Mathieu van der Poel: ‘I started a good sprint, but immediately felt the legs were rough’  

The 2020 Tour of Flanders champion missed out on victory to Kasper Asgreen

(Image credit: BELGA/AFP via Getty Images)

Mathieu van der Poel said he started his sprint well in the final of the Tour of Flanders 2021, but quickly realised he didn’t have the strength to beat Kasper Asgreen.

Van der Poel, winner of the 2020 edition of the cobbled Monument, looked to be the favourite to win this year’s race into the final kilometre, as he faced a two-rider sprint with Deceuninck - Quick-Step’s Asgreen. 

But Van der Poel said he was beaten by a stronger rider, as Asgreen sprinted clear inside the final 250 metres. 

Speaking after the finish, cyclocross world champion Van der Poel said: “I already felt during the race that he was really strong today and for me the legs were a bit tired at the end so I'm quite disappointed, but I think I lost to a stronger guy today so that makes it easier to accept.

“I think I did a really good race but at the end there was a guy stronger, but for sure I can be proud of of the races I've done from the beginning of the season until now but for sure I leave a bit disappointed. 

“I started a good sprint. But then immediately I felt that the legs were rough and I couldn't beat him.”

Van der Poel closed out his Classics season with a second-place finish in Flanders, having won Strade Bianche and finishing on the podium of the E3 Saxo Bank Classic this season. 

The Alpecin-Fenix rider looked to be favourite to win the 2021 edition of Flanders when he launched a huge attack on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, 17km from the finish.

Only Deceuninck - Quick-Step’s Asgreen was strong enough to match Van der Poel, with Asgreen trusting his sprint in the final. 

Despite his reputation as a long-range attacker, Asgreen was able to beat established sprinter Van der Poel in the final, taking a huge victory for Belgian squad Deceuninck. 

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Van der Poel said: “I noticed pretty early that Asgreen was the strongest guy from Deceuninck. I checked a few times he was the one who always was quite easily on the wheel, so I knew that he was he was the strongest today from that team. 

“Normally when I go to a sprint like this with two guys, I have the best chance but today was there was one guy stronger.”