Tour of Flanders 2022 : Van der Poel roars to an astonishing victory

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) took his second Tour of Flanders in a doozy of a breathless sprint showdown, holding off Dylan van Baarle (INEOS Grenadiers) and a charging Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ). All three riders outwitted Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates) – the man who made all the right moves on the cobbled climbs of his debut Tour of Flanders, only to finish fourth. How, just how???

The Confessional

Full confession #1. The Tour of Flanders has rated pretty low on my personal Monument ranking, barely keeping its cobbles ahead of Liege-Bastogne-Liege! I can’t really explain it, but it so often fails to ‘sing to my soul’, the race playing out as you would expect.

Full confession #2. I was wrong!!! Yes, the race did sift the riders so the two most touted names came to the top and delighted us with a mano-a-mano contest of attack and resilience. But boy-oh-boy the finale was unexpected and amazing and downright bizarre. And for that I am all aboard the RONDE TRAIN for 2022.

The Climbs

Much like Milan-San Remo, the race doesn’t come alive until we reach the hellingen, those fearsome cobbled climbs where positioning, timing and sheer guts make all the difference. After finding himself on the tarmac early on in the race, Pogacar got his head in the game. His UAE teammates ensured he was where he needed to be as the tension wound tighter as they got deeper into the race and a very handy group including Trek Segafredo’s Mads Pedersen and Zedenek Stybar (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) countered away. I have to give a shout out to UAE’s Matteo Trentin who looked after his novice captain until he was ready to fly solo.

And fly he did. Pog lit the first of his matches on the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont with a furious attack that left fans and rivals open mouthed, catching the front riders and scorching past them. Quickstepper Kasper Asgreen went with him, but the effort blunted his race as effectively as the later mechanical he suffered. Both Mathieu van der Poel and INEOS-Grenadiers’ hope Tom Pidcock just managed to catch the end of the Pog express.


The 20-rider train screamed onto the Paterberg with no time to catch their breath or barf up their lungs. Just over the top, Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) attacked with Dylan van Baarle (INEOS Grenadiers) and the duo built a 20sec lead as they flew towards THE KOPPENBERG – a disgusting hellingen that deserves FULL CAPITALS.

Of course that’s where Pog lit match number two, with a seated attack that shattered the chasers into gasping fragments with only Madouas and MvdP able to match him.

Onto the Taaienberg and Pog, Madouas and Mathieu finally catch Wright and van Baarle and the five hold a 50 second lead over an uninspired chasing peloton.

The group behind really couldn’t (or wouldn’t) organise an effective chase and the lead started to mount. But there was still the ultimate-boss hellingen to come, one final time for the Kwaremont-Paterberg double act. Another of Pog’s match are lit on the Paterberg and burnt everyone but MvdP. Mathieu struggled and slipped but he gritted his teeth and would not give it up and duo pulled clear.

The doggedness of Pog’s attacks were matched by the resilience of MvdP, and the Paterberg saw the duo ride up side-by-side, neither rider willing to give an inch. The flat run to the line after the final climb saw them tighten their shoes and stretch out those muscles ready for a two-up sprint.

The Finish

Yes! yes we were! Everyone and their Auntie was ready for the sprint duel between Mathieu and Tadej. Bets were placed, tactics were hotly discussed because surely if Pog hadn’t dropped his rival on the climbs, the balance tipped into the Dutchman’s favour. However, the finale of Flanders is never simple. It is not about sprinting prowess, it is about who has the clearest head to use the little power they have left in their legs to the best advantage.

It is also about remembering you have a group chasing you!  As the two out front played cat and mouse with each other, their 30secs advantage dwindled. Van der Poel spent almost the entire last kilometre looking back into the eyes of Pogacar, nearly performing a track stop at one point, daring the Slovenian to open up his sprint. Under the flamme rouge and the chasing Madouas and van Baarle had them in their sights. It was all coming together at the line.

In the end, it was van der Poel who opened the sprint a long way out and stomped for the line screaming, fist pumping in victory. Pog was caught on the back foot, starting his sprint practically from a standstill and never having a hope of matching the fast finishing chasing duo. Van Baarle edged out Madouas and a frustrated Pog was left to cross the line in fourth, banging his handlebars and heading straight for the team bus.

The Victor

Three times in last 18 months Mathieu van der Poel has been in a sprint finish for the Ronde. Last year he lost out to Kasper Asgreen, this year he made no mistakes. It’s amazing when you think of the injury sustained at the Olympics that kept him out of racing until his third place at last month’s Milan San Remo. Pogacar might have had all the attacks in the race, but van der Poel held on, and I think he would have won even if the Slovenian hadn’t outplayed himself in the sprint. He may not be always be the favourite rider, but he always gives his all and deserves all the kudos for this victory.

I worked so hard for this one. At first, it wasn’t even sure if I would get to the Classics and to win is incredible. He went up Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg really fast. I was almost at the point of dropping. At the end, it was a scenario I’ve had three times before, so I knew it already. I was only taking Tadej into account. I just tried to recover a little bit every time I was in the wheel, but I was just hurting a lot. I’ve worked extremely hard for it and I just went 100 per cent. I’m really happy it has worked out.

He had nothing but praise for Pog at the end.

Here are the highlights …

The Podium

I know they have been there or thereabouts in these spring races, but hand’s up who expected to see Dylan van Baarle and Valentin Madouas on the podium today? Their respective teams were as mind-blown as I was.

I am thrilled for both of them, and now I demand to see the video from Groupama FDJs manager Marc Madiot. What a day!

The Pog

Yes, he was out of sorts at the finish, and yes, he did go straight back to the team bus. I can’t imagine how frustrating that was, to do everything right over all those kilometres, until the final 500m. On the back foot and boxed in as the speed and momentum from van Baarle and Madouas put the podium out of reach. I guess he doesn’t get much practice at tactical sprints, after all, he’s mostly on his own with everyone chasing him!

But it didn’t take long for Pog to come back and give his interviews, full of praise and excitement for his first time at De Ronde.

In the first moment [after the finish] I was really disappointed because I couldn’t do my sprint. I was boxed in, but that’s cycling. Sometimes you’re boxed in and sometimes you have an open road. I was not mad about it to anyone. It might have seemed that way but I was frustrated with myself because I couldn’t do the last 100 metres to the finish. It was a really amazing race. The team was super and perfect. We lit it up in the finale, me alone with Mathieu [van der Poel] and the atmosphere on the climbs was incredible. I think I love this race.

Isn’t that all you can ask for as a fan? To have two of the greatest riders of our era battle it out and come out with statements of respect for each other and the race. To have riders you didn’t expect to see have amazing rides. Yes, I’m agreeing with Tadej, Tour of Flanders, I think I fell in love with you too.

Midge Moments

Vikings at the start

the story is here

Of course Taco made the break of the day


Fan, Flags, Flanders – Fantastic to see the crowds once more.

Final thoughts

Final Results

1 Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin Fenix) 6:18:30

2 Dylan van Baarle (INEOS Grenadiers) same time

3 Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) s/t

4 Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team-Emirates) s/t

5 Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) +0:02

6 Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) s/t

7 Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) +0:11

8 Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) +0:48

9 Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) same time

10 Alexander Kristoff (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materieux) +0:11

For full race review, go to cyclingnews 



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