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Van der Poel countered a series of attacks from Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) in the final hour of racing, and the duo galloped toward Oudenaarde as a lead pair, with the race looking destined for a two-up sprint.
Van der Poel was forced to lead out the final kick as a handful of chasers bridged across just as the finish line loomed into sight. The Dutchman launched a huge dragging sprint, narrowly fending off a challenge from Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) to win De Ronde for the second time.
Pogačar had to check his sprint line in the final 100m and sat up protesting. The pause meant the Slovenian missed the podium, leaving Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) to grab third-place after a race that saw Pogačar force all the decisive splits with a series of hammering attacks.
Van der Poel narrowly missed out on Flanders victory last year after fizzling in the final sprint against Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl).
The 27-year-old collapsed in disbelief into the arms of teammates and family after crossing the line. His victory comes just two weeks after his return to injury after months on the sidelines due to back problems.
“I worked so hard for this one At first I wasn’t even sure I’d make it to the classics. To win De Ronde, it’s incredible,” he said.
“The Kwaremont and Paterberg, I was just trying to hold the wheel of Tadej. He was incredibly strong. I was on the limit on the Paterberg, but I had a few Ks to get the legs back turning and focus on the sprint.
“Roubaix? First I’m going to focus on this one. I had to work so hard to be here, I’ve a lot of people to thank for being here and I want to enjoy it with them.”
Defending champion Asgreen was dropped from the front of the race at around 45km to go when a mechanical at saw him miss one of Pogačar’s series of attacks.
Pogačar crushes the Kwaremont
The race had opened up at 90km to go when the day’s early break lingered around three minutes ahead.
A move of 11 dived away from the bunch with and darted across to two other attackers, leaving Jumbo-Visma, Quick-Step and Trek-Segafredo with two riders in total on the move.
Pogačar’s UAE crew missed the split and took responsibility in the chase. UAE Emirates pulled hard in the peloton for the best part of an hour before Pogačar put the hammer down for the first of three times on the second ascent of the Kwaremont at 55km to go.
The double Tour de France champ blasted out of the peloton and Kasper Asgreen and a handful more with him. The group burst through the counterattack and straight past the breakaway as the race exploded all across Flanders.
— Ronde Van Vlaanderen (@RondeVlaanderen) April 3, 2022
A number of favorites that couldn’t mark Pogačar’s initial move led a bunch of chasers across to Pogačar and Co. before Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) and Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) darted away to lead the race.
Pogačar, van der Poel force five-rider split
Pogačar made a second surge on the extra steep Koppenberg at 45km remaining. The Slovenian hit off the front on the cobbled berg, with van der Poel and Madouas going with him.
Asgreen had looked in trouble after following Pogačar’s attack on Kwaremont and saw his race go wrong soon afterward.
The defending champ saw his race derailed by a mechanical just when Pogačar attacked on the Koppenberg and had to stop to make the fix. Quick-Step tried pacing him back, but the Wolfpack’s day was done in yet another day the classics kings will want to forget.
Pogačar was relentless after his Koppenberg surge, and dragged van der Poel and Madouas across to Wright and van Baarle with 35km remaining.
Jumbo-Visma and Ag2r Citroën chased, but the leading fivesome only gained time and took a 45-second lead over a chase trio into the decisive final Kwaremont-Paterberg double-punch.
Pogačar relentless, van der Poel resilient
Pogačar attacked a third time on the final climb of the Kwaremont. The Slovenian pummeled across the cobbles and again, it was only van der Poel that could follow.
— Ronde Van Vlaanderen (@RondeVlaanderen) April 3, 2022
The two hit the final Paterberg climb together and Pogačar’s pressure looked to have cracked van der Poel, but the Dutchman was resilient and crested the berg with his rival to set up a two-up TT into Oudenaarde.
Van Baarle and Madouas chased together and seemed destined to be racing for third.
However, with van der Poel and Pogačar playing cat-and-mouse in the final kilometer, the two bridged to the front of the race at around 250 meters to go, forcing the Dutchman to open his winning sprint.
Results provided by ProCyclingStats.
Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres ME Results
Stage Rank Name Team Time 1 VAN DER POEL Mathieu Alpecin-Fenix 6:18:30 2 VAN BAARLE Dylan INEOS Grenadiers 0:00 3 MADOUAS Valentin Groupama - FDJ 0:00 4 POGAČAR Tadej UAE Team Emirates 0:00 5 KÜNG Stefan Groupama - FDJ 0:02 6 TEUNS Dylan Bahrain - Victorious 0:02 7 WRIGHT Fred Bahrain - Victorious 0:11 8 PEDERSEN Mads Trek - Segafredo 0:48 9 LAPORTE Christophe Jumbo-Visma 0:48 10 KRISTOFF Alexander Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux 0:48 11 MATTHEWS Michael Team BikeExchange - Jayco 0:48 12 TRATNIK Jan Bahrain - Victorious 0:48 13 BENOOT Tiesj Jumbo-Visma 1:02 14 PIDCOCK Thomas INEOS Grenadiers 1:05 15 VAN AVERMAET Greg AG2R Citroën Team 1:07 16 VAN POPPEL Danny BORA - hansgrohe 1:07 17 LOUVEL Matis Team Arkéa Samsic 1:07 18 DEGENKOLB John Team DSM 1:07 19 TEUNISSEN Mike Jumbo-Visma 1:07 20 ARANBURU Alex Movistar Team 1:07 21 MOHORIČ Matej Bahrain - Victorious 1:07 22 GARCÍA CORTINA Iván Movistar Team 1:07 23 ASGREEN Kasper Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team 1:07 24 CAPIOT Amaury Team Arkéa Samsic 1:07 25 MOZZATO Luca B&B Hotels - KTM 1:07 26 SÜTTERLIN Jasha Bahrain - Victorious 1:07 27 DE GENDT Aimé Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux 1:07 28 SKAARSETH Anders Uno-X Pro Cycling Team 1:07 29 TERPSTRA Niki TotalEnergies 1:07 30 LAMPAERT Yves Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team 1:07 31 LE GAC Olivier Groupama - FDJ 1:07 32 LIVYNS Arjen Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB 1:07 33 CAMPENAERTS Victor Lotto Soudal 1:07 34 TRENTIN Matteo UAE Team Emirates 1:07 35 TURNER Ben INEOS Grenadiers 1:11 36 VALGREN Michael EF Education-EasyPost 1:11 37 GENIETS Kevin Groupama - FDJ 1:11 38 SÉNÉCHAL Florian Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team 1:11 39 NIEUWENHUIS Joris Team DSM 1:11 40 VERMEERSCH Gianni Alpecin-Fenix 1:18 41 NAESEN Oliver AG2R Citroën Team 1:26 42 VAN HOOYDONCK Nathan Jumbo-Visma 3:29 43 WELLENS Tim Lotto Soudal 3:29 44 PASQUALON Andrea Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux 3:29 45 GHYS Robbe Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise 5:11 46 STEIMLE Jannik Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team 5:11 47 POLITT Nils BORA - hansgrohe 5:11 48 ARMÉE Sander Cofidis 5:11 49 RUSSO Clément Team Arkéa Samsic 5:13 50 STUYVEN Jasper Trek - Segafredo 5:13 51 LIENHARD Fabian Groupama - FDJ 5:13 52 NARVÁEZ Jhonatan INEOS Grenadiers 5:13 53 SMITH Dion Team BikeExchange - Jayco 5:13 54 ŠTYBAR Zdeněk Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team 5:16 55 ASKEY Lewis Groupama - FDJ 7:44 56 JUNGELS Bob AG2R Citroën Team 7:44 57 NORSGAARD Mathias Movistar Team 7:44 58 MERTENS Julian Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise 7:44 59 KORETZKY Victor B&B Hotels - KTM 7:44 60 DUJARDIN Sandy TotalEnergies 7:44 61 VAN MOER Brent Lotto Soudal 7:44 62 SWIFT Connor Team Arkéa Samsic 7:44 63 LANGEVELD Sebastian EF Education-EasyPost 7:44 64 JACOBS Johan Movistar Team 8:24 65 BEULLENS Cedric Lotto Soudal 8:50 66 DEVRIENDT Tom Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux 8:50 67 THEUNS Edward Trek - Segafredo 8:50 68 DE VYLDER Lindsay Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise 8:50 69 SHEFFIELD Magnus INEOS Grenadiers 8:50 70 LEMOINE Cyril B&B Hotels - KTM 8:50 71 ERVITI Imanol Movistar Team 8:50 72 VAN DER HOORN Taco Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux 8:50 73 GRIGNARD Sébastien Lotto Soudal 8:50 74 SWIFT Ben INEOS Grenadiers 8:50 75 VAN DIJKE Mick Jumbo-Visma 8:50 76 VERMEERSCH Florian Lotto Soudal 8:50 77 TOUZÉ Damien AG2R Citroën Team 8:50 78 KIRSCH Alex Trek - Segafredo 8:50 79 VERGAERDE Otto Trek - Segafredo 8:50 80 JAUREGUI Quentin B&B Hotels - KTM 8:50 81 MARIT Arne Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise 10:13 82 ELOSEGUI Iñigo Movistar Team 10:13 83 DURBRIDGE Luke Team BikeExchange - Jayco 10:13 84 MACIEJUK Filip Bahrain - Victorious 10:13 85 MÄRKL Niklas Team DSM 10:13 86 ZAKHAROV Artyom Astana Qazaqstan Team 10:13 87 KOCH Jonas BORA - hansgrohe 10:13 88 TILLER Rasmus Uno-X Pro Cycling Team 10:13 89 RUTSCH Jonas EF Education-EasyPost 10:13 90 DE PESTEL Sander Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise 10:13 91 KANTER Max Movistar Team 10:13 92 ANIOŁKOWSKI Stanisław Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB 10:13 93 SAJNOK Szymon Cofidis 10:13 94 PAJUR Markus Team Arkéa Samsic 10:13 95 ROBEET Ludovic Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB 10:13 96 SKUJIŅŠ Toms Trek - Segafredo 10:13 97 VERMOTE Julien Alpecin-Fenix 10:16 98 DILLIER Silvan Alpecin-Fenix 10:16 99 DEWULF Stan AG2R Citroën Team 10:16 100 SCHÄR Michael AG2R Citroën Team 10:16 101 FEDOROV Yevgeniy Astana Qazaqstan Team 10:16 102 HALLER Marco BORA - hansgrohe 10:16 103 MORICE Julien B&B Hotels - KTM 10:16
Results provided by ProCyclingStats.