The trio of big characters performed the drama until the last meters. Sagan lost contact early – Cycling

Local cyclist Wout van Aert defended his triumph at the 65th edition of the Belgian E3 Saxo Classic. The rider of the Jumbo-Visma stable won the final sprint of the trio and managed the 204.1 km long course with the start and finish in Harelbek in 4:44:59 hours.

Wout van Aert Photo: ,

Wout van Aert ( v st.).

Dutch Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) finished second and Slovenian Tadej Pogačar (SAE Team Emirates) finished third. Slovak Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) did not fight for the triumph.

The traditional spring classic partly copies the route of the more famous Tour of Flanders, which is on the program on Sunday, April 2, so the best of the top classics were presented in the starting field.

Van Aert, the defender of last year’s championship, and five other former winners were also present, including Sagan (2014). Forecasts warned of strong wind and rain, but fortunately for the cyclists, they were confirmed only in the first half.

The peloton held together for a long time and the breakaway formed only after less than 40 km. Five competitors rode at the front, but the peloton did not let them go by a large margin. There were also several falls on the steep Flemish climbs and cobblestones.

Attacking among the favorites started very early and the first start came already 80 km before the finish line. It was taken care of by the recent winner of Milan – San Remo van der Poel, who tore up the front of the peloton. Both van Aert and Pogačar adhered to it. After a while, the next entry came and Nathan van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma), Sören Kragh Andersen (Alpecin-Deceunicnk) and Matej Mohorič (Bahrajn Victorious) were in the lead.

Only around 40 cyclists remained in the main pack. More attacks came and a strong group of six van Aert, van Hooydonck, van der Poel, Kragh Andersen, Pogačar and Mohorič gradually crystallized at the head. They soon had 40 seconds to spare and their pursuers were not getting any closer on the constant climbs and cubes.

On the famous Paterberg hill, the group stretched, but stayed together after it. This was followed by another famous ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, which with a length of 2.2 km and a gradient of 4.2% is among the most difficult in the E3 and Tour of Flanders program.

It was there that Pogačar prepared his attacks and partially succeeded, when only star rivals van der Poel and van Aert remained with him. However, Slovene deprived them of assistants with his arrival.

Van Aert lost significantly on both climbs, but was able to come back. There were still 36 km and two more hills to go. Seven other pursuers followed the two triples, followed by the peloton. Sagan did not appear at the front again.

The groups behind the leading three joined up soon, but they lost to the leaders even 18 km before the finish line, 1:20 minutes. The biggest stars from the starting field fought for the victory. In the final 15 km, Mohorič, Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) and Matteo Jorgenson with Ivan Garcia from Movistar tried to pull off a small miracle, who set out to chase the leaders, but they were only able to reduce their lead.

Three and a half km before the end, Pogačar, who was on paper the weakest in the sprint, tried to attack, but the pair watched him. After that, tactics began, the Slovinec tried 1.3 km before the end, but he did not break away from his rivals even the second time. In the final spurt, van Aert had the most strength, beating van der Poel.

“It was difficult. We all worked hard in the front group. In the end, I concentrated only on the spurt. I haven’t done many races on the road bike this year, but I think I’m on the right track for the next race,” said van Aert at the finish, for whom it was only the ninth race day of the season on the road and his first victory.

Source: Pravda – Športweb – Futbal – Hokej by

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