Mathieu van der Poel wins Dwars door Vlaanderen after thrilling finale
The Dutchman wins the race for the second time
Mathieu van der Poel superbly won Dwars door Vlaanderen after a thrilling final 10 kilometres characterised by multiple attacks.
The Alpecin-Fenix rider helped formed a very strong chase group with more than 60km left to race, and despite trying his fortune a few times to jump clear, the 27-year-old had to wait until the final few minutes of action before an attack stuck.
Joining Tiesj Benoot's attack with two kilometres to go, the pair rode to the finish line together, before Van der Poel out-sprinted the Jumbo-Visma rider to win the race for the second time in three editions.
It is another outstanding victory for Van der Poel, especially since the Dutchman's participation in the cobbled Classics was in doubt until just a few weeks ago due to a persistent back problem.
Indeed, this was his first cobbled race of the season, and sets him up well for this weekend's Tour of Flanders where he will aim to repeat his triumph from 2020.
Second for Benoot is his best result since joining Jumbo-Visma, while Ineos Grenadiers' Tom Pidcock rode to third, the Briton's best-placed result of the road season.
Tadej Pogačar, meanwhile, was active throughout the race but missed the decisive formation of the Van der Poel group, and failed to reach across to the leaders despite multiple attempts.
>>> Chiara Consonni wins messy sprint to take Dwars Door Vlaanderen victory
How it unfolded
Billed as the warm-up to the Tour of Flanders, the day's breakaway consisted of five riders, Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Johan Jacobs (Movistar), Kelland O'Brien (BikeExchange-Jayco), Aaron Verwilst (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) all permitted a lead of around five minutes.
At 75km to go, the race burst into life with the British pair of Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ) and Connor Swift (Arkéa-Samsic) joined by Lotto-Soudal's Brent Van Moer in jumping off the front.
The peloton was being driven at an incessant pace by Ineos Grenadiers, and as the aforementioned trio were brought back, Pidcock and Ben Turner moved clear.
They were joined by Van der Poel, Benoot, Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) and Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Soudal), the sextet immediately building an advantage over the peloton and cutting the lead that the breakaway had.
Zdeněk Štybar (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) tried to distance the peloton at 65km to go, but he was unable to. A few minutes after, Pogačar made his expected move, but the Slovenian struggled to bridge the 17-second gap to the Van der Poel group. After 10km of trying, Pogačar was brought back by the peloton, as the main chasing group remained out front.
At 50km, a third chasing group formed, Pogačar attacking again, this time with Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën) and Søren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM) among the pursuing six.
Up front, the original breakaway merged with the first chasing group of six, with Pogačar's group around 20 seconds in arrears. At 30km to go, the original chasers plus O'Brien and Politt from the break held a gap of around 45 seconds to Pogačar's group, with the peloton a further 25 seconds back.
With the penultimate climb of the Nokereberg just a few kilometres away, Pogačar set off in pursuit of the seven leaders, bringing with him his Slovenian compatriot Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-Victorious) and Valentin Madouas of Groupama-FDJ.
There were no attacks forthcoming at the head of the race until the climb of the Nokereberg, when Van der Poel sprinted to the front and only the two Ineos riders were initially able to stay on the Dutchman's wheels.
But no significant gap formed, the eight regrouping until Campenaerts briefly built a lead that also wasn't able to stick. Behind, Pogačar's group remained around 45 seconds adrift of the leaders, a gap that obdurately didn't move.
At 9km to go, on the final climb of the Holstrat, Küng was the first to move at the summit of the short climb, Van der Poel joining the time trial supremo, but neither were able to bridge clear.
With the eight watching each other, Campenaerts launched a stinging move from the back and built a gap that kept on increasing to around six seconds even as the chasers tried to bring him back.
The chase was disorganised, though, playing into Campenaerts' favour, until with six kilometres still to race, Benoot and Pidcock dislodged themselves from the group and bridged across to Campenaerts.
A kilometre later, a superb charge from Van der Poel brought the entire group back together as eight, with Campenaerts and Benoot both trying to sneak off once again.
The two Belgians did have a small advantage with two kilometres to go, but cyclocross world champion Pidcock attacked on a corner and then went straight past the pair, the Yorkshireman sitting up shortly after paving the way for Benoot to move clear. Van der Poel, expectedly, joined the Jumbo-Visma rider, and a large gap opened up to the other half-a-dozen.
As Van der Poel and Benoot approached the final 500 metres, they had a lead of about five seconds, the former starting his sprint early and cruising across the line with Benoot sitting up at 50m to go. Pidcock rolled home third just a few seconds behind.
Dwars door Vlaanderen 2022: Roeselare to Waregem (183.7km)
1. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix, in 4-05-39
2. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, at 1 second
3. Tom Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 5s
4. Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
5. Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
6. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ
7. Kelland O'Brien (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco)
8. Ben Turner (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 21s
9. Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain-Victorious, at 2-08
10. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
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Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.
Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.
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