The Luxembourger took a morale-boosting first World Tour podium of the season ahead of Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Under a blue and sunny sky, the Dwars door Vlaanderen field rolled out from Roeselare on Wednesday morning for a 182.8km-long loop through the Flemish countryside which concluded in nearby Waregem, but only after the riders took on twelve hills and three cobblestone segments that made for another spectacular and frantic race.
World Team Ranking leader Deceuninck – Quick-Step took again responsibility and controlled things behind the escapees, but had to do without Philippe Gilbert in the second part of the race. The multiple Monument winner experienced stomach problems on the evening before the race, but decided to start anyway and see how things would go. Unfortunately, during the race, the 2017 runner-up began feeling unwell and had to stop with around 40 kilometers left.
Knokteberg was were the decisive move off the day took off, when Bob Jungels responded to an attack of Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal), which saw the duo ride away from the peloton and bridge across to a strong group that was already up the road. Another selection took place, leaving just five men in the lead, but despite not having the numbers on their side in the fight with the bunch, the quintet cooperated well and plugged away with just three climbs still left on the course.
One minute separated the attackers from the chasers as they rode under the 10km-to-go banner, making it more and more clear that the winner of the 74th edition would emerge from the front group. Bob Jungels – who showed effortless power, contributing with some really long and impressive pulls – tried to break clear but was countered by the others, and the race eventually came down to a five-up sprint, from which Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) emerged victorious.
Winner this year of a stage at the Tour Colombia and of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne following an emphatic display, Bob took third in Waregem – best ever result for a Luxembourger at Dwars door Vlaanderen – confirming he has made great strides since switching to the cobblestones this season. Twice winner of this classic (2017 and 2018), teammate Yves Lampaert made it two Deceuninck – Quick-Step riders in the top 10, after sprinting to eighth from the peloton which arrived some twenty seconds later.
“Iljo, Alvaro and Florian rode a strong race, controlling the breakaway and cutting into the gap, which allowed me to make that move on the Knokteberg together with Tiesj and come across. I don’t want to say that it was too easy, but the final didn’t play into my favour, as there was no real moment where I could make the difference. In the sprint I didn’t have a chance against those guys, but third is a good result, as it’s always nice to be on the podium, especially in a race with such a history and during which I felt good, which bodes quite well for Flanders”, Bob explained after his first podium of the year in a World Tour event.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images