Here’s what some of the top riders said after Sunday’s thrilling edition of the men’s Tour of Flanders.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), 2nd
“In the Tour of Flanders, the strongest rider always emerges. It is a fair race. I have ridden the Tour of Flanders five times now, but have never experienced this. It was a race all day, from start to finish. In the end, the strongest riders came forward.
“On the Koppenberg it was already clear how strong Tadej was. He was really impressive on the climbs. He was also very impressive on the second time Oude Kwaremont. I have never ridden the climb so fast, but Tadej was simply the best today.”
On attacking Van Aert on the Kruisberg:
“It was a successful attack, since it is not convenient to go to the finish with Wout. On the Kwaremont I just didn’t have an answer and I opted for my own pace. That was still a very good pace for me, but Pogačar went even faster.
“After that the gap stayed the same for a while and it’s a pity that I didn’t have the legs to follow his attack on the first part of the Kwaremont. But it is also another sign that he was the strongest. I still had hope after the Kwaremont. I certainly hadn’t broken myself and still had reasonable legs. I was also able to keep driving good wattages, but I didn’t get any closer.”
On getting gapped in the first hour of racing:
“I like to race from the back in the beginning. I know it sometimes involves risks, but I had no idea that it was going to split. However, it did and my teammates almost had to sacrifice themselves to bring me back. I do want to apologize for that. I didn’t lose much strength myself, I was well protected from the wind, but I did seriously hurt my teammates.”
Mads Pedersen (Trek Segafredo), 3rd
“I can’t complain today, everything happened pretty much as I wanted. I didn’t know exactly when I wanted to go but I knew I wanted to go early. I said before the race I wanted to anticipate and be in front of the ‘Big Three’ when they were going and we succeeded with the plan quite well but they still came pretty fast. I believed I could win today and even though in the end, Pogačar and van der Poel were stronger, I am really happy. I am always racing to win but a podium result here is still really good.”
On how the finale played out:
“When Pogi went passed me on the Kwaremont, I knew I couldn’t follow him and it would have been stupid to try to do it. He’s also fighting to win the Tour de France so, of course, he is faster than me on climbs and that’s not a pity. I think trying to follow him would have been a mistake as if I popped then I would have been out of the group I was in, so I wanted to keep my own tempo.”
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), 4th
“The race went well for our team for a long time. Nathan Van Hooydonck was part of a dangerous group and we didn’t have to ride in the front or the back. But it went hand-to-hand a little faster than we had hoped. Pogačar and Van der Poel turned out to be stronger than me. Naturally. I came to win, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
On being gapped by Van der Poel and missing the podium:
“I was a bit surprised by Mathieu van der Poel’s bomb. Perhaps my mind was already too preoccupied with what was yet to come. But the legs have spoken. If I couldn’t keep up with that, I wouldn’t be able to follow on the Oude Kwaremont either.
“The team deserved at least a podium. Tomorrow I will turn the page and focus on Roubaix. I’m not going to hide in a corner, next week I’ll throw myself again.”