Asgreen wins 105th Tour of Flanders
After a fairly calm start the race exploded with 50km remaining. The Dane Asgreen and the Dutchman Van der Poel shaped the race and could sprint for victory in Oudenaarde. The Dane was the strongest. Van Avermaet finished in 3rd place.
On this Easter Sunday, the peloton was clearly not in the mood for a hard race from the start onwards. The early breakaway was formed quite quickly after the starting signal in Antwerp. There were seven of them, the men who made the first hours of the 105th Tour of Flanders: Bissegger (EF Education - Nippo), Paasschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB), Wallays (Cofidis), Norsgaard (Movistar Team), Van Den Bossche (Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise), Denz (Team DSM) and Houle (Astana - Premier Tech). Their maximum lead was about 13 minutes.
While the peloton nibbled away at the breakaway riders' advantage minute by minute, nervousness increased ahead of the second climb of the Oude Kwaremont. A crash forced Riesebeek and Dillier (Alpecin-Fenix) to abandon the race, leaving Van der Poel with only three companions after Vergaerde's earlier disqualification. Also among the casualties were the men of Elegant - Quick-Step, where Asgreen and world champion Alaphilippe, among others, had to close a gap on the peloton.
On the second climb of the Oude Kwaremont, Bissegger set the pace at the front, which led to his fellow escapees having to let go. In the peloton, Lampaert showed off his good legs. World champion Alaphilippe followed his teammate, as did Danish champion Asgreen. The latter dived into the descent together with the Dutch champion, while Van Aert sensed the danger and dragged the rest of the pack onto the wheel of the champion duo.
In the run-up to the first pass on the Paterberg, the pace didn't slow down. On the steepest parts of the Paterberg, Asgreen accelerated again and Van der Poel followed in his wheel. They didn't get away, but there was no peloton at that point.
Just after the Paterberg it was Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) who showed himself in his first Ronde. He had the company of Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), Haller (Bahrain-Victorious) and Sénéchal (Deceuninck - Quick-Step). Behind, it was Alaphilippe and Laporte (Cofidis) who joined forces and rode towards the Pidcock group. Van Aert, Van der Poel and Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) had to chase.
On the Koppenberg, the moment of world champion Alaphilippe had come. The Frenchman took off and joined leader Bissegger at the top. With more than 40km to go, it was too early for the two of them to stay in front. Van Aert, Van der Poel and a remnant of Pidcock's group joined the riders.
On the Mariaborrestraat Haller started to anticipate the view on the Taaienberg. Again Asgreen lit a fire under the bridge and Van der Poel sprinted to the Dane's wheel. World champion Alapilippe and top favourite Van Aert also joined in. Haller's attack paid off up top, as the Austrian was able to join the favourites' train. Teuns, his teammate, also attacked from the background.
With 27km to go, Asgreen shook the tree for the umpteenth time. Just like earlier in the race, Van der Poel stuck to the Dane's wheel. After Van Aert could also join, the trio joined forces. The Dutch champion accelerated on the last spur of the Oude Kwaremont. Van Aert was dropped. Asgreen was able to join Van der Poel in the descent and went with the Dutchman to the final climb.
On the Paterberg Asgreen and Van der Poel were a great match. The duo raced wheel-to-wheel to the finish in Oudenaarde. Just like in October, a sprint after 254 km would decide on the winner of the race. Van der Poel had to start the sprint from the front again, but saw Asgreen pass him with the line in sight. In the pursuit, it was Van Avermaet who beat Stuyven in the sprint for 3rd place.
Asgreen could now rectify his second place of 2019 with a win at the 105th edition of the Tour of Flanders.