Tadej Pogacar has won his bet. From his second participation on the Belgian cobbled mountains, the Slovenian offered himself the 107e edition of the Tour of Flanders, Sunday 2 April. He is ahead of Mathieu Van der Poel (“VDP”), Mads Pedersen and Wout van Aert. Already winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, in 2021, and of the Tour of Lombardy twice, in 2021 and 2022, the rider of the UAE Team Emirates team won his fourth career “monument”, the races of a cycling’s most prestigious day.
The challenge that Tadej Pogacar had launched in 2022 by appearing on the starting line of the Round was at the height of his talent. Immense. Fourth by messing up his sprint, he had sown the seeds of a golden future in Flanders, despite a slender build (66 kilos) which was said to be detrimental on the cobblestones.
On Sunday, “Pogi” therefore confirmed that nothing could resist him. At only 24, he became the third rider in history to have at least one success in the Tour de France and the Tour of Flanders, after Belgian Eddy Merckx and Frenchman Louison Bobet. “It’s incredible, it’s a day I will never forget. I could almost retire”he savored after the arrival, before being offered a tray of fries.
Monumental Pogacar! The Slovenian wins the Tour of Flanders 2023 and wins a fourth Monument. Van der Poel… https://t.co/IDUpK32gTH
The double winner of the Grande Boucle (2020 and 2021) confirmed his victory in the eighteenth and penultimate ascent of the day: the third passage in the famous Old Kwaremont (2.6 kilometers at 3.5% slope mean). 18 kilometers from the line, the Slovenian has definitely unclamped the Dutchman Mathieu Van der Poel, winner of two of the last three editions of the race.
“I knew I had to go solo in Old Kwaremont, I gave it my all and almost broke down in the Paterberg, commented Pogacar. I knew it was going to be tough, but it was the only way to win. »
The Komenda native then joined and then engulfed Mads Pedersen, the last of the Mohicans up front, after an offensive passed 112 kilometers from the finish. The last fifteen terminals were summed up in a chase: a distance duel between the Slovenian and the Dutchman, which turned to the advantage of the first.
Pogacar particularly offensive as usual
Tadej Pogacar had already pointed the tip of his nose at the front a little earlier in the race – already in Old Kwaremont. In the second passage of this mountain, then 55 kilometers from the end, he crushed the cobblestones and the competition to get rid of Mathieu Van der Poel and Wout van Aert for the first time before putting on a layer, eleven kilometers later. , in the Koppenberg (0.6 km at 9.5%). His two friends from the now “fantastic three” gang had returned to his wheel and had been able to follow the movement, finding themselves together in pursuit of success.
It was then that “VDP” undermined the idea of a three-way royal sprint to designate the Flandrien of the day. In the Kruisberg, 28 kilometers from Oudenaarde, the grandson of Raymond Poulidor got up on the pedals. Pogacar followed, not Wout van Aert.
Efforts that the runner of the Alpecin-Deceuninck formation ended up paying for, he who had already lost strength earlier in the day. He was trapped twice by curbs in a very nervous peloton in the first part of the race, marked by an impressive fall caused by the Pole Filip Maciejuk, quickly disqualified. The five-time cyclo-cross world champion had to dip into his reserves again 37 kilometers from the line to get back on the leading duo because of a chain jump at the foot of Taaienberg (0.5 kilometer at 7.6 %).
“It was perhaps my best Tour of Flanders. But I ran into an unbeatable guypraised VDP. I’m a little disappointed but Tadej was so strong today that I can totally live with this second place. »
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He will therefore not pin a third Tour of Flanders on his list; a record held by Belgians Johan Museeuw, Tom Boonen, Eric Leman, Achiel Buysse, as well as Swiss Fabian Cancellara and Italian Fiorenzo Magni.
Just as we will have to wait to see a Frenchman succeed Jacky Durand, the last tricolor winner of the Ronde, in 1992. The first Frenchman to finish is Christophe Laporte, 14e. Third in 2022, Valentin Madouas, ill, quickly gave up. While Julian Alaphilippe confirmed his current poor form: victim of the big fall which put a good part of the peloton on the ground, he finished 51e.
“We will see if I will try Paris-Roubaix one day”
Tadej Pogacar continues to leave his mark on cycling. He already has “only” Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix left to win to afford the five “monuments”. What only Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy and Roger De Vlaeminck have achieved in history.
“Milan-San Remo is the hardest race to go for, he slipped after his victory. This year, I was in great shape but I’m not going to give up. Roubaix? We’ll see if I’ll try one day, but I’ll have to gain a few pounds first. » There is little chance that he will start from Compiègne next Sunday, but the “Hell of the North” will quickly become an obligatory passage for the Slovenian “cannibal”.
In the women’s Tour of Flanders, whose arrival was judged one hour after the boys, another renowned runner imposed her mark on the race: the Belgian Lotte Kopecky won for the second year in a row. by escaping, too, alone, in Old Kwaremont, 18 kilometers from the finish.
His team, SD Worx, even offered themselves a double, since the Dutch Demi Vollering ranked 2e. The Italian Elisa Longo Borghini completes the podium; the first Frenchwoman, Juliette Labous, finishes 6e.
Already victorious at Het Nieuwsblad in February, Lotte Kopecky confirms her status as a pure specialist in the Flanders classics. Saturday April 8, she will try to add Paris-Roubaix to her record, a race in which she finished 2e in 2022.