After a good month of spring classics, Sunday finally brought the biggest of them all, the 2019 Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Elite Women’s Race

A field of 142 women started on the market of Oudenaarde for their Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Seven riders soon formed the breakaway of the day: Ilaria Sanguineti (Valcar Cylance), Severine Eraud (Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport), Giulia Marchesini (Aromitalia Vaiano), Kylie Waterreus (Health Mate-Ladies Team), Kseniia Dobrynina (Servetto Piumate Beltrami), Silvia Valsecchi (BePink) and Chanella Stougje (Hitec Products-Birk Sport).

Early in the race, American national champion and 2017 Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb ) had to give up because of a crash. Before the climb of the Muur, one of the favorites, Dutch national champion Chantal Blaak (Boels Dolmans Cycling Team), had a crash as well, but she could continue.

On the Muur, three of the seven riders of the breakaway got dropped. While two of them managed to rejoin after the Muur, Italian rider Marchesini got swallowed by the peloton.

For the other six, it was just a matter of time. At the foot of the Kanarieberg, they as well got caught.

The climb of the Kanarieberg stretched out the peloton, which in the end, led to a split up in several groups. Soon after the Kanarieberg, the Taaienberg was the next obstacle, but nobody made a decisive move.

One climb was left now before entering the absolute finale: the Kruisberg/Hotond. Lisa Brennauer (WNT-Rotor Pro Cycling ) and Annemiek Van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott ) tried to get away, but their attempt turned out to be unsuccessful. However a decisive move wasn’t made on this climb either, the accelerations caused the dropping of a lot of riders. An elite group of riders was left to take on the final murderous duo of the Kwaremont and Paterberg.

On the Kwaremont, European champion Marta Bastianelli (Team Virtu Cycling) gave it a go. The leading group cracked.

Cycling legend Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv Team), Van Vleuten, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Katarzyna Niewiadioma (Canyon SRAM Racing) were the only ones able to catch up with the Italian.

Towards the top of the Kwaremont, Danish rider Ludwig attacked. While Vos faced a flat tire, Van Vleuten closed the gap.

Four leaders headed for the last climb of the day: the Paterberg. On the Paterberg, Polish rider Niewiadioma got dropped, which was ideal for the collaboration between the other three, who now knew they would all get on the podium if they worked together.

Van Vleuten knowing that Bastianelli is the fastest in the sprint, however, started gambling towards the end. With 2.3 km left, Van Vleuten attacked, but her attack was easily countered by Bastianelli. At 500 m before the finish line, Van Vleuten tried to surprise Bastianelli and Ludwig.

With Van Vleuten giving everything she had left, Bastianelli was the only one able to grab her wheel again.

With a final push, the Italian former World Champion passed Van Vleuten. After Elisa Longo Borghini in 2015, Bastianelli added her name to the honor’s list as second Italian in the history of the Ronde van Vlaanderen for women. With this win, Bastianelli extended her lead in the UCI women’s World Tour.

With a second place in this year’s edition, Van Vleuten, after winning in 2011 and a third place last year, now has seen every spot on the podium of the Ronde. Ludwig, after a third place in the Trofeo Alfredo Binda earlier this year, now also took third in the 2019 Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Bastianelli talked about her win after her race. “It was an incredible race. I’m so happy with this result. I can’t believe what I did. We had a fantastic team.” (translated)

Along with her third-place finish, Ludwig delivered the top post-race interview of the weekend.

Full Elite Women’s results

For more, from the race, highlights from the UCI are below.

Elite Men’s Race

Around 10.30 a.m. local time, the Ronde van Vlaanderen for men started on the market of Antwerp.

Four riders formed the breakaway of the day: Kenneth Van Rooy (Vlaanderen – Baloise), Jesper Asselman (Roompot – Charles), Hugo Houle (Astana) and Damien Touze (Cofidis). None of them would come close, however, to win the 103rd Ronde van Vlaanderen: after the Muur they would all get caught.

Before the first climb of the day, last year’s winner Niki Terpstra was involved in a crash. The consequences: a concussion, no second win in a row and also no Paris-Roubaix next week.

In the breakaway Canadian rider Houle crossed the top of the first climb of the day, the Oude Kwaremont, as first, which meant he was the first winner of the Grote Prijs Stig Broeckx, named after the recovering Belgian rider Stig Broeckx who was in a coma for several months after a crash in the Baloise Belgium Tour 2016. Houle’s prize: €5000, which he could give to charity.

At 100 km before the finish, the feared Muur van Geraardsbergen was the 12th of 22 obstacles of the day. Danish rider Magnus Cort (Astana) accelerated. About 40 riders, among others most of the favorites, separated themselves from the rest.

Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) and Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), who were sick the past week, Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First), who raced for the first time after his crash in the E3 Harelbeke and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) missed the boat, but at the foot of the Karanieberg, with a little more than 70 km left, everything came back together.

After the Kanarieberg, 3 iconic hills had to be climbed within less than 15 km to go: the Oude Kwaremont, the Paterberg and the Koppenberg. Was a decisive move going to be made here?

If so, it wouldn’t be Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus).

On the descent towards the Oude Kwaremont, Van der Poel was too far to the right of the right and rode his bike into a planter on the side of the road. His wheel broke and van der Poel immediately raised his hand. While doing that his wheel collapsed and the Dutchman fell over his handlebar.

A lot of people probably thought this was race over for Van der Poel, but the two-time cyclocross World Champion thought differently about that. An amazing hunt forwards could be witnessed from then on.

On the Oude Kwaremont, Van der Poel picked up rider after rider after rider. In the meantime, Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R La Mondiale) and Vanmarcke took off in the peloton. Danish rider Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) closed the gap with the two Flemish boys a little later.

After the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg, the favorites stayed calm on the Koppenberg as well, while Van der Poel climbed all three like a maniac. At the end of the Koppenberg descent, Van der Poel rejoined the other favorites: a great performance by Van der Poel, but it wasn’t his last one yet. In the front of the race, Dylan van Baarle (Team Sky) joined Vanmarcke, Vandenbergh and Asgreen.

Towards the climb of the Taaienberg, Stijn Devolder (Corendon-Circus), two-time winner of the Ronde and a teammate of Van der Poel, took the lead in the peloton followed by Van der Poel himself.

On the Taaienberg Jasper Stuyven (Trek Segafredo) took the lead, but none of the favorites gave his best on this climb either. After the climb of the Kruisberg, before which Naesen got a flat tire, Jungels took some advantage. Van der Poel realized the danger and made sure Jungels’ attack got neutralized.

Omloop Het Niewsblad and E3 Harelbeke winner Stybar had to let go on the Hotond, after which a descent towards the penultimate climb of the day, the Oude Kwaremont, was coming. Vanmarcke, who was dropped, just as Vandenbergh, by van Baarle and Asgreen, pushed hard towards the Kwaremont for teammates Alberto Bettiol and Sebastian Langeveld.

With an advantage of a few seconds, Van Baarle and Asgreen began to climb the Kwaremont. In the group with all the favorites, Vanmarcke set himself aside and Jens Keukeleire (Lotto Soudal) took the lead at the beginning of the Kwaremont.

Then Italian rider Alberto Bettiol, who finished fourth in the E3 Harelbeke, attacked. Nobody was able to follow the Italian.

He passed the two leaders and crossed the top of the Kwaremont with an advantage of 10 seconds. As sole leader, Bettiol headed towards the last climb of the day: the Paterberg. The Italian kept a good pace on the Paterberg. He crossed the top with a 16-second advantage on Van der Poel, who had a gap of a few meters on Van Avermaet (CCC) and Naesen.

At the end of the descent, Van der Poel still was the sole chaser, but within a few hundred meters he got company from 13 other riders

With 10 km left, the Italian’s advantage got reduced to 10 seconds because of several accelerations in the chasing group, but then the pace in the chase dropped. It was the sign for Van Avermaet, seeing Bettiol riding in front of him, to attack. Every chaser grabbed a wheel and the pace dropped again.

Sagan was the next one to give it a try, but his attack got canceled, while Van der Poel amazingly saved himself from another crash. Except for a bridge 9 km before the finish line, the 13 km after the Paterberg were flat. No one could get away, and with 7.5 km left, Bettiol’s advantage was 25 seconds.

On the one hand, with a 17 headed chasing group, the gap could still be closed if they work together, but on the other hand, Bettiol proved to be a good time trial rider in the past.

With a little more than 7 km left they finally started working together a bit in the chasing group. Although not everybody is very committed in the chase they reduced the advantage of Bettiol to 20 seconds with 4 km left. Not everybody being committed enough and Langeveld trying to disturb the collaboration the pace soon dropped again.

With a little more than 2 km left, Asgreen accelerated and teammate Jungels, who was behind him, let him take off. With the advantage of Bettiol which had been grown to 27 seconds again because of the dropping of the pace, the Danish rider wasn’t able anymore to go for more than second.

The Italian was on his way towards his first professional victory, and what a victory. At an age of 25 years Bettiol took the win in the 2019 edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Fourteen seconds behind the winner, Asgreen finished second. On 17 seconds last week’s Gent-Wevelgem winner Kristoff won the sprint for third before van der Poel, who maybe was the strongest man in the race.

About the race, Bettiol said, “On the Kwaremont I felt really good. Andreas (Klier) said from the car: ‘If you can, then just go.’ I closed my eyes and I went. I looked down on the top and saw I had a really good cap. From the car they said ‘Keep pushing, keep pushing.’ On the Paterberg, I think I didn’t lose a lot. And then the longest 14 km of my life.”

More from Bettiol on his win via his team:

Full Elite Men’s results