One of the longest and toughest one-day races of the whole year, Ronde van Vlaanderen will feature 18 climbs, including the Molenberg, Koppenberg and its viciously steep gradients which have a history of putting many riders into difficulty, Taaianberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. The last two will be tackled in quick succession in the last 25 kilometers, from the top of the Paterberg – which averages an insane 12.3% over just 360 meters – only 13 kilometers separating the riders from the finish in Oudenaarde.
Ronde van Vlaanderen: No result despite a solid team performance
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl tackled Ronde van Vlaanderen offensively, with Zdenek Stybar and Jannik Steimle going into one of the first moves of the race, which put Kasper Asgreen in a good position in the contenders’ group behind. When Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) went on the Paterberg, the reigning champion had difficulties following, but with the help of his teammates, he managed to come back on the flat section leading to the next hill.
That was Koppenberg with its gruelling gradients kicking up to 22%, where the reigning champion couldn’t match the pace of Pogacar when the Slovenian accelerated again, and said goodbye to any hopes of a good result after a mechanical, where his chain fell off. In the space of just one minute, the Dane slipped from the front to the fourth group, and despite his teammates rallying around him and trying to reduce the gap to the five leaders, it soon became clear that his race was over.
Eventually, the 27-year-old Kasper concluded the day as the best placed rider of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, but outside the top 20, a minute down on winner Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), the one-minute margin between him and the group that battled out for victory coming largely due to the bad luck he had with 44 kilometers to go.
“We were active today with Jannik and Zdenek”, said Asgreen at the finish talking about the move in which his two teammates were involved inside the final 80 kilometers, when they joined a dangerous group that put serious pressure on the peloton. “The guys did a great job there, while I remained in a good position in the group behind, so things looked good for us. Then I had some problems on the Paterberg, but managed to come back thanks to an excellent job of my teammates. When Tadej went on the Koppenberg, I tried to follow him but I exploded, and soon after, my chain fell off on the Koppenberg. We focus now on our future goals.”
Photo credit: ©Wout Beel