Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) took his second Tour of Flanders title on Sunday, beating Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) and Valentin Madouas (Grouoama-FDJ) in a dramatic final sprint.
The Dutchman won a four-man sprint after going clear with Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont.
A chaotic finale saw van Baarle and Madouas rejoin the leaders as they hesitated on the finishing straight.
Pogačar was then the rider to miss out on a podium spot on his debut at the Tour of Flanders.
It caps off a great week for van der Poel after winning at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Tour of Flanders may be the youngest of the monuments but what it lacks in age, it makes up for in entertainment and atmosphere.
A 272km route that takes in 18 climbs, also known as ‘Hellingen’, leaves Antwerp and heads southwest to join a relentless circuit of cobbles and bergs before finishing in Oudenaarde.
Around 15km after the flag was dropped in the outskirts of Antwerp, a nine-man break was formed.
Sébastien Grignard (Lotto-Soudal), Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Stan Dewulf (AG2R Citroën), Manuele Boaro (Astana Qazaqstan Team), Tom Bohli (Cofidis), Max Kanter (Movistar), Luca Mozzato (B&B Hotels-KTM), Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and Lindsay De Vylder (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) looked to cause an upset at the second monument of the year.
Amid the breakaway formation, one of the race favourites, Tadej Pogačar, found himself on the deck after a low-speed crash.
Fortunately, the Slovenian talisman was swiftly back on his bike, unhindered by the collision.
The escapees built up a gap of over four minutes by the time they first reached the Oude Kwaremont, with the narrow roads packed three or four deep with passionate Belgians.
As the riders took in the first few bergs and the pace increased, crashes came thick and fast, though most of the race favourites managed to stay safe at the front of the bunch.
Several attacks on the Molenberg and the Berendries saw a 14-man group of chasers pull clear, including Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers) and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo).
Back in the peloton, UAE Team Emirates and TotalEnergies were forced to pace after failing to get any riders in the attacks.
With 81km to go, a crash in the bunch saw Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) end up in a ditch, denting his chances for later in the day.
As the race reached the Kanarieberg, the race had almost come back together as a minute separated the front of the race and the peloton.
However, as the Oude Kwaremont was taken on for a second time, time-gaps dwindled rapidly as Pogačar made his move from the pack.
The remnants of the early break and the chasing group were swallowed up as the Slovenian weaved through the riders struggling on the eleventh berg of the day.
With 50km to go, a group of around 25 riders that included Pogačar, Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) and van der Poel , raced up the Paterberg at a ferocious pace.
Dylan van Baarle and Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious) then attacked, creating a gap of 20 seconds by the time they reached the Koppenberg.
The race came to life here as the brutal gradients allowed for Pogačar, van der Poel and Madouas to break off from the group behind and swiftly bridge over to the leaders.
The group of five built up a gap of just under a minute as they arrived at the foot of the Oude Kwaremont for the final time.
Yet once again, Pogačar effortlessly upped the pace, dropping everyone except for Mathieu van der Poel on the penultimate climb of the day.
As the duo reached the Paterberg, which had gradients of 20% in places, neither rider could drop the other, with a sprint finish looking inevitable.
The rain began to pour in Oudenaarde as the pair approached the flamme rouge and the games then began.
However, the duo were too hesitant in the final 500m, and allowed for Madouas and van Baarle to bridge over.
Once van der Poel finally began to sprint though, there was no one that could match him.
In a baffling turn of events, van Baarle and Madouas then managed to outsprint Pogačar, taking second and third respectively.
TOUR OF FLANDERS 2022: Antwerp - Oudenaarde (272km)
1. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix, in 6-18-30
2. Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers
3. Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
4. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, all at same time
5. Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ, at 2 seconds
6. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Victorious
7. Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain-Victorious, at 11s
8. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, at 48s
9. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Jumbo-Visma
10. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, at same time
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