Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) soloed to victory at Dwars door Vlaanderen, making it five cobbled Classics wins out of five for Jumbo-Visma.
It was also Laporte's second Classics win in a matter of days after the Frenchman won Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday by dominating the race with teammate Wout van Aert.
Laporte launched a huge acceleration with four kilometres left to race, which the remnants of the day's breakaway couldn’t answer. Once he realised the race was won, the Frenchman had time to zip up his jersey and enjoy another impressive win for Jumbo-Visma.
The Dutch team have now already won 20 races in 2023, including Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the E3 Saxo Classic and Gent-Wevelgem.
Oier Lazkano (Movistar) and Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) completed the podium, taking second and third respectively.
Lazkano lit up the day as part of a six-man breakaway which eventually was reduced to two men. The Basque rider and Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X) were swallowed up by the Jumbo-Visma led chase group with seven kilometres left to race.
Behind Laporte, Lazkano and Powless, Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Decuninck) won the sprint for fourth place from a reduced peloton.
"It's incredible to get five wins from five cobbled races," Laporte said after his latest Classics victory. "It was a difficult day but a great day, all the team were great. I'm very happy to win again. I was strong on the climbs and made the selections there. It was a good collaboration in the group."
Looking ahead to Sunday's Tour of Flanders, Laporte was full of optimism.
"My condition is good, I've been training well, I think I'm fresh, and we have an amazingly strong team," he said.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The 184 kilometres of the Dwars door Vlaanderen were set to provide one final test before the fast approaching Tour of Flanders.
Despite Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) opting to skip the race, the start list was still jam packed with quality including Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step) and Gent-Wevelgem winner Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma).
Once the flag dropped, a group of six moved off the front of the peloton and soon built a substantial gap of more than four minutes. They were Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X), Oier Lazkano (Movistar), Ward Vanhoof (Flanders-Baloise), Nickolas Zukowsky (Q36.5) and Yevgeniy Gidich (Astana Qazaqstan).
With 70 kilometres to go, the cobbled climbs were beginning to cause havoc in the peloton, with a few riders being involved in a series of small crashes. Stefan Bisseger (EF Education-EasyPost), as well as Belgian national champion Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) were both sent crashing to the floor in separate incidents.
On the Kanieberg climb, Tiesj Benoot and Jumbo-Visma were pushing the pace on the front of the main field. Alaphilippe, Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) and Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates) were all present at the head of the bunch. Benoot eventually launched an attack, looking to bridge across to the front group. The Belgian took his teammate Laporte as well as the Alpecin-Deceuninck duo of Quinten Hermans and Jasper Philipsen with him.
After his initial move had come to nothing, Benoot launched another attack on the race's second ascent of the Knokteberg climb. This time Hermans could follow him again, as well as Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost). Benoot’s acceleration shredded the breakaway's lead to just 45 seconds. Laporte, Stefan Küng and Valentin Madouas (Groupama FDJ), Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers) and Mikkel Honoré (EF Education-EasyPost) were able to join the group led by Benoot.
With 39 kilometres to go, Quick-Step’s hopes were resting firmly on the shoulders of Alaphilippe. The Frenchman’s teammate Merlier had abandoned the race after his earlier crash.
The breakaway had just 30 seconds over the Benoot and Powless group, with the peloton 1:23 back. Jayco-AIUla, Soudal Quick-Step and Lotto DSTNY were trying to organise the chase amongst the peloton, as multiple riders feared they had missed the race winning move.
As the riders entered the final phase of racing, Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates) accelerated away from the front of the peloton on the cobbled sector at Doorn. Alaphilippe was frantically trying to go with him, but was unable to. Wellens soon swept up several riders caught in no man’s land between the peloton and chasing group, and was on the way to the second group on the road.
Wellens would eventually fade, and was reeled back into the peloton himself.
With seven kilometres to go, Kristoff and Lazkano were finally caught by the chase group thanks to two brutal turns from Honoré. The Danish rider would soon go again, looking to split things up with just five kilometres to race. Benoot and Madouas were attentive to every kick from the EF Education-EasyPost rider.
Eventually, Laporte would launch a huge acceleration which soon opened up a massive gap. Powless and Lazkano desperately tried to follow, but were no match for the Frenchman’s turn of speed.
Behind Laporte, the peloton swept up the remnants of the breakaway, but the Frenchman held on for another impressive victory for Jumbo-Visma. Lazkano took second, with Powless in third.
DWARS DOOR VLAANDEREN 2023: RESULTS
1. Christophe Laporte (FRA) Jumbo-Visma, in 04:06:20
2. Oier Lazkano (SPA) Movistar, at 15s
3. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-EasyPost,
4. Jasper Philipsen (BEL) Alpecin-Deceuninck,
5. Mads Pedersen (DEN) Trek-Segafredo,
6. Arnaud De Lie (BEL) Lotto DSTNY,
7. Davide Ballerini (ITA) Soudal Quick-Step
8. Andrea Pasqualon (ITA) Bahrain Victorious,
9. Olivier Le Gac (FRA) Groupama FDJ,
10. Nils Politt (GER) Bora-Hansgrohe, all at same time
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