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Flanders hat-trick for Van der Poel as Emirates’ Politt takes third

Flanders hat-trick for Van der Poel as Emirates’ Politt takes third
1 Apr 2024 09:44

Oudenaarde, Belgium (AFP) 

Mathieu van der Poel rode through the Belgian rain and into history on Sunday as he joined the elite group who have won the Tour of Flanders three times.

The 29-year-old Dutch rider for Alpecin-Deceuninck finished just over a minute ahead of the chasing pack as he became the sixth rider in the 111-year history of the race to claim three victories.

Italian Luca Mozzato grabbed second, one minute and two seconds back, outsprinting Australian Michael Matthews to the line. But Matthews was then penalised for dangerous sprinting and German Nils Politt of UAE Team Emirates was awarded third.

“I’ve had a successful season. It was one of the hardest races of my life. I was dead in the last few kilometres, but I closed my eyes and kept pressing,” said Van der Poel.

His previous triumphs were in 2020 and 2022. His two most powerful rivals were absent.

Wout Van Aert broke a collarbone and a rib four days earlier, and defending Flanders champion, Tadej Pogacar, is skipping the spring classics as the Team Emirates lead rider targets a Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double.

Van der Poel, who won two of cycling’s five super-long monuments and the road-race world title last season, started as a strong favourite.

Sunday’s slog took riders over 270.2 kilometres and up 18 nasty climbs, and persistent rain that made the cobbled sections slippery.

Mads Pedersen, who edged Van der Poel in last week’s Gent-Wevelgem, launched a long-range attack. Van der Poel caught the Dane with 55km kilometres to go.

Ivan Garcia then built a lead of 10 seconds, but slipped out of his pedals trying to find the power. Van der Poel then cut loose with 44km to go.

A six-times cyclo cross world champion at ease in miserable weather and on treacherous surfaces, he gambolled away to the finish line.

Source: AFP
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