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Thursday, March 31, 2022

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Dwars Door Vlaanderen race reports

We posted the organizer's report with the race results.

Here's the report from second-place Tiesj Benoot's Jumbo-Visma team:

Tiesj Benoot has secured a second place in the semi-classic Dwars door Vlaanderen. The leader of Team Jumbo-Visma rode alertly in the Flemish Ardennes and showed he was in good shape. In a sprint-a-deux, Mathieu van der Poel proved to be too strong.

Tiesj Benoot kindly applauds Mathieu van der Poel's win. Sirotti photo

Benoot was satisfied with his strong race. “I rode a good race and took my chance. When Alpecin-Fenix attacked at ninety kilometres from the end, I was a bit surprised, but after that, I was always in the right place. The E3-prijs and Gent-Wevelgem have already gone well for our team, so we’ll start Sunday’s Tour of Flanders with confidence. We are very strong across the board.”

At about two kilometres from the finish, the Belgian went on the attack, but Van der Poel was on his wheel almost immediately, and the two would go on to decide the victory in Waregem. “When I attacked I didn’t immediately see someone on my wheel, but a little later Mathieu was there. I rode for a podium place. In the sprint I wasn’t fast enough, but I’m happy I was able to show myself in the way I did.”

On the slopes in the final, after the five early breakaway riders had already been caught, the number two showed himself well in front. After Victor Campenaerts’ attacks, he closed the gaps several times. “When Victor went, I knew I had to go with him and he repeated that a few times. Fortunately, I was strong enough to close the gaps together with the other escapees. I did everything I could to go alone, but unfortunately, that didn’t work out. Nevertheless, this result is good for the confidence.”

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Here's the report from third-place Tom Pidcock's Team INEOS Grenadiers:

Tom Pidcock sprinted to third place after an impressive showing from a pair of Grenadiers at Dwars door Vlaanderen.

Yorkshiremen Pidcock and Ben Turner lit up the race over the Berg Ten Houte climb with 70 kilometres to go. The pair helped form what proved to be the winning move, with a grandstand finish to the race providing a thrilling spectacle.

Pidcock tried to go clear on a number of occasions late on, as a group of eight riders went toe to toe on the run into Waregem. Turner continued his superb Classics showing, helping to shut down moves, and finished a fine eighth on the day after riding in support of Pidcock.

Pidcock tried to go clear a final time with 2km to go, and it was ultimately the very next move that would go clear, with Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) able to out-sprint Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma) at the line. Pidcock out-sprinted his rivals for third moments later - an encouraging result as he continues his comeback from illness.

Tom Pidcock (left) takes third place, just beating Lotto Soudal's Victor Campenaerts. Sirotti photo

It was an aggressive showing from the Grenadiers with a lot of hard work early on, and a strong pull from Kim Heiduk to help set up the key attack.

Tom Pidcock: "I’m happy with the podium. It’s a massive improvement from Sunday. I felt really good. I was enjoying the racing there at the end and getting stuck in. Anyone in that group could have won today.

"It’s just cat and mouse in the end. I think that was just the last move and the elastic snapped. Every other move someone closed it, and just that time Stefan hesitated a bit. And that was it. Ben pulled and I won the sprint.

"[Sunday] will be similar that it will be full gas like this, but with another 100km added on. It will be a long, hard day, but hopefully if I have legs like today I’ll be happy with that."

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Fourth-place Victor Campenaerts' Lotto Soudal team sent me this report:

Lotto Soudal rider Victor Campenaerts kept his word and delivered an impressive performance at Dwars door Vlaanderen. In a nerve-racking final of the race, the current World Hour record holder accelerated several times from an eight-man leading group but was reeled in every time by his breakaway companions. In the end, Benoot and Van der Poel managed to open up a gap in the penultimate kilometre and sprinted for victory in Waregem. It was the Dutchman Van der Poel who took the win. In the sprint for third place, Victor Campenaerts was only beaten by Pidcock.

The decisive moment of the 76th Dwars door Vlaanderen took place on Berg Ten Houte – the seventh climb of the day – where an elite group of six riders formed. With Pidcock, Van der Poel, Benoot, Küng, Turner and Lotto Soudal rider Victor Campenaerts, a lot of quality was to be found at the front. The six immediately found each other and started to work together. At around 45 kilometres from the finish, they caught the early breakaway, with two of them still able to follow the elite group. That way, eight riders went into the final of Dwars door Vlaanderen. The leading group made it a real game of cat and mouse, in which Victor Campenaerts attacked several times. His breakaway companions had to pull out all the stops but the 30-year-old Belgian was eventually caught in the closing kilometres. The victory went to Van der Poel, who reacted to an attack of Tiesj Benoot in the penultimate kilometre, and beat the Belgian in the sprint. Campenaerts did everything he could for the third podium spot but was beaten on the line by Pidcock.

“I felt really good in a race which I had been looking forward to for quite a long time”, Victor Campenaerts said. “When the acceleration came on Berg Ten Houte I couldn’t wait any longer and everyone had to play their cards. The group worked together really well and eventually we went into the final with eight riders. I think I was amongst the strongest riders in the breakaway and hoped of course that my attacks would last until the finish. But unfortunately, it wasn’t to be today. I would have loved to be on the podium and did everything in my power but I just couldn’t win the sprint from Pidcock. Maybe fourth place is a bit of a disappointment, but the main thing I remember from today is that I felt really good. De Ronde? It’s still a lot more kilometres than today so we’ll have to see if we can do something there. But today’s performance really gives me a boost.”

Unfortunately, Lotto Soudal also had to deal with bad luck at Dwars door Vlaanderen. Frederik Frison was involved in a crash just before the second ascent of the Knokteberg. The Belgian was taken to hospital, where he was diagnosed with a collarbone fracture.

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Fifth-place Nils Politt's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

Also called “the little Ronde”, Dwars Door Vlaanderen is the last test before the Tour of Flanders this Sunday. The race started like generally a lot of things went the past weeks for BORA - hansgrohe – unlucky. Lukas Pöstlberger crashed out of the race after just a few kilometers. He sustained a concussion but suffered no other serious injuries. At that point, Nils Politt was already part of an early 5-men breakaway.

The group worked well together, and it took until 45 km to go before a very strong chasing group including M. Van der Poel was able to bridge across. While some riders were dropped the following kilometers, Nils was able to hang on to this group until the finale and was fighting for the win today. Even he missed the decisive move from Benoot and Van der Poel with 1500m to go, he still was rewarded for a courageous ride in the end, sprinting to a strong fifth place;

From the finish line:
“This result not only means a lot to me, but to the whole team. I knew it will be tricky going through Waregem after the start and attacked there. The group worked well together, and we rode always a good tempo. It was important to make it over Trieu before the chasing group caught us. After that point I knew everything is possible today. Even I was at the front for a lot of kilometers, my legs in the final were still better than expected. Of course, I had to poker a little and had only a few bullets left, and I missed the decisive move due to that. But this result, and also my performance today, was really important to get some confidence back.” – Nils Politt

“Actually, this feels almost like a victory. After the challenging weeks we had to go through, it was really important to show we are still there fighting for results, and I hope we made a turnaround today. Even the day started with another setback when Pösti crashed out of the race early and was taken to hospital, we kept our spirit. Nils proved we are on the way back. It’s only small steps we move forward, but we move. Some of the improvements haven’t been recognized the last weeks as we have been really unlucky a lot of times. That’s why this result is so important for us. We wanted to be in front early today and see how far we can go, and Nils did an incredible job to execute our plan. There is not a lot to add, a strong race, good result, and something to get moral from.” – Jean-Pierre Heyndericks, sports director

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