Van der Poel sprints for third year in a row and takes second win
Just like in 2020 and 2021, the Tour of Flanders ended in a nerve-racking sprint. And just like the past two years, Van der Poel was one of the main protagonists. The Dutchman took his second victory in the Minderbroedersstraat, ahead of Van Baarle and Madouas.
The start of the 106th Tour of Flanders in Antwerp takes place at 10am. The fans are there to cheer on their favourites. After 15km we know the escapees of the day who will write the first hours of the race story. There are 9 of them: Dewulf (AG2R Citroën Team), Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Boaro (Astana Qazaqstan Team), Kanter (Movistar Team), Cofidis (Bohli), Paasschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB), De Vylder (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Mozzato (B&B Hotels - KTM) and Van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux).
The race remains closed for a while and the gap of the breakaway increases up to 4 minutes. With about 90km to go, the peloton is in turmoil. First Koch (Bora-hansgrohe) and Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma) go off. Not much later a group separates with among others Stybar (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Bettiol (EF Education-Easypost), Ben Turner (INEOS Grenadiers) and Vermeersch (Alpecin Fenix).
In the peloton, the men of TotalEnergies, Bahrain Victorious and UAE Team Emirates have to work hard. For a moment it looks like Asgreen and Van der Poel will make the jump to the front with an attack on Berg Ten Houte, but that doesn't happen. The trio of Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Geniets (Groupama-FDJ) and Swift (Team Arkéa-Samsic) goes for an attack on Kanarieberg and can make the crossing to the group of Pedersen. Meanwhile, the lead of the early breakaway riders drops below half a minute.
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On the second climb of the Oude Kwaremont the peloton splits up. None other than Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) puts on a phenomenal acceleration and in one go sprints up the chasing group and the leading group. With Asgreen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) in his wheel he also takes Pedersen and Turner with him. Van der Poel (Alpecin Fenix) and Küng (Groupama-FDJ) initially miss the jump, but at the end of the Oude Kwaremont they can join too. On the Paterberg a new acceleration follows. Now Asgreen has a hard time.
After the Paterberg, Van Baarle (INEOS Grenadiers) and Wright (Bahrain Victorious) get away with two. More and more people join in the chasing group. On the Koppenberg it is again Pogacar who shakes the tree. Van der Poel follows, and so does Madouas (Groupama-FDJ). Then the gap falls. On the Taaienberg, Pogacar, Van der Poel et Madouas join the front and we get a breakaway of five.
At the last time on the Oude Kwaremont, Pogacar sets the pace again. The only one who can follow is Van der Poel. The duo pull together to the final climb of the Paterberg. On the final climb it's Van der Poel who gets in trouble in the gutter, but Pogacar doesn't get away. The two of them ride to the finish in the Minderbroedersstraat in Oudenaarde. There the leaders play poker and it is almost suprlace to the finish. Van Baarle and Madouas join their slipstream at 250m from the finish, just when Van der Poel starts his sprint. Van der Poel takes his second victory, ahead of Van Baarle and Madouas. Pogacar gets blocked in the sprint and finishes in fourth place.