Kasper Asgreen is Soudal Quick-Step’s best hope of saving their Classics campaign
Soudal Quick-Step’s Kasper Asgreen was one of a handful of riders in the days breakaway who looked at one point like they could push on for the win in Oudenaarde.
The Danish rider was regularly on the front of the lead group, pulling for longer than some of his compatriots in an attempt to keep a certain rampaging Slovenian at bay.
Coming into the race, Asgreen’s Quick-Step team had struggled for form during the current campaign, and big things were expected from the Dane as a former winner of ‘De Ronde’ once the race got underway.
“Save the teams honour,” said Quick-Step general manager Patrick Lefevere in a pre-race press conference, and with his defiant display in the breakaway, Asgreen did just that.
The win may not have materialised, but what we saw was a battling ride, proving that Quick-Step have fight in them yet, and can never be discounted in their own back yard.
Not only that, but with Paris-Roubaix fast-approaching, it appears that Asgreen is starting to find some form at just the right time. If he has his Flanders legs on the cobbles of the Arenberg next weekend, then Asgreen should certainly be considered as a potential dark horse for the Paris-Roubaix title.
JUMBO-VISMA ARE MORTAL AFTER ALL
One of the major takeaways from this years edition of ‘De Ronde’ was that after their supreme dominance in weeks gone by, Jumbo-Visma have a chink in their armour, and aren’t as unbeatable as so many perceived.
After fighting so valiantly on the Kwaremont, and then sending his key lieutenant Christophe Laporte into the melee earlier than he may have liked, Wout van Aert finally cracked on the Kruisberg, and would cut a lonely figure as he parted the crowds on the way to the final ascent of the Kwaremont.
In the end, it was Mathieu van der Poel, not Pogačar, who finally distanced Belgium’s great hope. Although it didn’t matter. It was now out in the open that despite their five Cobbled classic victories out of five in the build up, Jumbo-Visma were just as fallible as the next team.
How much of a difference it would have made if the likes of Dylan van Baarle had been available, we’ll never know. Although after this kind of capitulation in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Wout van Aert is likely to come out swinging on the cobbles of Roubaix next weekend.
Tadej's bike is pretty quick for a Colnago
As Tadej Pogačar crossed the line and celebrated his win, news filtered through that the 2023 edition of ‘De Ronde’ had been the quickest since records began.
Although don’t you ever get the feeling that if he had been riding the bike of say Wout van Aert, Tom Pidcock, or maybe even Neilson Powless, then he could have set an even quicker time? It would have definitely shaved ten-seconds off, or maybe even more.
As he rampaged to victory, it was hard to do nothing other than just sit back, relax and admire the sheer brilliance of the Slovenian, as well as the masterful design and skill that went into putting together the latest Colnago V4RS that Pogačar rode on Sunday.
Just before Milan-San Remo, ex-Belgian professionals Dirk de Wolf and Tom Boonen claimed that Pogacar’s bike was of the “old school” variety.
Although it certainly didn’t seem to hold him back once he took flight on the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg for the final time, before eventually winning the fastest ever edition of the race with a record speed of 44.1 kmph.
That's now eight single victories in 2023 for the two-time Tour de France champion, not too bad indeed.
Lotte Kopecky can more than handle the expectation of a nation
As Lotte Kopecky crossed the line and punched the air on Sunday, it was the 27-year-old delivering on the hopes of a nation, and proving that she can more than handle expectation on the biggest of stages.
That’s two consecutive Flanders titles for the SD Worx rider, and it would be unwise to bet against her completing the hattrick next year.
In a race that has been so heavily dominated by Belgian riders, the country simply expects a strong showing from its star names in ‘De Ronde’. To some that may seem stifling, and overbearing, although not if you’re Kopecky.
When she made her decisive move on the Oude Kwaremont, she didn’t hesitate, setting such a relentless pace that Silvia Persico simply couldn’t live with. Not only that, but she had the fortune of thousands of Duvel-fuelled fans lining the roadside screaming her name.
“I think I was deaf when I got up the Kwaremont. It was a lot of people cheering, that was very nice,” Kopecky said post-race.
Fred Wright is well on the way to becoming a Classics star
Despite finishing one place back in eighth compared to his seventh in 2022, Great Britain’s Fred Wright showed that he truly belongs with the big guns at the Tour of Flanders and can more than handle himself when the race reaches crunch time.
As we knew after his exploits last season, Wright is an astute breakaway artist, and possesses an outstanding ability to read moves from others as they happen. As the day's breakaway formed, he looked like he firmly belonged alongside proven Classics stars of the ilk of Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), and it was Neilson Powless, not Wright, who onlookers were left surprised at.
The American is only just beginning to attempt to forge a reputation as a rider who can cope with the cobbled climbs of Belgium, whereas Wright is fast becoming someone you just expect to be there.
As this upward trajectory continues, it feels like a major win is just a matter of time for the Londoner.
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