Van der Poel dances on the wet cobblestones of the Koppenberg that force the peloton to get off the bike

In the old Kwaremont, Oier Lazkano leads the peloton and Van der Poel, the big favorite after the falls of Van Aert, Stuyven and Pedersen during the week, takes his wheel.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
30 March 2024 Saturday 22:24
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Van der Poel dances on the wet cobblestones of the Koppenberg that force the peloton to get off the bike

In the old Kwaremont, Oier Lazkano leads the peloton and Van der Poel, the big favorite after the falls of Van Aert, Stuyven and Pedersen during the week, takes his wheel. Shortly after, it is Iván García Cortina who enters the front of the race at the Koppenberg, just where Van der Poel plans to deal the final blow to the race. These are the decisive moments and the Alava and the Asturian, both from Movistar, are rubbing shoulders with the best in the Tour of Flanders. Seeing is believing in a monument from which until very recently, with the exception of Flecha, the Spanish fled.

Of course, Lazkano and Cortina suffered like few others from the harshness of the Koppenberg, a 600-meter cobblestone hill that the rain turned into a skating rink. The wheels were slipping and with the riders, almost stopped on a 20% ramp, they had to get off the bike. Cortina, who was alone, lost his balance and had to climb on foot. Like almost everyone. In those almost impossible conditions, Mathieu van der Poel's rainbow jersey appeared to go for victory.

There were 43 kilometers left but the Dutchman from Alpecin would not stop until he became the sixth cyclist to become the lion of Flanders and was the current world champion. The previous one was Sagan in 2016. Also on the list are, of course, Merckx (1975) or Bobet (1955). “Winning with this jersey is a dream come true,” confessed the 2024 winner. Although the white jersey arrived almost black due to the rain and mud.

At 29 years old, Van der Poel dominates Flanders like no one else, a monument he already won in 2020 and 2022, plus two second places on the podium. The third victory comes two years younger than Boonen and three than Museeuw. When Cancellara managed to achieve the triplet he was already 33 years old. In 2025 he will aspire to be the only one to win the event four times.

“My season is already a success,” he says despite the fact that next week he defends the title in Paris-Roubaix. His team, Alpecin, already won Milan-Sanremo this year with Philipsen.

For his part, after showing his face and dreaming of his first top-10 in seven appearances, García Cortina had to settle for twenty-sixth place while Lazkano, far behind from the Koppenberg, could only be 73rd. Both lived the rawness of a career that only the chosen ones dominate. And even more so in such unfavorable conditions.