In the sprint, Wout Van Aert got the better of Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogacar to win the E3 Saxo Classic for the second consecutive year.
Wout Van Aert knew how to be the smartest. In an E3 Saxo Classic contested over 204.1 kilometers around Harelbeke, the leader of the Jumbo-Visma team perfectly played Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogacar in a royal final to win a second time. following. Under an overcast sky, the race took a long time to come alive. Indeed, after a few initial skirmishes, including one by Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, we had to wait for the approach of the 30th kilometer to see the breakaway taking shape.
Thomas Bonnet and Mathias Norsgaard led the way before Mathis Le Berre, Kelland O’Brien and Martin Urianstad joined them. A quintet that got a good exit from the peloton but the latter never really let go. Indeed, the gap never exceeded three and a half minutes with the Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates teams trying to lock the race for their respective leaders. The first climbs caused a reduction in the lead of the breakaway, in particular under the effect of an acceleration desired by the EF Education-EasyPost team. With just over 90 kilometers still to go, Dries De Bondt took advantage of the closeness of the peloton to make the connection.
Van der Poel and Pogacar on the attack
The effort of the leading group did not resist at the beginning of the explanation at the top. In effect, on the slopes of Taaienberg, 80 kilometers from the goal, Mathieu van der Poel lit the first fuse and put an end to the hopes of the leading group. The winner of the last Milan-Sanremo first saw Wout Van Aert take his wheel then Tadej Pogacar, in a second time, also made the connection just like Soren Kragh Andersen. The Slovenian then took the initiative with the Dane at his side but the small group now at the forefront was neutralized for a time.
Wanting to take advantage of the opportunity, Matteo Jorgenson placed a start but his escape did not last more than seven kilometers. It was then a trio made up of Soren Kragh Andersen, Matej Mohoric and Nathan Van Hooydonck tried to get away but it was without counting on the ambitions of the leaders. After a first acceleration from Mathieu van der Poel in a false flat rising cobbled 56 kilometers from the goal, the Paterberg saw the grandson of Raymond Poulidor place a new start. It was ultimately Tadej Pogacar who allowed the trio to break away irretrievably thanks to an attack at the foot of Old Kwaremont.
Van Aert was the smartest
A time in difficulty, Wout Van Aert was able to hang on, well helped by the fall of a motorcycle on the climb, which cut off the momentum of the Slovenian and the Dutchman. This royal breakaway then built up a lead of more than a minute over its first pursuers then was neutralized, in particular in the Tiegemberg, the last difficulty of the day. If a group with Matej Mohoric, Stefan Küng, Matteo Jorgenson and Ivan Garcia Cortina never gave up hope, the gap never fell below 45 seconds. At the front, Tadej Pogacar tried to escape a final sprint by placing a start 3500 meters from the line but without success.
The Slovenian then took responsibility for the pace with Wout Van Aert who wisely stayed in the wheel of Mathieu van der Poel, limiting as much as possible the efforts for the final explanation. In this little game, the Belgian proved to be the strongest and beat Mathieu van der Poel, thus taking his revenge for the cyclo-cross world championship. Tadej Pogacar had to settle for third place when Valentin Madouas took eighth place. Expected as a repeat of the Tour of Flanders, this 2022 edition of the E3 Saxo Classic did not disappoint.