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Pedersen defeats Van der Poel in Flanders cobbled classic

By AFP

March 24, 2024 09:44 PM


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Denmark's Mads Pedersen dug deep to execute a tactical masterclass when beating world champion Mathieu van der Poel to the line in the Gent-Wevelgem cobbled classic in Belgium on Sunday.

After around 100km together, the pair began their sprint in the final 500m with Van der Poel making a desperate last lunge before running out of steam as Pedersen then crossed the line with his Dutch rival already hanging his head.

Van der Poel also famously ran out of steam at the Yorkshire worlds in 2019, before a then little-know Pedersen claimed the world title in a deluge.

Current world champion Van der Poel was targeting a second cobbled classic in a row after E3 Friday.

Winner last season of the world championship in Glasgow, Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, Van der Poel has established himself as the man to beat in the big one-day challenges.

But Lidl-Trek's Pedersen has also been closing in on a major win after several brushes with success in the early season races.

"We need to ride fast, keep up with the big boys and beat them in the sprint," he said of how he could compete with the biggest riders.

On Sunday, he and Van der Poel were inseparable until the final 200m over the 253km route that served as a constant reminder of the First World War dead across Flanders.

"He's someone you always need to consider, now we know that. Believe me, I need a rest," Van der Poel said.

There were kilted pipers at the scene of the Christmas truce, packed crowds at Hill 63 where the Kiwi diggers carved out giant bomb shelters and numerous WWI graveyards along the roadsides.

Crowds in Ypres town centre gave the race a raucous send-off Sunday before the peloton filed through the Menin Gate memorial where hundreds of thousands of troops marched on their way to the frontlines just over a century ago.

On a sunny but blustery day, Jhonatan Narvaez was blown into a field-side ditch from which he needed assistance to recuperate his bike.

Visma, the most successful team on the world tour with 17 victories this season, had sickness in the camp with last year's champion Christophe Laporte pulling out on the morning and Jan Tratnik falling.

Their best bet had been Olav Kooij, who was eventually trapped in a group 16sec adrift of the winning pair and finished sixth.

In third place was Jordi Meeus of Bora-Hansgrohe with Jasper Philipsen fourth and Jonathan Milan also of Lidl-Trek in fifth.

The peloton also remembered Belgian cyclist Antoine Demoitie who died on this race in 2016 when he fell and was run over by a motorbike.

Sunday's race was the second of four runs in the Flanders region each spring on the hilly, cobbled and often rainy series dubbed 'Holy Week' by cycling-mad Belgian fans.


AFP


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