E3 Saxo Classic: Kasper Asgreen escapes from elite bunch to score biggest career win

Florian Sénéchal outsprints Mathieu van der Poel to give Deceuninck-Quick-Step top two podium positions.

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) escaped from an elite group — including Mathieu van der Poel — to take the win at the 2021 E3 Saxo Classic.

Teammate Florian Sénéchal came around a marked Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) to take the second podium position.

“I had an amazing team here and they were all so strong I could hear them cheering for me behind and I could hear how well they were blocking the other guys,” Asgreen said. “We always had someone there so it was perfect. A huge thanks to the guys – this was amazing teamwork and it would not have been possible to do a ride like this without them there.”

Wearing the colors of the Danish national champion, Asgreen had been away on a solo attempt at 66km to go but was reeled in with less than 20km left on the hard work of van der Poel, and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).

Deceuninck-Quick-Step had three cards to play in the final kilometers, also with the last edition’s winner Zdeněk Štybar in a group of seven on the front of the race.

Once Asgreen went off the front again, at 5km to go, no one was willing to chase and put van der Poel within striking distance of the win.

“I knew after the effort I did today that I wasn’t going to have any chance in the last kilometer, so I had to get away and arrive alone if I wanted to win the race. It was all or nothing at that point,” Asgreen said.

The masterclass in tactics of greatest numbers proved to be the “Wolfpack’s” greatest advantage over the raw power of van der Poel and 2016 Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R-Citroën).

How it happened

With seven of the past 16 editions of this race stamped with the team’s name, Deceuninck-Quick-Step brought number and strategy to this year’s E3 Saxo Classic.

No 2020 race was held due to the pandemic, and so Štybar returned as defending champion.

Attacks came early and often, with Victor Campanaerts (Qhubeka-Assos) accelerating at 95km to go, and was assisted by teammate Sep Vanmarcke, and marked by van Aert.

Attacks continued, repeatedly, with Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) making an ill-fated attempt which was countered by the “Tractor” Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) who dragged a large group past the American up a cobbled sector.

Štybar took over for Declercq, with van der Poel and van Aert in the bigger man’s draft as full-gas racing was on with still 75km of racing to play out.

Van Aert suffered an unfortunate flat and took a wheel from Shimano neutral service. This caused another acceleration, and the race had broken into three groups, with two groups away off the front.

While the Jumbo-Visma rider steadily worked his way back to the front, John Degenkolb (Lotto-Soudal) hitched a ride on his wheel.

Van der Poel, never one to let a race happen around him launched an attack, with Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) marking him, and allowing the small group to reconnect with the race animator.

The young Dane attacked and went solo just near the 60km mark. The acceleration to control this Deceuninck-Quick-Step move was too much for Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), who was jettisoned from one front group to the next until he was back in the main group.

Asgreen continued his long-range attack up the cobbled Oude Kwaremont with the fractured chase groups coming together behind him.

Kasper Asgreen took on the infamous cobbled climb, solo. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Van Aert brought Van Avermaet and Dylan van Baarle (Inoes Grenadiers) on a mission to bring back the long Wolfpack rider.

With the race inside of the 20km to go banner, Asgreen was still away with Van Avermaet, Sénéchal, Oliver Naesen (Ag2r-Citrëon), and Dylan Van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) all pushing the pace — but letting van der Poel to the lion’s share of the work.

On the Tiegemberg climb, van der Poel brought Štybar along in an acceleration which distanced Van Aert. Van Avermaet and Naesen were marked by Sénéchal and group made it over the climb together without an immediate threat from the Jumbo-Visma rider.

Van Aert lead a chase group of four, however no one would assist in bringing the Belgian up to the front, and were content to let the gap continue to open behind the now seven race leaders.

Asgreen was brought back at 12km to go, joined by his two teammates. Instead of calling it a day and dropping back, Asgreen settled in behind the furious pace set by van der Poel and Van Avermaet.

Over the following 7km, attacks were thrown, but the pace was too high for anything to stick.

During a lull at 5km to go, Asgreen, having recovered from his solo, surprised the other six. While his two teammates sat back and watch him get six seconds, van der Poel, Van Avermaet, and Naeson finally took up the chase, navigating road furniture in the outskirts of Harelbeke.

“I tried to use the traffic island to put some distance between them and myself so I could get a gap before they could react. I don’t know if that made the difference. I think everyone had a hard day and everyone was on the limit,” commented the winner.

As Asgreen continued to hammer away, and add seconds to his lead, the other five lined up behind van der Poel, with the two Deceuninck-Quick-Step riders offering no assistance to the chase.

Naeson gave a pull, which appeared to be a move to catapult Van Avermaet, however, van der Poel again covered these moves.

Into the final drag, as Asgreen prepared to celebrate, the entirety of the group behind him forced van der Poel into the lead position.

With nothing left to the line, Sénéchal was able to come around the fading four-time world cyclocross champion to give the Wolfpack the second podium position, while “MVDP” held for third place.

Van Aert, one of the favorites was some 90 seconds back of Asgreen, and a minute behind rival van der Poel.

E3 Saxo Bank Classic Results

1ASGREEN KasperDeceuninck - Quick Step4:42:56
2SÉNÉCHAL FlorianDeceuninck - Quick Step0:32
3VAN DER POEL MathieuAlpecin-Fenix0:32
4NAESEN OliverAG2R Citroën Team0:32
5ŠTYBAR ZdeněkDeceuninck - Quick Step0:32
6VAN AVERMAET GregAG2R Citroën Team0:32
7VAN BAARLE DylanINEOS Grenadiers0:32
8HOELGAARD MarkusUno-X Pro Cycling Team1:28
9VERMEERSCH GianniAlpecin-Fenix1:30
10HALLER MarcoBahrain - Victorious1:30
11VAN AERT WoutTeam Jumbo-Visma1:30
12TURGIS AnthonyTeam Total Direct Energie1:34
13LAMPAERT YvesDeceuninck - Quick Step2:12
14STUYVEN JasperTrek - Segafredo2:12
15BENOOT TiesjTeam DSM2:12
16VERMEERSCH FlorianLotto Soudal2:47
17DE BUYST JasperLotto Soudal2:47
18TRENTIN MatteoUAE Team Emirates2:47
19CLAEYS DimitriTeam Qhubeka ASSOS2:47
20KÜNG StefanGroupama - FDJ2:47
21WALLAYS JelleCofidis2:49
23JACOBS JohanMovistar Team2:56
24VAN DER HOORN TacoIntermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux2:56
25PIDCOCK ThomasINEOS Grenadiers2:56
26BALLERINI DavideDeceuninck - Quick Step3:04
27GARCÍA CORTINA IvánMovistar Team3:04
28KOCH JonasIntermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux3:04
29DEGENKOLB JohnLotto Soudal3:04
30VANMARCKE SepIsrael Start-Up Nation3:04
31HAUSSLER HeinrichBahrain - Victorious3:04
32GOGL MichaelTeam Qhubeka ASSOS3:04
33BJERG MikkelUAE Team Emirates3:04
34OLIVEIRA RuiUAE Team Emirates3:04
35THEUNS EdwardTrek - Segafredo3:04
36LIVYNS ArjenBingoal Pauwels Sauces WB3:04
37TOUZÉ DamienAG2R Citroën Team3:04
38STEWART JakeGroupama - FDJ3:04
39VLIEGEN LoïcIntermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux3:04
40DE VYLDER LindsaySport Vlaanderen - Baloise3:04
41VAN GESTEL DriesTeam Total Direct Energie3:04
43DOULL OwainINEOS Grenadiers3:04
44BETTIOL AlbertoEF Education - Nippo3:04
45CAMPENAERTS VictorTeam Qhubeka ASSOS3:04
46TERPSTRA NikiTeam Total Direct Energie3:04
47SCHÄR MichaelAG2R Citroën Team3:09
48TILLER RasmusUno-X Pro Cycling Team6:30
49VAN HOOYDONCK NathanTeam Jumbo-Visma10:18
50DEWULF StanAG2R Citroën Team10:18
51GREIPEL AndréIsrael Start-Up Nation10:50
52DE BONDT DriesAlpecin-Fenix10:50
53HOLLMANN JuriMovistar Team10:50
54MAS LluísMovistar Team10:50
55EENKHOORN PascalTeam Jumbo-Visma10:50
56STANNARD RobertTeam BikeExchange10:50
57COLBRELLI SonnyBahrain - Victorious10:50
58PASQUALON AndreaIntermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux10:50
59HVIDEBERG Jonas IversbyUno-X Pro Cycling Team10:50
60ROOSEN TimoTeam Jumbo-Visma10:50
61GENIETS KevinGroupama - FDJ10:50
62KIRSCH AlexTrek - Segafredo10:50
63EDMONDSON AlexTeam BikeExchange10:50
64OLDANI StefanoLotto Soudal12:47
65GIDICH YevgeniyAstana - Premier Tech12:47
66KRISTOFF AlexanderUAE Team Emirates12:47
67HALVORSEN KristofferUno-X Pro Cycling Team12:47
68DECLERCQ TimDeceuninck - Quick Step12:47
69LIENHARD FabianGroupama - FDJ12:47
70WÜRTZ SCHMIDT MadsIsrael Start-Up Nation12:47
71GIBBONS RyanUAE Team Emirates12:47
72ALLEGAERT PietCofidis12:47
73BOASSON HAGEN EdvaldTeam Total Direct Energie12:47
74MENTEN MilanBingoal Pauwels Sauces WB12:47
75LE GAC OlivierGroupama - FDJ12:47
76PERRY BenjaminAstana - Premier Tech12:47
77CONSONNI SimoneCofidis12:47
78ZAKHAROV ArtyomAstana - Premier Tech12:47
79RESELL Erik NordsæterUno-X Pro Cycling Team12:47
80VANHOOF WardSport Vlaanderen - Baloise12:47
81BIERMANS JentheIsrael Start-Up Nation12:47
82COLMAN AlexSport Vlaanderen - Baloise12:47
83CARVALHO AndreCofidis12:47
84DEKKER DavidTeam Jumbo-Visma12:47
85VAN MOER BrentLotto Soudal12:47
86GOŁAŚ MichałINEOS Grenadiers12:47
87WYNANTS MaartenTeam Jumbo-Visma12:47
88VANENDERT JelleBingoal Pauwels Sauces WB12:47
89BASSO LeonardoINEOS Grenadiers12:47
90BAUER JackTeam BikeExchange12:47
91VAN POPPEL BoyIntermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux12:47
92ERVITI ImanolMovistar Team12:47
93SIMMONS QuinnTrek - Segafredo12:47
94FRISON FrederikLotto Soudal12:47
95BRUNEL AlexysGroupama - FDJ12:47
96SAJNOK SzymonCofidis12:47
97VAN HOECKE GijsAG2R Citroën Team12:47
98VINJEBO Emil MielkeTeam Qhubeka ASSOS12:47
99MEURISSE XandroAlpecin-Fenix12:47
100VERGAERDE OttoAlpecin-Fenix12:47
101MERTZ RémyBingoal Pauwels Sauces WB12:47

Results provided by ProCyclingStats.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.