Van Aert falls just short of podium finish in Tour of Flanders

Van Aert falls just short of podium finish in Tour of Flanders

Wout van Aert has finished fourth in the Tour of Flanders. The Belgian Team Jumbo-Visma leader was in contention for the win on several occasions, but on the final ascent of the Kruisberg, he was forced to admit defeat to the competition. Tadej Pogacar won the race after arriving in Oudenaarde alone.

Early in the race, the favourites got a wake-up call. In the fast early stages of the race, echelons were formed, and the riders of Team Jumbo-Visma proved to be alert. A massive crash in the peloton at about 140 kilometres from the finish line caused numerous riders, including Van Aert and Edoardo Affini, to smash into the tarmac. The Belgian hurt his left knee but was able to get back on his bike quickly.

Nathan Van Hooydonck was the first Team Jumbo-Visma rider to attack. He advanced to the front of the race in a strong group. In the background, the top favourites accelerated on the second climb of the Oude Kwaremont. After a while, an elite group formed that included Van Aert, Pogacar, Mathieu van der Poel, Tom Pidcock, and Christophe Laporte.

On the final climb of the Kruisberg, Van der Poel made a move. Van Aert had to leave a gap after a strong effort and was struggling. Van Hooydonck stayed with Van Aert and helped him close the gap towards the front of the race. The E3 Saxo Classic winner ultimately could not answer the accelerations of Pogacar and Van der Poel, among others. In Oudenaarde, Van Aert eventually sprinted to fourth place.

“A super fast and chaotic race with a long and tough final”, said Van Aert of the fastest edition in the history of the Tour of Flanders. “With Nathan at the front, the team’s plan worked well. It ensured we didn’t have to take the initiative at the front and just behind. It became a man-to-man battle a little earlier than we had expected. Pogacar and Van der Poel proved to be stronger today.”

"I feel bad for the team that I missed the podium by a hair"

Wout van Aert

The 28-year-old Team Jumbo-Visma leader noticed that things were getting more difficult in the race’s closing stages, but he continued to fight. “I basically lost the race on the Kruisberg, but I was not going to admit defeat. We deserved to be on the podium. Therefore I feel bad for the team that I missed the podium by a hair. But I had to acknowledge my superiority today. I am disappointed because I came here to win. The form is not bad, but that doesn’t mean anything now. I have to let it sink in. I congratulate Pogacar. He deserved to win”, Van Aert said.

Van Hooydonck once again showed his strong legs in the final. “In the breakaway, I tried to save as much energy as possible to help Wout as in the final. I gave everything to get him to the front. It was a bad sign that he had to give in on the Kruisberg. Just before we caught up on the Oude Kwaremont, I encouraged him and told him that the race was not over yet. He still sprinted for a podium place at the very end, which says a lot about his character. Sadly, we fell short of our goal today, but we won’t give up now”, the Belgian said.

"I gave everything to get Wout to the front"

Nathan van Hooydonck

Sports director Arthur van Dongen interpreted the race. “We performed well in the race. We had bad luck with the crashes of Tosh Van der Sande, Edoardo Affini and Wout. It’s a shame, but fortunately, it didn’t affect the race. Nathan went along well, which put us in a perfect situation. Regrettably, Wout had to decline the Kruisberg. At that point, tactics make little sense. It’s the legs that have to do the work. We have to be realistic and conclude that others were better today.”

Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres

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