Tadej Pogačar attacks on the Kwaremont to win a dramatic Tour of Flanders

The UAE-Team Emirates rider delivered an exhibition to win his third Monument

Tadej Pogačar
(Image credit: Getty)

Tadej Pogačar won a thrilling and crash-marred edition of the Tour of Flanders, the Slovenian triumphing in the cobbled Monument in just his second appearance.

The UAE-Team Emirates rider overcame drama early on in the race when he was temporarily dropped from the peloton to produce a series of attacks inside the final two hours that eventually led to him winning by 16 seconds. It was the fastest-ever edition of De Ronde.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), who was looking for his third win in four years, finished second, and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) won a reduced bunch sprint for third place.

A frantic opening two hours of the race was characterised by crosswinds and a number of crashes, one of which led to the disqualification of Bahrain-Victorious’s Filip Maciejuk, and the abandonment of former winner Peter Sagan.

The day, however, belonged to Pogačar, who with this victory has now claimed three of cycling’s five Monuments. He only needs to add Paris-Roubaix and Milan-Sanremo to complete an historic collection.

It was Pogačar’s ninth win in just 16 race days this season, and he will go into the Ardennes Classic as the undoubted favourite.

How it happened

Tadej Pogačar

(Image credit: Getty)

It took 110km for the breakaway to form due to an incessant opening two hours that included crashes and crosswinds. Both van der Poel and Pogačar were, at separate times, in the group behind the peloton, but they were able to rejoin the pack after a short while.

Following an intense start to the race, the peloton eventually relaxed and permitted five riders - Jasper De Buyst (Lotto-Dstny), Daan Hoole (Trek-Segafredo), Elmar Reinders (Jayco-AlUla), Filippo van Colombo (Q36.5) and Guillaume Keirsbulck (Bingoal WB) - to create a break. Not so long after, with the quintet still within reach, Tim Merlier of Soudal-QuickStep bridged across to the break along with Jonas Rutsch of EF Education-EasyPost.

With the peloton finally taking their foot off the proverbial gas, chaos ensued with 145km remaining when Bahrain-Victorious’ Filip Maciejuk careered into the front of the peloton after jumping off the side of the road where he had ridden into a deep puddle. Maciejuk’s move brought down dozens of riders and led to the abandonment of Tim Wellens (UAE-Team Emirates) and Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies), and the disqualification of the 23 year old Pole.

More crashes continued to affect what was becoming a dramatic race, and as the final 100km approached, Pedersen of Trek-Segafredo decided to wrestle control of proceedings. The Dane’s first attack created a small gap, but when he went again over the Molenberg, he brought with him several key riders, including Matteo Trentin (UAE-Team Emirates) and Nathan van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma). Soudal-QuickStep were also represented by 2021 winner Kasper Asgreen.

Mads Pedersen

Mads Pedersen was one of the main protagonists.

(Image credit: Getty)

At the 75km marker, the chase group merged with the breakaway, and the now 19-strong group held a lead of 1-50 to the peloton. Jumbo-Visma, at the head of the peloton, slowed down the speed which seemed to hand the initiative to the front group, but with 55km left to race, Pogačar launched a stinging attack.

Set-up fantastically well by his UAE-Team Emirates teammates, the Slovenian immediately built a sizeable gap, and no-one was able to respond. The Jumbo Visma duo of van Aert and Laporte joined forces with van der Poel, Tom Pidcock and Nils Politt, and within 10km they had caught Pogačar who had slowed down.

Back as a unit, it was on the Koppenberg with 42km to go that the Big Three clipped off the front together, each climbing so quickly up the steep, cobbled berg that Laporte and Pidcock were incapable of staying with them.

The trio worked well together to close in on the leading group that was beginning to fracture. Pedersen, who had ignited the original move some 80km before, attacked off the front on the Kruisberg and van der Poel did the same thing, bringing with him Pogačar but significantly not van Aert.

Onto the Kwaremont for the final time, and with just 17km remaining, Pogačar made his race-winning attack, jumping off the wheel of his teammate Matteo Trentin and immediately disappearing from the rest of the field. 

Van der Poel was the only rider to be able to keep the Slovenian in sight, but once the two-time Tour de France champion had a small lead, he always looked likely to hold onto it. He powered over the Paterberg and cruised to the finish in Oudenaarde where van der Poel came home second, and Pedersen in third.

Result: 2023 men's Tour of Flanders

1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE-Team Emirates, in 6-12.07
2. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Deceuninck, at 16s
3. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-12
4. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
5. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education - EasyPost
6. Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
7. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Soudal-QuickStep
8. Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain-Victorious
9. Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar, all at 1-19
10. Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE-Team Emirates

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Chris Marshall-Bell

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.