Mathieu van der Poel put in a commanding performance at Dwars door Vlaanderen to take the first WorldTour victory of his career.
Cyclocross world champion van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) sparked the winning move and formed part of a powerful group of five that came to the line together.
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Despite threats from proven Classics riders Bob Jungels (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal), van der Poel was dominant enough to sprint to a comfortable victory.
How it happened
The 2019 edition ran over 182.8km from Roeselare to Waregem West Flanders, with a combination of short sharp climbs and cobbled stretches.
A total of 11 climbs and eight pavé sectors awaited the peloton including the Taaienberg, Knokteberg and the final test, the Herlegemstraat at 7km from the line, mostly stacked in the final 60km of the race.
While Dwars door Vlaanderen is popular with riders targeting the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, a number of big names opted to skip the mid-week race including Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team).
Reigning champion Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) did line up however, as the Belgian champion hoped to make it three wins in a row.
An eight-rider group when clear in the opening half of the race, made up of Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hangrohe), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Ramon Sinkeldam (Groupama-FDJ), Michael Hepburn (Mitchelton-Scott), Jonas Koch (CCC Team), Zhandos Bizjigitov (Astana), Kris Boeckmans (Vital Concept-B&B Hotels) and Mihkel Räim (Israel Cycling Academy).
The breakaway built up a 2-30 advantage, before chaos unfolded 76km from home.
A crash in the women’s race up the road caused their race to slow, which meant the men’s race behind needed to be neutralised.
The race was quickly restarted before officials once again suspended hostilities when it emerged the breakaway was now behind the peloton.
Eventually the race got going once again 6km later, but not before Pöstlberger was left behind by the breakaway and needed to be towed back to the front of the race by a motorbike.
Finally the break’s advantage was restored and the race continued at the foot of the Kluisberg.
The race then started to open up on the Knokteberg when Dutch national champion van der Poel launched his attack, with four others following.
Van der Poel then found himself in a chasing group alongside team-mate Dries De Bondt, Kapser Asgreen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), Iván Cortina (Bahrain-Merida), and Anthony Turgis (Direct Energie).
The breakaway began to collapse over the relentless climbs, as the chasing group closed down the advantage.
Oliveira kicked on alone from the break, while the van der Poel group began to gain on the front of the race.
Pöstlberger had been caught by the chasers but kicked on alone in pursuit of Oliveira, quickly catching the Portuguese rider.
But the undulating parcours took its toll on everyone out front, as Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) and Bob Jungels (Quick-Step) attacked from the peloton and quickly caught van der Poel’s group.
Oliveira suffered a disastrous mechanical taking him out of the race, as Pöstlberger was joined by the chasing group at the front of the race.
That group – made up of Jungels, Benoot, van der Poel, Turgis and Pöstlberger – were strong enough to build up an advantage just shy of one minute with 15km to ride.
Groupama-FDJ hit the front of the peloton, carrying the pace for their sprinter Arnaud Démare, with EF Education First also providing one rider to assist with the pace.
The front group was temporarily torn apart on the Nokereberg, 10km from the line, as Jungels put in a huge attack on the shallow cobbled climb.
But the group came back together, still holding 47 seconds as they hit the final cobbled sector with 6km left to ride.
Jungels opened up once again on a slight rise inside 5km, trying and failing to expose any weaker rivals in the group.
The front group hit the 1km together as it became clear victory would come from this move.
Benoot was the first to show his cards, attacking at the flamme rouge but Jungels closed it down quickly with the rest following.
Turgis was next to go 200 metres out but van der Poel was glued to his wheel.
The cyclocross world champion sailed past Turgis with enough time to look behind and take his hands off the bars before the line, celebrating his first victory in a WorldTour race.
Dwars door Vlaanderen 2019: Roeselare to Waregem (183km)
1. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus, in 4-05-54
2. Anthony Turgis (Fra) Direct Energie
3. Bob Jungels (Lux) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
4. Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
6. Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky, at 18s
7. Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 19s
8. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
9. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Crédits
10. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-Merida, all same time