Last year’s race came down to the trident Van Aert, Van der Poel and Asgreen. After the Kruisberg/Hotond, with 25 kilometres left to race, the three were the only riders remaining at the front. But when Van der Poel accelerated on Oude Kwaremont Van Aert wasn’t able to match this move. Asgreen also lost contact at first, but he came clawing back after the climb. The two extended their lead before Asgreen outgunned the Dutchman on the line.
Revenge is a dish best served at the finish line. That’s what Van Aert will be thinking when clicking into his pedals in Antwerp.
With its relentless onslaught of (cobbled) climbs, the Tour of Flanders is always a war of attrition. Virtually all ‘hellingen’ are situated in the second half of the race, while the Oude Kwaremont/Paterberg combo are the last obstacles inside the last 20 kilometres. After the Paterberg there are 13.2 kilometres left.
Mostly, the decisive moves happen earlier. In 2015, Terpstra attacked on the Kruisberg/Hotond and Kristoff followed his wheel to outsprint the Dutchman on the line. In 2016, Peter Sagan attacked from an elite group on the Paterberg and soloed to victory. In 2017, Philippe Gilbert kicked it up a notch and rode alone for more than 50 kilometres before winning the race in heroic style. In 2018, Niki Terstra started his successful long-range attack with 30 kilometres remaining. In 2019, Bettiol opted for a Saganesque approach by attacking on the Oude Kwaremont. And in 2020, Alaphilippe, Van der Poel and Van Aert were alone at the front at the Tiegemberg, with almost 40 kilometres left to race. But then – whoops – the Frenchman crashed out after colliding with a motorbike and it came down to a two-up sprint between the two cyclo crossers. Van der Poel outgunned his great rival on the line.
As said before, after the Kruisberg/Hotond the three strongest riders in the race prevailed last year – Van der Poel, Van Aert, Asgreen. Will we see a similar scenario unfold in 2022 with Pogacar in the Asgreen role? And, what kind of dish is going to be served at the finish line?
Favourites 2022 Tour of Flanders
**** Mathieu van der Poel, Tadej Pogacar
*** Kasper Asgreen, Dylan van Baarle, Mads Pedersen, Matej Mohoric
** Tom Pidcock, Jasper Stuyven, Stefan Küng, Christophe Laporte, Anthony Turgis
* Tiesj Benoot, Michael Matthews, Dylan Teuns, Alberto Bettiol, Jan Tratnik