Because we can't get enough: how Mathieu van der Poel claimed his third Tour of Flanders title step by step Cycling

Because we can't get enough: how Mathieu van der Poel claimed his third Tour of Flanders title step by step

Because we can't get enough: how Mathieu van der Poel claimed his third Tour of Flanders title step by step

Mathieu van der Poel and the Tour of Flanders indeed form a dream partnership, as once again became clear on Sunday, March 31, 2024. The Dutch rider from Alpecin-Deceuninck secured his third victory in Flanders' Finest. And because this third triumph was so incredibly impressive and we simply can't get enough of it, we're mapping out that victory step by step!

Previously, after Gent-Wevelgem, we also analyzed Van der Poel's racing behavior, who was then outpaced by a supremely strong Mads Pedersen. However, Van der Poel was active in animating the race all day, something we should definitely cherish. "As fans and admirers of the world champion, let’s not dwell too long on the fact that Van der Poel finished second. Or even discuss a wrong tactic or being too reckless with his energy. Van der Poel animated the race, and perhaps that’s the most beautiful aspect of such a competition, especially since we live in an era of often very programmed racing," we wrote at the time.

Van der Poel was really looking forward to it

Let's start at the beginning for the Tour of Flanders. "This race indeed suits me. It’s a race full of intervals and climbs that come in quick succession. It's not too long, but the racing is aggressive. That’s what I like," the world champion reflected before the High Mass on what was to come. "We’re ready to control the race as best as we can. It will definitely be a tough task because it’s always easier to race when the best riders are present," he mentioned, referring to the absence of Jasper Stuyven and Wout van Aert, among others.`

It was Matteo Jorgenson - the winner of Dwars door Vlaanderen - who was seen as Van der Poel's biggest rival before the start of the race. The world champion and the American leader from Visma | Lease a Bike seemed to get along well at the start in Antwerp, as evidenced by the friendly chat the two had.

Read more below the photo!


Small talk in the opening phase

240 KM - Bert Van Lerberghe (Soudal Quick-Step), Luke Durbridge (Jayco-AlUla), Elmar Reinderink (Jayco-AlUla), Stanislaw Aniolkowski (Cofidis), David Dekker (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), Damien Touzé (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), Lionel Taminiaux (Lotto-Dstny), and Jelle Vermoote (Bingoal WB) form the eight-man breakaway of the day, which suits Alpecin-Deceuninck just fine. When counterattacks arise, the blue jerseys ensure they are neutralized.

230 KM - We catch our first real glimpse of Van der Poel, albeit at the back of the pack. He swings by the team car to remove his jacket.

225 KM - Fifty kilometers in, Van der Poel looks extremely relaxed. At the back of the peloton, the 29-year-old superstar chats with several other riders, including Dries De Bondt (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) and Gent-Wevelgem winner Pedersen (Lidl-Trek).

Van der Poel's teammates put in the hard yards

175 KM - Van der Poel's teammates set the pace in the peloton, effectively ensuring the escapees stand no chance. The breakaway's lead never really exceeds five minutes.

Read more below the photo!

Van der Poel's teammates put in the hard yards

150 KM - Van der Poel, true to his phenomenal form, remains remarkably relaxed. His teammates control the peloton's pace, while the leader enjoys a comfortable ride.

130 KM - On the first Oude Kwaremont climb, Van der Poel really makes his presence felt for the first time. Teammate Silvan Dillier has been working hard in the previous hours, with Oscar Riesebeek gradually starting to take over from his Swiss companion.

Pedersen, Jorgenson, and Van der Poel heat up the race

115 KM - Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X) makes a move, and Alpecin's young Axel Laurance quickly latches on! The young Frenchman is keen to work with the Scandinavian. This prompts Visma | Lease a Bike to react. They don't want these two getting away. That's when outsider Jorgenson breaks away, forcing Van der Poel into action! A few kilometers later, veteran Søren Kragh Andersen unfortunately gets a puncture.

105 KM - Pedersen pushes hard! The Lidl-Trek ace powers up the Wolvenberg. Jorgenson is on his wheel, with Van der Poel close behind. A strong group breaks away, with Van der Poel taking his turn.

Read more below the photo!

When Pedersen attacked, Van der Poel and Jorgenson had to defend

90 KM - The group mentioned above is reeled in by the peloton, after which a new group breaks away from the pack. Alpecin-Deceuninck is thus forced to work hard towards the Valkenberg. Van der Poel gambles, not responding to a strong move and counting on his teammates at this stage.

85 KM - Van der Poel sees an opportunity on the Valkenberg and makes his move. Alpecin-Deceuninck had reduced the gap from 23 to 12 seconds, and the world champion did the rest on his own.

80 KM - Now it's Pedersen and Van der Poel's teammate Gianni Vermeersch who break away! The pair try to orchestrate a move, though it's primarily the Dane doing most of the work.

After a phenomenal ascent of the Koppenberg, the bird has flown

65 KM - Riesebeek keeps the gap to Pedersen under half a minute. There’s no concern for Van der Poel, who hasn’t wasted a single effort today.

55 KM - On the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, Van der Poel powers past Pedersen. Van der Poel looks back and waits, as he seems to think Pithie, Teuns, Lazkano, Wellens, and Pedersen are good names to bring along.

45 KM - Time for the feared and this time extremely slippery Koppenberg! Cortina breaks his derailleur, and a few riders start slipping. This forces many to walk. Only Van der Poel, blasting everyone out of his wheel, Jorgenson, and Pedersen manage to ride up.

Read more below the photo!

Van der Poel sped up the Koppenberg like a rocket

40 KM - After the Koppenberg, Van der Poel has a slight lead over the American from Visma | Lease a bike. He is ahead by eight seconds.

35 KM - Mathieu van der Poel is on his solo run! He has extended his lead over Jorgenson to over half a minute. Could this be the decisive move?

20 KM - Of course, it's the decisive move! What. A. Phenomenon. Van der Poel has nearly two minutes lead on his 'closest pursuers'.

FINISH! - After an outstanding solo, Van der Poel can call himself the winner of the Tour of Flanders for the third time. It's his fifth consecutive top-five finish. Incredible, what a legend!

Read more below the photo!

Because we can't get enough: how Mathieu van der Poel claimed his third Tour of Flanders title step by step

Already a successful season for Van der Poel

"It was about survival today, this is the toughest Tour of Flanders I've ridden, with these weather conditions," Van der Poel panted after the race, grimacing. "Those last twenty kilometers, I rode to the finish with my eyes closed. I was so spent, I didn’t think much."

Van der Poel had more striking words after his magnificent victory. "My season is already a success. Winning the Tour of Flanders in the rainbow jersey is a dream come true. I need to let that sink in. I can't even think about Paris-Roubaix right now, I'm completely fucked at the moment. This was one of the hardest races I've ever done, I was totally empty."

Roodhooft and Adrie van der Poel on Mathieu van der Poel's third Tour of Flanders victory subsequently sought out several individuals from the Van der Poel camp. We jotted down some poignant quotes from father Adrie van der Poel. "We couldn't be happier," the 64-year-old Dutchman began in front of the gathered cycling press. "This was the toughest one to win in advance. All the pressure was already on the team."

The absence of Wout van Aert also came up in conversation with Van der Poel senior. "Wout was normally seen as the biggest rival," said the North Brabant native. "He might have watched it with dismay. It's really a pity he wasn't there. On the other hand, I think that team has enough quality to compete as well."

As we covered in our "kilometer by kilometer" analysis, the teammates of the eventual victor did incredible work. Team manager Christoph Roodhooft also acknowledged this. "We had thoroughly discussed how we thought the other teams were going to act. We then formed our own idea. Of course, it depends on Mathieu's individual strength, but as a team, we didn't drop the ball. Mathieu is, of course, a world-class leader," was his praise.

Visma | Lease a Bike is realistic about the difference with Van der Poel

The other teams could only conclude that MVDP was simply in a league of his own. "Anyone who goes to the Oude Kwaremont or Koppenberg for the second time with Mathieu van der Poel can only aim for second place. So, we hoped to create a situation in our favour before that, but it didn't happen. Unfortunately. We did what we could," said Grischa Niermann, realistically from Visma | Lease a Bike.

"We had a plan, and, in my opinion, we went down fighting. The guys executed it very well," the German added. "Matteo (Jorgenson, ed.) seemed to be the second best on the Koppenberg, but he paid for his effort. Unfortunately, he doesn't yet have the stamina of Van der Poel. He hasn't raced as many 270-kilometer races. And otherwise, Mathieu would have dropped him somewhere else. We have to be honest about that."

If Van der Poel starts, the rest are competing for second place. The former pro couldn't have described it better, given the current cycling landscape...

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