Antwerp was still sleeping when the team buses gathered along the river Schelde for the start of the Tour of Flanders (1.UWT, 4/04). A couple of lucky Flemish people could watch their idols on their way to the official start in Burcht from their apartment windows. In this edition of Flanders Finest, the early breakaway was formed pretty early. The controlling teams were happy about the situation and gave the seven riders a 7 minute advantage.
After 85 kilometer, the cobbles of the Lippenhovestraat and Paddestraat indicated the entry in the Flemish Ardennes. The peloton remained grouped during the first difficulties, but nibbled from the advantage of the early breakaway. The first attacks from the peloton were listed on the Molenberg, after 153 kilometer. Boy Van Poppel joined a breakaway attempt on the Berendries. Next one in line to follow the attacks on the Kanarieberg 20 kilometer later was Loïc Vliegen.
Somewhat later, a big crash with Pieter Vanspeybrouck agitated the peloton, with the early breakaway still animating the front of the race. The riders of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux never lost the front positions in the peloton until that moment. They had to make up for the lost positions on their way to the duo Old Kwaremont and Paterberg. In addition, Danny Van Poppel was forced to switch bikes at the foot of the Taaienberg, leaving Aimé De Gendt alone at the front of the race.
In the end, Kasper Asgreen and Mathieu van der Poel battled for glory in the national champion's jerseys in the Minderbroederstraat in Oudenaarde. After his mechanical, Danny Van Poppel managed to join the second chasing group. With the Danish champion celebrating the win, the Dutch rider sprinted to 16th place.
Danny Van Poppel:
« It was on the Koppenberg that I noticed that I had really good legs today, so I committed to keep riding well at the front and don’t do crazy efforts. I was enthusiastic about my first Tour of Flanders final, but I knew that it was still a long way to go to the finish. »
« After the Stationsstraat, a dilemma was worrying me. My derailleur went into crash mode on the bumps of the Stationsberg, so I had to choose between switching bikes or climbing the Taaienberg on a big gear. The second option was just not possible, so I was disappointed about loosing my position in Aimé’s group. But apparently I was really strong today, because I surprised myself by getting back to that group for 13th place! I was only beaten by Sagan in the sprint. I think 16th in the Tour of Flanders is a nice result. I’m very satisfied and I’m already curious about what the future holds. If one day a bigger group battles for the victory, I can maybe sprint for the win! »
« I want to take advantage of my good shape to conclude the classic spring races with another good performance at the Scheldeprijs. According to the weather forecast, it will be windy and rainy. So I’m excited to see what’s going to happen on the new course starting in Terneuzen. The team’s goals during the spring classics are top 10 finishes, but with my current condition I aim higher in this new Scheldeprijs! »
Hilaire Van der Schueren (Sports Director):
« I love to see Danny race like this. I spent a lot of time coaching him the last couple of weeks, so it feels good to know that it worked out. We're still sad about last week's missed top 5 in Ghent-Wevelgem, but this performance definitely motivated him. It was even possible to do better than 16th today, because maybe he would have been able to follow the first chasing group without the bike change at the foot of the Taaienberg. And I think Aimé De Gendt could have been up there as well if he would have been at full health »
« All riders did their best and we were up the front from the start. But all of a sudden we lost our good position because of the crash before the second passage on the Kwaremont. In addition, Danny was excluded from the first group because of his bike change. Luckily, he managed to join Aimé again, so we coached them to go for a top 20. Today, I'm happy that we concluded our Flemish cobble classics campaign in style.»
Ronde van Vlaanderen:
2.Mathieu van der Poel
3.Greg Van Avermaet +0:32
16.Danny Van Poppel +2:15
34.Aimé De Gendt
74.Boy Van Poppel +9:00
101.Taco van der Hoorn +13:00