Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) has taken a fourth victory of the 2019 season just two days after his incredible fight back to take fourth place at the Tour of Flanders.
The Dutch champion won the opening stage of the UCI 2.1 race, Circuit Cycliste Sarthe - Pays de la Loire in France on Tuesday, beating Boris Valée (Wanty-Gobert) and Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept) with a powerful late sprint. The 180km stage took place predominantly over a hilly circuit starting and finishing in La Châtaigneraie.
Van der Poel could be forgiven for feeling a little fatigued after his efforts in Flanders on Sunday. The 24-year-old crashed with around 30 kilometres to go after breaking his wheel, somersaulting his bars as he tried to stop and call for help from his team car.
It looked like that could be the end of any chance for him to finish highly in his race debut, but he valiantly fought back alone to make it back to the front of the race on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont.
There was little he could do about Alberto Bettiol's (EF Education First) eventual winning move, but he was able to push to the front ahead of riders like Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) and Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) on the last climb of the Paterberg.
The world cyclocross champion eventually took fourth place at the finish in Oudenaarde, after what many consider the ride of the race.
His victory in Circuit Sarthe is his fourth of the season after a stage victory in the Tour of Antalya in Turkey and in the cobbled one-day French race, GP de Denain from a solo break.
Van der Poel's biggest career road victory though came last week in the WorldTour at Dwars door Vlaanderen when he beat Anthony Turgis (Direct Energie) and Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) in a sprint for the line in Belgium.
Van der Poel now leads Circuit Sarthe overall with three stages to come. He'll then race the De Brabantse Pijl one-day race next Wednesday before taking part in the Amstel Gold Race the following Sunday where his Classics season will conclude.
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