." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director

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