Tadej Pogacar further entered the record books as his palmares takes a whole new boost by winning the 2023 Tour of Flanders. The Slovenian distanced his rivals on the Oude Kwaremont, much like Lotte Kopecky in the women’s race this year. From there he never looked back and had a handy advantage still when coming into Oudenaarde. In doing so, he joined Eddy Merckx and Louison Bobet in being the only riders to win both the Tour de France and the Tour of Flanders. It also ticks off the race from the list of 5 monuments – so far Pogacar has a pair of wins at Il Lombardia and a Liège–Bastogne–Liège win from 2021. With 3 of the 5 monuments secured, there is just Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix left.
The day started with lots of intense racing but no break was allowed to succeed. Around 100km into the race there still wasn’t a break to speak of but plenty of crashes along the way. A brutal crash from Filip Maciejuk saw the Pole move up on a path before running out of tarmac, splashing into the wet grass and then spearing across into the front of the peloton. Half of the bunch went down the rider was disqualified for his actions before apologising on social media later on.
A go-slow tactic from Team DSM on the Korte Ast enraged many as well due to the crashes it encouraged behind. The slow walking pace nature of the riding caused riders to put their feet down mid-climb and some, unfortunately, couldn’t find their footing. Team DSM then picked a moment to sprint off into the distance causing a split in the bunch. Mathieu van der Poel repeatedly found himself on the wrong side of splits in the early riding.
We finally saw the big hitters make their move and it was the powerful trio of Tadej Pogacar, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel that chased down an elite group ahead of them on the road. As the climbs took their toll they reeled off rider after rider until it was only Mads Pedersen ahead. The Dane gamefully tried to hang on but Pogacar and Van der Poel in particular were on another level.
By the time of the Oude Kwaremont, they’d even dropped E3 Saxo Bank Classic winner Wout van Aert and a sprint-a-deux looked increasingly likely. But the purer climber Pogacar picked his moment on the Kwaremont to put his rival into difficulty. The gap at the summit was only around 15 seconds but it was enough when it stayed that distance at the top of the Paterberg. Each rider going solo into the headwind into Oudenaarde, it was Pogacar whose legs held firm, allowing him to win by 16 seconds by the finish line.
“I can say that I can retire after today and I can be proud of my career.I can be super happy and proud. With the speed on the cobbles I was already suffering. San Remo is the most difficult one (of the five monuments), I arrived there in good shape this year. I think I need to gain a few kilos for Roubaix and toughen my hands for the cobbles.”Tadej Pogacar
2023 Tour of Flanders result
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