Van der Poel claims maiden WorldTour win at Dwars door Vlaanderen
Proving his potential on the road, cyclocross champion Matheiu van der Poel sprints to victory in Dwars door Vlaanderen after animating the race.
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The reigning world cyclocross champion Mathieu van der Poel added another trophy to his mantle Wednesday, winning Dwars door Vlaanderen in a sprint finish.
The 24-year-old Corendon-Circus rider took his first WorldTour win ahead of Anthony Turgis (Direct Energie) in Waregem, Belgium after 183 kilometers of racing. Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) finished third out of the lead group of five riders.
With about 60 kilometers to go, race organizers momentarily stopped the peloton because it came up to the back of the women’s peloton where a crash required medical attention.
This resulted in some chaos, and it compelled riders to go on the attack as soon as the race was restarted.
“Before the key moment, we were stopped and there was a bit of panic in the bunch,” said Jungels. “In the end, we decided to go try something and split up the group. We knew riders like Mathieu [van der Poel] were at front.”
Van der Poel went off the front of the peloton with about 48 kilometers to go and Jungels bridged up soon thereafter.
“It wasn’t the moment to wait, so we bridged across with Tiesj [Benoot],” Jungels added.
Coming into the final 30 kilometers, Nelson Olivera (Movistar) was still off the front with Lukas Postlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe). The four-man group containing van der Poel and Jungels was not far behind.
After Olivera had spent so much time off the front, riding in the day’s early breakaway as well, misfortune ended his chances at racing for a win. He suffered what appeared to be a flat tire, requiring a spare wheel from the neural service motorcycle. He dropped back to the peloton, which was less than a minute behind.
The remaining chasers caught Postlberger — the Austrian champion made it a group of five, along with the Dutch and Luxembourg champions, van der Poel and Jungels, respectively.
The five riders cooperated well into the final 10 kilometers, holding their advantage at a little less than one minute over the peloton.
Van der Poel and Jungels tried to break apart the group with 10 kilometers to go on the final cobbled hill, but their race was destined to come down to a small bunch sprint.
“The final was — I don’t want to say too easy for me — but I think there was not really a moment where I could have made a big difference,” Jungels added.
Benoot tried to attack the break in the final kilometer, but Jungels was quick to mark his move.
“When I launched my attack, I was surprised that it was Jungels who caught me back,” Benoot said. “I speculated that van der Poel would have to take the initiative.”
He was forced to lead out the sprint into the final right-hand corner. Van der Poel sat on his right shoulder into the final 400 meters.
“It was a mistake to come out first from that last cobblestone sector,” Jungels added, referring to a short, flat sector at about five kilometers to go. “I had to attack from the front, which was not ideal.”
Turgis, who was nearly dropped when the attacks were flying with 10 kilometers to go, came sprinting up the right barriers with the element of surprise on his side, the finish in sight. Van der Poel, however, had the strongest legs for the sprint and accelerated into the Frenchman’s slipstream before kicking past to victory.
Asked if he saw this result as an indicator of his potential at Tour of Flanders on Sunday, van der Poel demurred.
“I don’t know, I don’t really see myself as a favorite yet,” he said. “This is a 180k race and Flanders is a lot longer so we’ll see how it goes.”
Jungels, on the other hand, said that the 250-kilometer race through the Flemish countryside on Sunday would suit him better, as he prefers longer races. He already has a one-day WorldTour win to his credit this season, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, which he claimed with an emphatic solo attack.
Results will be available once stage has completed.