It is one of the most hallowed days of the cycling calendar – the Sunday of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The 2018 men’s and women’s races had a lot in common. Dutch rider Anna van der Breggen attacked after the Kruisberg and came home with over a minute to spare, with Boels Dolmans teammate Amy Pieters and Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott Women) rounding out the podium. Later in the day, the Kruisberg proved the place for Niki Terpstra – also Dutch – to set up his own solo win (with the final blow on the Kwaremont), with Trek-Segafredo’s Mads Pedersen and Quick-Step’s returning champion Philip Gilbert standing either side with the Lidl champagne bottles.
Rider of the RaceEmbed from Getty Images
While credit goes to Terpstra for following a frisky Vincenzo Nibali attack on the Kruisberg to set up his shake-off of chasing riders, bridging to the break, getting his distance on the Kwaremont and ultimately time-trialling to the finish line, this is not something new from Terpstra – nor did it surprise anyone that someone from Quick-Step would win today. After all, they had the strongest team and there were at least four team members who could have made the same moves and won as well. It was a special win for Terpstra but not the ride of the race …
It was the man who came in second – Trek-Segefredo’s Mads Pedersen – whose amazing ride has made the 22-year-old Ronde debutante my Rider of the Race. Riding for his teammate Jasper Stuyven, when Pedersen took a chance with 50km to go and joined a break of two on the run-up to the Koppenberg (Tom Devriendt, Wanty-Group Gobert, and Ivan Garcia Cortina, Bahrain-Merida) with Astana’s Magnus Cort Nielsen, EF’s Sebastian Langeveld and Sky’s Dylan van Baarle, it looked like a typical breakaway group who were each hoping to set something up for their respective team leader.
But their leaders never made it, six were winnowed to three, those three were joined by Terpstra on the Kwaremont and promptly dropped, but Pedersen did not give up. He tried to keep as close to Terpstra as possible as the other two fell away, with time yo-yoing as the chasing group of favourites decided to ride, then decided not to, then got into an argument with Sagan, then tried again after Sagan’s futile attempt to bridge.
Pedersen rode with guts and panache – although the cameras didn’t show him – and with the chasers finally riding hard in the last few hundred metres to try to get a podium spot, Pedersen (who must have been dog tired from riding alone for so long) did not look back and lose heart, but looked straight ahead and kept riding, coming in 12sec after Terpstra and 5sec before PhilGil, for a Ronde second. We saw the makings of a future Flanders champion today. I’d put money on it.
The boys in blue
Quick-Step, in all their incarnations over the past decade, have always been a strong Classics team, but for some reason, not really a dominant one. The past few years of racing have often begged the question, when it was three QSers to one from another team, how are Quick-Step going to lose the race this week? Well, no one is asking that any more – the spring races have been painted blue by the Belgian team.
There was a comment on Twitter that the team seemed even stronger than when Tom Boonen was riding. Perhaps because there’s no one quite of Boonen’s stature? Or Boonen’s stature meant that the others felt they couldn’t take their chances? Whatever the reason, this season there are so many guys who do take that chance and win, like Terpstra did today, and know that the others in the bunch will chase down all threats (Gilbert and Stybar – take a bow). Whatever it is, the Quick-Step juggernaut doesn’t look like it’s going to go away – we have Roubaix and the Ardennes to go and I wouldn’t bet against them to be on every single podium.
Shit day of #unluck
I don’t think any rider had more unluck today than EF Education First’s Sep Vanmarcke. It seemed every time the camera showed a rider at the side of the road waiting for a team car or picking himself back up after a crash, it was the hot pink kit of Sep Vanmarcke. It actually seems that Lady Luck has a real downer on Sep – the guy cannot get a break. He was in the first crash of the day (the first of, I think, three that involved him). He had endless mechanicals, including flatting on the Hotond as Terpstra blasted past Nibali, the moment the race got away from everyone left behind. He did finish, however. In 13th place.
One thing that Vanmarcke doesn’t have to worry about, however, is contract negotiations. He signed an extension to 2020 with the EF team a few days before the Ronde. Let’s hope he has many wins by the time he’s negotiating his next one.
Peter Sagan is a beast of a rider – no doubt. But. Just as we saw so many times with Cancellara and Boonen, in the Classics, if you’re the strongest, that does not guarantee that you’ll win. Because other guys will stick to you like glue. And that’s just the way cycling goes. Sagan doesn’t want to tow a bunch of guys along and tire himself out, only to be attacked, but the guys behind him sure don’t want to help put him in a position where he can outsprint them for the win. So …
For the full race review, go to cyclingnews
1 Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) 4:08:46
2 Amy Pieters (Boels Dolmans) +1:08
3 Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott Women) same time
4 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo Bigla) s/t
5 Chantal Blaak (Boels Dolmans) s/t
6 Malgorzata Jasinska (Movistar Women) s/t
7 Ellen van Dijk (Team Sunweb Women) s/t
8 Lisa Brennauer (Wiggle High5) s/t
9 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) s/t
10 Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) +1:11
For the full race review, go to cyclingnews
1 Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) 6:21:25
2 Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) +0:12
3 Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) +0:17
4 Michael Valgren (Astana) +0:20
5 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) +0:25
6 Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) same time
7 Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) s/t
8 Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) s/t
9 Wout Van Aert (Veranda’s Willems Crelan) s/t
10 Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) s/t