The Dutch superstar Mathieu van der Poel warmed up for Ronde van Vlaanderen with the hard and hilly Dwars door Vlaanderen. Van der Poel made the first group after INEOS blew up the peloton and in the last part of the race closed down many attacks. The Alpecin-Fenix superstar followed Tiesj Benoot’s late acceleration and convincingly beat Jumbo-Visma rider in the final sprint, winning Dwars door Vlaanderen for the second time after 2019.
Some of the biggest names like Wout van Aert, Kasper Asgreen, Matej Mohorič and Christophe Laporte did not attend Dwars door Vlaanderen, which is a UCI World-Tour race, but the field was stacked with classics stars nonetheless.
The biggest move in the peloton was with 69 km to go when INEOS neo-pro Ben Turner went full-gas on the Berg Ten Hout climb (1.1 km, 5.6%). His teammate Thomas Pidcock helped with pacing and the peloton was in shambles. Only the strongest riders could follow this devastating attack set by the talented INEOS duo. Tadej Pogačar missed the split as he was in a terrible position before the climb, so deep in the bowels of the peloton that he had no chance following this move.
The riders who got away were Mathieu van der Poel, Tiesj Benoot, Stefan Küng, Victor Campenaerts, Tom Pidcock and Ben Turner. They later caught the breakaway, from which Nils Politt and Kelland O’Brien were strong enough to stay with the favorites for many kilometres.
The big losers also were Trek-Segafredo and AG2R Citroën as all of their riders missed the move. Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl is having a terrible classics season and it was not a surprise seeing no one from the Wolfpack in the leading group. It was game over for everyone in the peloton, with Pogačar trying multiple times to chase the group but unable to bridge across solo. Finally, he was showing some signs that he is a human. Does this mean Pogačar is in bad shape and will not show anything in Ronde van Vlaanderen? No, if he were in a better position, he had the legs to make it the first group. Pogačar also before Il Lombardia 2021 did not perform well at races like Milano-Torino, but at his target race he was a different rider and no one could challenge him.
It was an 8-man group at the front. It was clear that Küng, Benoot and Campenaerts must attack as they did not have a finishing kick to compete against van der Poel and Pidcock, who had teammate Turner with him. Politt and O’Brien were in the breakaway and their legs were not as fresh as the others to do attempt some attacks.
Van der Poel was not feeling comfortable and tested everyone on a cobble climb with 22 km to go, but nothing changed. On a descent later on Campenaerts attacked. Campenaerts mentioned after the race that he was riding a 58T chainring at the front, while Pidcock, who was behind him, was with only a 53T chainring. Campenaerts spinned his legs as fast as he could, and his genius masterplan worked as he got a small gap over the peloton. But the problem for Victor was that Pidcock had up his sleeve his teammate Turner, who worked very hard to bring back the Belgian. Pidcock, Benoot and van der Poel helped too, and Campenaerts move was caught with 18 km to go. After the race van der Poel said that during a training camp Campenaerts had tested the type of attack with him, with the Dutchman, who was helpless against Campenaerts’ attacks. Dwars door Vlaanderen was Lotto-Soudal rider’s target race. He was riding with very narrow handlebars and had reconed the course 5 times before the race as he is living very close to the course.
It was calm before the storm as multiple riders without a fast sprint needed to gamble to win. Küng attacked on a climb with 8.5 km to go, but van der Poel did not let the big Swissman go away. On a descent, Campenaerts again launched his special move. Riders in the peloton were struggling as everyone looked at van der Poel, who pulled a lot. After he ended his turn, Benoot used the perfect moment and launched his attack. Everyone was waiting for someone to close Jumbo-Visma rider’s attack, but no one was willing to do it and Van der Poel had no choice but to burn multiple matches again and chase down everyone, which he successfully did.
With 3 km to go Campenaerts again attacked as he had almost zero chance of winning a sprint. Benoot followed him, but they were caught by Pidcock. The INEOS rider put pressure on the group, but it did not work and after his attempt failed, Benoot tried again with 1.8 km to go, and this time it worked. Van der Poel quickly bridged him, and back in the group the riders looked for too long and the gap was too big to close it down.
Surprisingly, Benoot worked with van der Poel. The Dutchman started his sprint with 250 metres to go. Benoot, even sitting on his wheel during the sprint, was not able to do anything as van der Poel won his first World-Tour race in 2022. Pidcock won the bunch sprint and finished 3rd. Campenaerts, who was very active, ended 4th, getting 175 UCI points, which Lotto-Soudal badly needs as they are in the relegation zone.