An exceptional edition of the Tour of Flanders got an exceptional final. Van der Poel and Van Aert were so daring that a very close sprint had to decide on the victory. Van der Poel won the 104th edition of Flanders’ Fienst before Wout Van Aert. Kristoff sprinted to third place in the chasing group.
An atypical Tour of Flanders, that's what awaited the riders today. In an edition in which the general public was invited to follow the race from home, a leading group of 6 riders coloured the first race hours: Mühlberger (Bora-hansgrohe), Peyskens (Bingoal - Wallonie Bruxelles), Van Poppel (Circus-Wanty Gobert), Van den Bossche (Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise), Battistella (NTT Pro Cycling Team) and Van Hoecke (Team CCC). They had a maximum lead of about 8 minutes.
There was some nervousness in the peloton in the run-up to the hills, but the race remained closed for quite a long time this year. Gradually the peloton did take some the advantage of the breakaway back. Battistella and Peyskens dropped out of the front group a bit sooner, while the other four escapees were caught by the peloton just after the first ascent of the Paterberg.
Action from the favourites followed on the Koppenberg. No one less than world champion Alaphilippe set a firm pace on the steep hill. The peloton was thinning out because of the attack of the world champion. Barely 5 km later a second acceleration of the man in the rainbow jersey followed. He got Dutch champion Van der Poel with him. On the cobblestones of the Taaienberg, Wout Van Aert joined the front two. At 37 km from the end the three top favourites found themselves in an elite group at the front of the race.
There was a thrilling finale, until Alaphilippe crashed into a motor bike barely 2 km further on and had to leave the Tour of Flanders with pain in his shoulder. Because of that unfortunate crash of the world champion, the duo Van Aert - Van der Poel were left at the front for the ultimate duel.
On the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, Van der Poel set the pace. Nobody got away and the duo continued to the Paterberg, with more than a minute's lead on the chasing group. In that group Naesen took a shot at third place on the Oude Kwaremont.
Also on the Paterberg Van Aert and Van der Poel did not drop each other. With 13 km to go there was still a perfect cooperation between the two top favourites. They rode together to the finish where millimetres decided on the victory. The two waited a long time, but the Dutch champion started the sprint from first position. Van Aert came closer and closer, but on the finish line Van der Poel's jump decided over the victory. Van Aert finished a few millimetres behind after a nerve-racking final. Kristoff eventually won the sprint of the chasing group for third place.