Mathieu Van Der Poel has picked up his first World Tour win at Dwars door Vlaanderen. Cementing his status as one to watch at the Tour of Flanders later this week, Van Der Poel took the win ahead of Anthony Turgis and Bob Jungels.
182.6km in length, Dwars door Vlaanderen presented the last challenge for riders before the first cobbled monument of the season. 11 climbs and 6 sectors of cobbled roads featured en route to the finish; with the climb of the Nokereberg. Jack Bauer and Robert Stannard of Mitchelton-SCOTT, and Tom Scully of EF Education First were in among the field. Bauer, after his exploits in Gent-Wevelgem would be one to watch, as he and Mitchelton-SCOTT looked to attack the race.
But it was not Bauer who was the Mitchelton-SCOTT delegate in the day’s breakaway, but Michael Hepburn who was joined by Ramon Sinkeldam of Groupama-FDJ, Nelson Oliveira of Movistar, Jonas Koch of CCC Team, Mihkel Rāim of Israel Cycling Academy, Kris Boeckmans of Vital Concept-B&B Hotels, Lukas Pöstlberger of BORA-Hansgrohe and Zhandos Bizjigitov of Astana. They gained a lead of about 3 minutes, but with the peloton closing the break’s lead down to 2.15mins the race was brought to an abrupt halt due to a crash in the women’s race ahead.
Several minutes of confusion and frustration ensued before the second climb of the day, the climb of the Kluisberg. Finally, the breakaway riders were escorted back to the front of the race and re-given their lead but there was further frustration for the peloton as a group of five riders were brought down while trying to re-establish a chase effort that resulted in a major split in the peloton.
With 65km to go then the gap to the peloton was at 2.30mins, but then a chase group launched from the bunch that included Mathieu Van Der Poel who visibly looked the strongest of the group, even threatening to bridge across to the leaders on his own. But eventually he decided to go with his breakaway companions who were reduced to Anthony Turgis of Direct Energie and Ivan Garcia Cortina of Bahrain Merida as up ahead Oliveira was the last man standing at th efront of the race with less than 50km to go and the gap down to just over a minute.
In the peloton Alejandro Valverde of Movistar was very close to the front of the race that was being pulled along by Lotto Soudal and Team Sky. They found support in Deceuninck-Quick Step and Jumbo-Visma as up ahead the Van Der Poel group caught onto the remnants of the breakaway who’d been dropped by Oliveira. With 34km to go Jack Bauer moved forward in the peloton as the gap to Oliveira dropped to a little over 40 seconds and the gap to the chase group dropped to 17 seconds. Out from the group Pöstlberger launched an attack and caught Oliveira with the rest of the group behind them joined by Bob Jungels of Deceuninck-Quick Step and Tiesj Benoot of Lotto Soudal to add more firepower to the move.
Groupama-FDJ moved to the front of the race to try and line up Arnaud Demare while ahead of them Pöstlberger and Oliveira were caught and a new group formed with Anthony Turgis, Mathieu Van Der Poel, Bob Jungels, Pöstlberger and Tiesj Benoot at the front of the race; with a 46 second advantage with 17km remaining.
A number of teams showed interest in the goings on at the front of the peloton with Bahrain-Merida and Groupama-FDJ present, but also present was EF Education First’s Tom Scully, drilling the front of the peloton that was stretched right out. But the deficit to the leaders was growing to a minute with 13km to go. With 10km to go the gap was at 54 seconds and Van Der Poel was still looking exceptionally confident, unafraid to attack his companions, but the break weren’t budging and with 4km to go and the gap at 42 seconds it was all to play for between the five riders.
The run in to the sprint saw no attacks from the leading group, with the riders happy to save their energy for the sprint finish. Van Der Poel led through 1km to go with Benoot on the back and Jungels sitting second wheel, but shortly after the kite Benoot attacked, but was quickly leapt upon by his companions. The attack forced Jungels up to the front of the race with Van Der Poel second. The Luxembourg national champion and the Dutch national champion were side by side but it was Turgis who led out the sprint. The Frenchman struck for home but Van Der Poel made light work of the sprint to claim his first World Tour win ahead of the frustrated Frenchman and Bob Jungels.
Jack Bauer finished in the bunch in 25th spot with Scully and Stannard at 70th and 87th places respectively.