A fast start to the 183-kilometer race and all attacks neutralized by the heavily controlled bunch meant it took more than one hour for a breakaway to go clear before the peloton allowed Koch and seven other riders to open up a gap after 65 kilometers.
By the time Koch’s group reached the Nieuwe Kwaremont, after 82 kilometers, their advantage was out to two and a half minutes but the relatively calm race situation quickly turned chaotic when the race was neutralized to allow an ambulance to pass.
Koch’s breakaway was absorbed by the peloton and collectively, the group rolled along slowly while they waited for instructions from the UCI commissaires and race director.
Eventually, the peloton was stopped to allow Koch and the other breakaway riders to re-establish their advantage of around two-minutes and racing resumed normally entering the final 65 kilometers.
Van der Poel was the first rider to attack from the bunch, launching a move on the first ascent of the Knokteberg, which caused splits in the peloton with Nathan Van Hooydonck the first rider from CCC Team to reach the top of the sector.
Van der Poel’s move saw a chase group establish in pursuit of the breakaway while up ahead, Nelson Oliveira (Movistar Team) attacked from the breakaway and managed to open up a gap.
Koch tried to bring Oliveira back but was caught by Van der Poel’s chase group inside the final 40 kilometers and rejoined the peloton with 33 kilometers to go, where Van Hooydonck and Gijs Van Hoecke were.
The five-rider lead group was 30 seconds in front of the bunch as they approach the final 20 kilometers, at which point Van Hooydonck launched an attack to try and bridge to the group.
Van Hooydonck was joined by Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) and the duo hovered in front of the bunch but was not able to bridge across to the front.
The peloton remained around one-minute behind the leaders as they reached 10 kilometers to go and, despite efforts to bring them back, the group stayed away with van der Poel proving the strongest on the day.
Van Hoecke was the first CCC Team rider across the line in the peloton, 24 seconds behind van der Poel.
Quotes from the Finish Line
“The first hour was quite fast but all of the guys worked well together, everybody tried to go in the breakaway, and in the end I made it. It was the work of six shoulders. I tried a lot of times but I think it’s also luck to be in the breakaway as well. We worked well together. There was quite a lot of wind today but we still worked well and all pulled. It was really crazy when we were stopped. We were waiting around thinking that it was neutralized and then they let us go, but the bunch was so nervous, they started to ride and it was a big mess. Then, I was in the middle of the bunch and didn’t know what was happening. But, then the jury stopped everyone again and the breakaway could go clear again. We worked well together again and the gap was even going up a little bit, to 2’40”.”
“I didn’t feel so bad today. I had good legs but in the final climb when van der Poel came with a few guys and attacked again, the power in the legs was gone and the little punch needed to stay with them was missing. In the end, it’s a little bit sad because one rider survived from the breakaway, but I’m looking forward to the next races.”
Dwars door Vlaanderen
Roeselare > Waregem (183km)
Top 3: 1. Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus), 2. Anthony Turgis (Direct-Energie), 3. Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
CCC Team top 3: 34. Gijs Van Hoecke, 39. Nathan Van Hooydonck, 72. Jonas Koch
Photos: Cor Vos