The great rivalry of Mathieu van der Poel versus Wout Van Aert reached its road racing peak on Sunday with the Dutchman outsprinting the Belgian in the final Monument of the season. It was van der Poel’s first career Monument, 34-years after his father Adrie beat Sean Kelly to earn the title. Julian Alaphilippe had been with van der Poel and Van Aert at the business end of the race but crashed into a moto in a moment of distraction.
The 2020 Monuments
Milan-San Remo: Wout Van Aert
Il Lombardia: Jakob Fuglsang
Liege-Bastogne-Liege: Primož Roglič
Tour of Flander: Mathieu van der Poel
The route was about 30 km shorter than previous editions, but there were still 17 climbs and five sections of cobbles. There weren’t any hills until the 100 km mark. Two circuits at the end each held the Oude Kwaremont (2.5 km of 3.7 percent) and the Paterberg. The Koppenberg (500-metres of 13.2 percent) was one of the final climbs in the last 50-km, but the Paterberg would be the final climb with 13 km to go. Intermittent rain spattered the field.
It's kind of a Belgium national holiday, it's the @RondeVlaanderen
📍 Antwerpen ➡️ Oudenaarde
🚩 Start 10:00
🏁 Finish ca. 16:00
⛰️ 17 Hellingen
🛣️ 244km pic.twitter.com/Vslf4wqrUO
— BORA – hansgrohe (@BORAhansgrohe) October 18, 2020
The day’s breakaway was a sextet which got loose after a few failed moves. They took a maximum lead of 8:00. There were several crashes in the peloton, and Van Aert and Jasper Stuyven were among the crashers.
Before the second passage of Oude Kwaremont with 55 km remaining, the gap was down to 40-seconds and the peloton was still pretty big.
— Deceuninck-QuickStep (@deceuninck_qst) October 18, 2020
The Paterberg came hard on the heels of the Kwaremont on the first circuit and soon after these ascents the escapees were caught. Tthe peloton split on a flat. Alaphilippe, who looked uncomfortable on the Paterberg, tried to bounce away with a teammate and Ineos’ Dylan Van Baarle, and after the addition of three other reinforcements Van Baarle then skipped up the road with Romain Bardet.
Alaphilippe lit the fuse on the Koppenberg and Anthony Turgis (France/Total-Direct Energie) was able to follow. Van der Poel and Van Aert chased.
— Mihai Simion (@faustocoppi60) October 18, 2020
By the next set of cobbles, Alaphilippe, van der Poel, Van Aert and 16 other riders were in front. Again Alaphilippe put in a surge before the Taaienberg with van der Poel for company. Van Aert made the junction.
A momentarily lapse in concentration with 35 km to go saw Alaphilippe crash into a race motorbike, and the French buccaneer was out of the race.
Looks like Alaphilippe went to talk into his radio and looked down as they switched round the Moto.
— Anthony McCrossan (@antmccrossan) October 18, 2020
So there they were, ‘cross rivals van der Poel and Van Aert, who had neutralized each other in Gent-Wevelgem last week, leading the race. They had a 35-second gap with 29 km and three climbs to go. A 16-strong chase could make no inroads into their lead.
This is like Nadal Vs Federer on cobbles. #RVV20
— Conor Dunne (@conordunnealot) October 18, 2020
Where would the big move come? Oude Kwaremont or Paterberg? Neither. They kept their powder dry on the Kwaremont and the Paterberg.
The Sprint in Oudenaarde
The world held its breath. The Cat and Mouse games started soon after the red kite, van der Poel in front and hugging the right barrier. The chase was closing.
Van Aert went with 250-metres to go but the Dutchman held fast.
Alexander Kristoff burst from the chase to take third.
2020 Tour of Flanders
1) Mathieu van der Poel (The Netherlands/Alpecin-Fenix)
2) Wout Van Aert (Belgium/Jumbo-Visma)
3) Alexander Kristoff (Norway/UAE Emirates)