Although Dwars door Vlaanderen is a WorldTour race, a lot of the male top riders, such as Zdenek Stybar, Wout Van Aert and Greg Van Avermaet, weren’t competing today trying to save their energy for the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.
This could make it easier for Dutch national champion Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) to take his first-ever WorldTour win.
Van der Poel wasn’t the only cyclocross rider to look out for. With Dutch Cyclocross National Champion Lucinda Brand, Team Sunweb had a favorite in their team for today’s Women’s race.
Whether or not the Dutch cyclocross stars conquered Flanders, you’ll find out in the following race reports.
With the full race broadcast by Proximus Sports, fans got the chance to see the full 108km Women’s race.
Saartje Vandenbroucke (Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport), Nathalie Bex (Rogelli-Gyproc) and Kseniia Dobrynina (Servetto – Piumate – Beltrami TSA) formed the first breakaway of the day.
They all would get caught and the climb of the Knokteberg would be the first big moment in the race.
On that Knokteberg, with 45 km to go, the peloton split into several groups.
A leading group with 10 riders (Brand, Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton Scott), Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Katarzyna Nieuwiadoma (Canyon//Sram Racing), Elena Cecchini (Canyon//Sram Racing), Marta Bastianelli (Team Virtu Cycling), Sheyla Ruiz Gutteriez (Movistar Team), Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb), Grace Elvin (Mitchelton Scott)) formed.
Only Belgian rider Sofie De Vuyst (Parkhotel Valkenburg) was able to close the gap to make it a group of 11 heading to the final climbs of the day.
With several teams having two riders in the group, the stage was set for a good battle to the finish.
On the climb of the Holstraat, the second to last of the race, Brand accelerated, but the other women in the breakaway reeled her in a few kilometers later.
With 17 km left, the leaders still held a 1-minute lead on the peloton.
Shortly after her big move, Brand and a Mitchelton – Scott rider got dropped. The lead group was now down to nine.
Then, with 16 km to go, last year’s winner Ellen van Dijk attacked out of the group of 9.
Unlike Brand, van Dijk was able to get some advantage, as the others were slow to respond to her move. Van Dijk proved to be very strong once again, going to TT mode with about 15km standing between her and a second-straight win.
She held her solo move to get the win. In the sprint for second, Italian
Via her team, Van Dijk talked about the win:
“I think it’s my favorite race from now on! Although it’s a bit of a short race and normally I like it a bit longer. The other riders want to ride it full gas as it’s the warmup for Flanders so they wanted to go, so I was really happy we went with a group today. I knew we were not the fastest out of the group, so we had to attack.
I tried already once, but couldn’t really get a gap and then on top of a climb it was pretty hard and I said okay let’s just give it a try and I think I directly got a bit of a gap, but it was still 16 kms to go!”
The breakaway of the day consisted of eight riders: Jonas Koch (CCC Team), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar Team), Ramon Sinkeldam (Groupama-FDJ), Zhandos Bizjigitov (Astana Pro Team), Lukas Pöstlberger (BORA-Hansgrohe), Michael Hepburn (Mitchelton Scott), Kris Boeckmans (Vital Concept – B&B Hotels en Mihkel Räim (Israel Cycling Academy).
Towards the second climb of the day, the Kluisberg, the Men’s race suddenly got neutralized.
Because of a crash, the Women’s race was delayed, which caused the head of the Men’s race catching up with the tail of the Women’s race.
The breakaway of the Men’s race got stopped and a few minutes later the peloton got stopped as well. The breakaway suddenly got mixed up with the peloton.
All of a sudden breakaway rider number eight, Pöstlberger, showed up and didn’t seem to be very happy that the breakaway was allowed to leave without him.
Sporza journalist Renaat Schotte came to the rescue and gave the Austrian national champion a lift with his motorcycle on the Kluisberg so he could join the breakaway again. With the race situation being the same again as before the neutralization the race could continue.
Towards the first time Knokteberg, with 67 km to go, some riders got involved in a crash. Young Belgian rider Jasper Philipsen (Bahrain-Merida), who won a stage in the Tour Down Under, and Oliver
On the Knokteberg, Belgian rider Dries De Bondt (Corendon-Circus), a teammate of Van der Poel, attacked. Frenchman Anthony Turgis (Direct Energie) decided to go after him.
Then suddenly some suspense: on top of the
A little behind Van der Poel and Cortina we also saw Danish rider Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) trying to join them. All five Knokteberg counterattackers came together and started the hunt for the eight leaders.
On the paved climb of the Taaienberg, Oliveira left his breakaway companions behind, but soon three others joined them: Van der Poel, Turgis and Cortina.
On the way to the second and last time up the Knokteberg, Iljo Keisse (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) led the chase in the peloton. At the foot of the climb, only a few seconds were left between the group Van der Poel and the peloton.
Once on the Knokteberg, Luxembourg national champion Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and the 2018 Strade Bianche winner Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) tried to close the gap with the group Van der Poel, out of which Pöstlberger had attacked.
In the front of the race, Pöstlberger joined Oliviera. After the decent Oliviera got a puncture which made Pöstlberger decide to wait for Van der Poel, Jungels, Benoot and Turgis.
The lead group was now five.
On the paved climb of Nokereberg, where Van der Poel had a terrible crash in the Danilith Nokere Koerse two weeks ago, Jungels accelerated in the gutter on the left side of the street. Van der Poel, who was climbing in the gutter on the right side of the street noticed the danger, accelerated and put himself in Jungels’ wheel on the top of the climb.
In the decent Pöstlberger, Benoot and Turgis tried to close the gap again. The Austrian, the Belgian and the Frenchman succeeded.
After the cobblestones of the Herlegemstraat, Jungels tried to get rid of the others on a bridge over the highway but didn’t succeed. With less than 3 km to go the five leaders had a 45-second advantage on the peloton. The winner was going to be one of them.
With 1 km left,
Turgis tried to surprise the others, but Van der Poel was just too strong. After Gent-Wevelgem, this was only the second WorldTour race of his career and he already took the win.
Turgis finished second, Jungels third, Pöstlberger fourth and
See full results here
“I don’t really see myself as a favorite for the Tour of Flanders yet,” Van der Poel said. “This is a 180 km race. The Tour of Flanders is a lot longer. Let’s see what it brings.”
Van der Poel celebrated his win in style:
Featured image: Balint Hamvas