Neilson Powless finds cobblestone confirmation ahead of Tour of Flanders with Dwars podium

Powless finds cobblestone legs in ride to third at Dwars door Vlaanderen: 'I felt really comfortable on the sectors, so hopefully I feel similar Sunday.'

Photo: Getty Images

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WAREGEM, Belgium (VN) – Neilson Powless didn’t get the result he wanted Wednesday at Dwars door Vlaanderen but he did score big for his confidence ahead of his Tour of Flanders debut.

Third on the podium in Waregem put Powless back onto the pavé for his first cobble-focused race since he clattered to fourth and narrowly missed the yellow jersey on the “Roubaix stage” of stage 5 of the Tour de France last year.

“I came in with the ambition to win, so it was really nice to be up there, and it confirms the ambitions that I had ever since the Tour de France and the cobbled stage,” Powless told reporters Wednesday after he stepped onto the presentation podium.

“I always thought the cobbles felt OK, and they felt really good today. I felt really strong over them and could push pretty hard. I confirmed today over the cobbles I still feel fluid and solid. Hopefully I can continue to be at the front of the race on Sunday.”

Also read: Powless sets the tone for 2023 with solo stunner at Marseillaise

Powless made a typically all-offensive ride Wednesday over the bumps and bergs of Flanders-country.

He and his EF Education EasyPost teammate Mikkel Honoré animated the winning split in what worked out to be a tactical race for victory.

When Christophe Laporte finally blazed clear to deliver Jumbo-Visma its fifth win in five Belgian races, Powless was first to react, and he dragged the fatiguing Oier Lazkano into the podium sprint.

“I was up there with [Lazkano] and I could see the peloton coming behind with some sprinters. I had to gamble, because I knew he was in the break. I hoped to come into the corner first and catch him off guard. I had to take the chance. If I didn’t lead the sprint out we’d have got caught by the group behind,” Powless said.

“I’m happy with third, the win would have been better, but third is better than 10th.”

Getting comfortable ahead of a date with the ‘big three’ at De Ronde

The best result for Powless at Dwars door Vlaanderen may be the way he raced.

He roars toward a debut run Sunday through the Tour of Flanders in the top sprocket after impressing all winter.

The 26-year-old already won GC at Etoile de Bessèges, scored sixth overall at Paris-Nice, and hit a career-best monument finish with seventh at Milan-San Remo.

Hanging tough with a bunch of cobblestone specialists at Dwars door Vlaanderen in what was his first Belgian classic shows Powless he’s got yet another skill to add to his resumé ahead of his big appointment with Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogačar at De Ronde.

“This gives me a lot of confidence I can perform in a race that doesn’t have an hour of climbing,” he said.

“I had a lot of fun out there on the cobblestones. I felt really comfortable on the sectors, so hopefully I feel similar Sunday.”

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