Tour of Flanders 2021: Kasper Asgreen delivers Elegant victory

Kasper Asgreen (Elegant QuickStep) played it cool as a cucumber to take victory at the Tour of Flanders in a tense two-up sprint with defending champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix). The pair flew clear with 17km to go and did not give an inch until the Dutchman dropped his head in the last 30m, just as Asgreen drew level in the sprint. Golden Greg van Avermaet (AG2R Citroen) pipped Trek-Segafredo’s Jasper Stuyven for the third step on the podium.

Watching the Danish champion take victory at Flanders has left me giddy with happiness. I can’t quite believe I get to mark the occasion with the write up – let me try to pin my thoughts on the race down.

How the Race was Won

It’s not my favourite Monument, not by a long shot, but it never fails to deliver a tense race. Corner after corner, hellingen after hellingen, the peloton never has a chance to settle into any sort of rhythm. The stress of having to be in the right position all of the time. The little efforts to catch up after you’ve been caught out. It all takes it toll on the legs going into the finale.

It didn’t all go to plan for the winner as Kasper Asgreen was held up in a crash with around 65km to go and had to chase back on.

But other than that, he looked strong all the way through, floating over the cobbles in that way that riders do when they are on a GREAT DAY.

The winning move? Well, I think there were several as, yet again, the Quicksteppers went into battle with all the cards in their hands, sending a man into every major move as the action came thick and fast.

Holy hallowed helligens! 

Kwaremont, Paterberg, Koppenburg, Taaienberg – each of those hallowed leg-breakers winnowed the group to six riders: AsgreenJulian Alaphilippe (Elegant QuickStep), van der Poel, an out-of-sorts Wout Van Aert (Jumbo Visma) and a blitzing duo of Bahrain Victorious teamies Marco Haller and Dylan Teuns.

Onto the Kruisberg and Julian Alaphilippe stomped into attack mode, which perfectly set up Kasper Asgreen’s attack after the summit. The Dane pulled away with van der Poel and Van Aert and they quickly pulled out a 20sec advantage that the ever-changing chase group just could not close (especially once Alaphilippe stopped riding).

Final Kwaremont

Mathieu van der Poel surges away. Wout is dropped and Asgreen has to catch up on the descent.

The duo took the final climb of the Paterberg side-by-side, with Wout looking like he might take it back [spoiler alert: he didn’t].

On to the tarmac road run in and the commentators and twitter lines were full of, “When is Asgreen going to attack?” Because surely he has to try and drop van der Poel and go solo! Surely he won’t take him to the line and risk a sprint!!

They didn’t have much time to play around with an organised and animated chase group (finally) determined to catch them. The kilometres ticked down, yet they were still side by side – 5km, 3km, 2km. Crikey, there’s the flamme rouge and STILL NO MOVE FROM ASGREEN.

All breaths were held as Asgreen looked pinned to the front, and then somehow, for reasons I can’t fathom, van der Poel took his turn, giving the Dane the advantage. Time slowed and so did the riders as the duo almost took to track stands. Van der Poel opened up, Asgreen drew level … it was going to be neck and neck, and then suddenly the Dutch powerhouse’s legs wobbled and he dropped his head, his sprint tamed just as Asgreen drew level and the Dane ROARED across the line.

and once more with the Danish commentators

I WAS BREATHLESS!!! and the twitter line was that sweet combination of joy and perplexed…

The Victor

“I felt good in the last kilometers. I decided to try and trust my sprint, and going into the last kilometre, I got Mathieu on the front – I decided to just stay on the wheel, so I could decide when we can go. It was a really really hard race, we were both on the limit and a question of the margins in the end”

The podium with the veggie bouquet… (the week before, it was a robot giving him his medal and fire cannons blazing in the background!)

Kasper Facts

How to pronounce his name

I know ski sports and cyclocross are all the rage as a solid background for professional bike riders, but how about a background in dressage? Bet it aids that perfect position on a bike.

In honour of Mathieu van der Poel

We could not have had the thrilling race finish between two powerhouses without this rider. Despite all the rumours swirling about whether he was bluffing about his form, whether he had the legs, would he wear white or black shorts, he was once again in the thick of all the action today and so very nearly defended his throne. There is no shame to losing the race the way he did, even though I am sure it must have stung. As always I am impressed by his grace at the end of the race.

Final Word

Final results

1 Kasper Asgreen (Elegant-QuickStep)

2 Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin Fenix)

3 Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroen)

4 Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo)

5 Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Start-up Nation)

6 Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)

7 Gianni Vermeesch (Alpecin-Fenix)

8 Anthony Turgis (Total Direct Energie)

9 Florian Senechal (Elegant-QuickStep)

10 Dylan van Baarle (INEOS Grenadiers)

For full race review of the race, go to cyclingnews  

Header image: ©Mark Van Hecke/Getty Images

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