Mathieu van der Poel imposes his law in Harelbeke

Road 22/03/24 17:00 Migue A.

The first cobblestone duel between Van der Poel and Van Aert leans towards the side of the Dutchman, who raced extremely aggressively until he managed to break the race to win this E3 Saxo Classic, a race that he did not have in his record, in a new display of power that only serves to enlarge his legend.

New exhibition by Mathieu van der Poel in E3 Saxo Classic

He hinted at Milan-San Remo that the well-deserved vacation had done him good after his excellent cyclocross season and he has not taken long to show that he continues with the same hunger for victory in the week in which his renewal with Alpecin-Deceuninck until 2028 has been announced. We are talking, of course, about Mathieu van der Poel who has given us a new day of pure cycling spectacle in an authentic Flemish day.

And this E3 Saxo Classic started with an unexpected protagonist, at least in recent seasons, in the adverse weather marked by that fine rain so typical of these lands and that chilling wind that mercilessly lashes the fields of Flanders.

As usual, the first part of the race was marked by calmness and letting the breakaway of the day go, a group of 10 cyclists with Remi Cavagna as the most prominent name. It wasn't until the approach to the Taaienberg, just over 80 kilometers from the finish, that the party among the favorites began with a Lidl-Trek team that hardened the approach to this wall.

It was Jasper Stuyven who unleashed hostilities on the cobblestones of the Taaienberg and, of course, a certain Mathieu van der Poel followed his wheel, trying to go solo to the astonishment of Pedersen and Wout van Aert who chased behind. Minutes of struggle and pursuit on the false flat that follows this wall but, unlike other occasions, this time it was not decisive and there was a regrouping.

In between, the select group that had formed, with about 20 units, became a series of attacks and counterattacks by cyclists looking to anticipate the work for when the strong riders would definitively start the engine. A trend that led to Stationberg where, surprisingly, it was Oier Lazkano who launched a strong attack that Mathieu van der Poel responded to in person, with a now attentive and well-placed Wout van Aert who would become his shadow in the following kilometers.

A new regrouping and Lazkano surprised again by attacking to catch the breakaway and then, on the climb to Kapelberg, he attacked again, managing to drop a rider of the caliber of Matteo Jorgenson and went ahead just as the most decisive part of the race arrived with the Paterberg-Oude Kwaremont combo.

He arrived at the first of them with just a 5-second advantage, feeling the breath of a Mathieu van der Poel who entered with everything in the curve that gives access to this tough wall, taking everyone who followed him to the grass that lines this stretch. A decisive moment as Wout van Aert, trying to return to the gutter that separates the curb from the cobblestone, lost grip of his front wheel and crashed. Of course, Van der Poel did not miss the opportunity and accelerated to the limit, not only passing over Oier Lazkano but also arriving with a dozen seconds that seemed to seal the result of this E3 Saxo Classic.

At the foot of the Oude-Kwaremont, the Dutchman arrived with more than 20 seconds of difference, a gap that he would widen during the climb. An ascent in which Wout van Aert, who had caught up on the approach, attacked and went in a determined pursuit of his archrival.

We experienced kilometers of tremendous excitement when the Belgian seemed to be able to close the gap but, on the penultimate wall of the day, Karnemelkbeekstraat, where the gap was reduced to 15 seconds, Van Aert's light went out and he began to inevitably fall behind. So much so that in the final part he was even caught by Jasper Stuyven, whom he couldn't even challenge for the sprint for second place at the finish line where, a minute and a half earlier, an exultant Mathieu van der Poel had crossed as the winner of this 2024 edition of the E3 Saxo Classic, a race that, by the way, was not yet in his record.

E3 Saxo Classic Classification

  1. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 4h39'39''
  2. Jasper Stuyven (Lidl-Trek) +1'31''
  3. Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) +1'34''
  4. Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates) +1'48''
  5. Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease a Bike) +1'50''
  6. Jhonatan Narváez (INEOS Grenadiers) +1'52''
  7. Nils Politt (UAE Team Emirates) +2'48''
  8. Toms Skujins (Lidl-Trek) +2'48''
  9. Vincenzo Albanese (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) +2'48''
  10. Alex Kirsch (Lidl-Trek) +2'48''



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