Alexander Kristoff summoned the strength of a Norse God to record victory at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, towing breakaway companion Niki Tepstra to the final kilometre before outsprinting him in the dying metres. It was a brilliant end to a manic race, which at times looked more like a Wacky Races reconstruction than a prestigious one-day classic.
Rider of the race
As is usually the case in these toughest of classics, there was little doubt that the strongest man won. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) attacked off the front of an elite selection with around 25km to go. Only Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick Step) had the strength to stay on his wheel. With the Kwaremont and the Paterberg still to be crested, it was an awfully big ask for the duo to survive to the line. When Greg van Avermaet (BMC) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) attacked in pursuit, it looked like they’d be brought back.
However, Kristoff’s supreme strength meant they managed to stay away heading into the final kilometre. Terpstra ominously stayed glued to his companion’s wheel, though as the finish line grew ever closer, it became clear that his uncharacteristic restraint was the result of fatigue as much as strategy. The upshot was that when he finally opened the sprint, he was unable to overhaul the imperious Kristoff, who became the first Norwegian to ever take victory at the Tour of Flanders.
Lightning in the sprint and strong on the climbs, the only question is whether he’s the best all-rounder in cycling at present.
Four things we liked
1. The unpredictable racing. Of course, this race would have been equally great had we not been deprived of one last ding-dong battle between veritable classics legends and era-defining rivals Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara, who were both ruled out through injury. However, this little glimpse of the future was pretty exciting too, with an unpredictability that made it especially interesting. There was no real stand-out favourite heading in, and the result was a different dynamic that may well have ultimately been more conducive to aggressive riding.
2. The hellingen. Save for Leffe and frites and mayo, there is nothing more predictable that we could’ve liked about Flanders day than the short, sharp climbs that characterise the race. However, the sheer cruelty of these truly hellish hellingen never ceases to amaze and exhaust in equal measure … and that’s from the sofa. Of course, there’s also the novelty of having to watch professionals get off and push that heartens amateurs the world over – there’s hope for us all yet.
3. Flanders becomes Wacky Races. This was potentially one of the worst things that could’ve happened about today’s Ronde, but with all having seemingly escaped without serious injury, we can afford ourselves a little light-hearted reflection. The lunacy begun with two Shimano drivers forgetting their service was supposed to be ‘neutral,’ swiping both Jesse Sergent (Trek) and Sebastien Chavanel (FDJ) off the road and out of the race.
It ensued with the ill-timed puncture of one of the sponsorship bridges that straddles the road, leaving the riders having to race to make it under in a bizarre Mario Kart-esque intermediate sprint. It certainly made what was potentially a slightly drab first half of the race (damn you clement cycling conditions!) rather interesting – even if the incidents left us as eye-rubbingly aghast as they did entertained. Fortunately the only thing that went missing in action was Zdenek Stybar‘s (Etixx-Quick Step) tooth, which could well be a rather macabre memento for one ‘lucky’ spectator. Personally, I’d rather be taking home a bidon …
4. Fabian Cancellara’s tweets. Cancellara may have been unable to entertain us on the bike, but we got the next best thing: fantastic live Fabianese tweets. We got everything we could’ve wanted, such as…
Genuine insight on the race, as when he correctly predicted that the Kristoff-Terpstra tandem would make it to the line:
… a heartwarming empathy from one of the sport’s true hard-men:
… Fabu’s new-found respect for live tweeters everywhere:
… and last but not least, some magical Fabianese poetry, which we are told is already being deciphered by linguists
Let’s hope this is the first of many Cancellara tweetalongs, as it improved the viewing experience immeasurably.
1. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) 6:26:38
2. Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick Step) same time
3. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) +0:07
4. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:17
5. Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) +0:35
6. Lars Boom (Astana) s/t
7. John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) +0:48
8. Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Soudal) s/t
9. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick-Step) s/t
10. Martin Elmiger (IAM) s/t
Link: Official race website