The Tour of Flanders & Dwars Door Vlaanderen | The Cycling Race News Show

We’re back with the GCN Racing News Show. It’s been another big week in the World
of professional racing. The second of the season’s five monuments
took place yesterday in the form of the Tour of Flanders, we shall be focussing on that,
but we’ll also be dipping into the GP Miguel Indurain, Dwars Door Vlaanderen, and the Volta
Limburg Classic. For me it’s the most exciting period of racing
for the year. The cobbled classics week, which we are currently
celebrating with a whole host of related content here on GCN, kicked off on Sunday with the
Ronde, and the Belgians go mad for it for a whole week leading up to
the race. The Two Hundred and sixty four kilometres,
described by debutant Vincenzo Nibali, as six hours of stress and concentration, took
the men’s race from the start in Antwerp to the finish in Oudenaarde, over the famous
flemish bergs and kasseien. It took a full seventy kilometers of constant
attacking for the early eleven rider breakaway to finally establish itself. They gained a maximum advantage of only around
five minutes, leaving them little hope of making it deep into the race. For many of the favourites, the biggest obstacle
appeared to be trying to stay upright. Michael Valgren crashed hard, so did Sep Vanmarcke
and Oliver Naesen, twice each. The twitchiness of the peloton combined with
wet, slippery roads made for a particularly nervous race. The first big move came with just over fifty
kilometres remaining. Dutch duo of Dylan Van Baarle and Sebastian
Langeveld, along with Danish Duo Mads Pedersen and Magnus Cort Nielson, launched an attack
from what remained of the bunch, and soon caught what remained of the breakaway. They soon built up a fourty second advantage,
and with a distinct lack of domestiques left to work behind, it was a dangerous move. The crunch point of the race, though, came
just over the top of the Kruisbergen out of Ronse with twenty seven kilometres to go An
initial acceleration by Zdenek Stybar was countered by Milan Sanremo winner Vincenzo
Nibali, and for a fleeting moment you just wondered whether the shark would pull off
the impossible for a second time. However, the dream was shattered as he was
caught and dropped by Niki Terpstra. The momentary indecisiveness of the remaining
favourites, coupled with the fact that Quickstep teammates Gilbert and Stybar were constantly
there to chase down attacks and dent morale, meant that Terpstra soon gained a significant
advantage. And with the form he is on, that’s not something
you can afford to give him. He caught and dropped Langeveld, Van Baarle
and Pedersen on the steepest section of the Kwaremont, and with a forty second advantage
over the top of the final climb of the Paterberg, the race was his to lose. And that is certainly not something he was
going to let happen – despite Sagan’s best efforts, initially on his own over the Paterberg
and then eventually with the rest of the favourites, they weren’t able to make a dent into the
advantage of Terpstra, who took his maiden win at the race, to add to his Paris Roubaix
title from four years ago. Terpstra, incidentally, is the first Dutch
winner since Adrie Van Der Poel, father of Mathieu, some thirty two years ago. And if you’re wondering how Mathieu’s
arch nemesis Wout Van Aert got on, the answer is well, very well. In his first ever monument he came 9th, and
just looked pretty sublime throughout, particularly on the climbs. That said, he was beaten by an even younger
rider, Mads Pedersen, who will shall be talking about a little later. The women’s event both started and finished
in the town of Oudenaarde. For them, it was one hundred and fifty three
kilometres on the cards. Not a whole lot happened for the first fifty
kilometres or so, apart from a solo effort by Natalie Van Gogh, and in fact the first
big splits were caused by a huge pile-up which came on the run in to the Muur Van Geraardsbergen. Just like the men’s race, though, the decisive
action came on the ascent of the Kruisbergen, or at least just over it, with twenty seven
kilometres to go. Some strong riding on the front by Amy Pieters
had strung the group out, and Anna Van Der Breggen was there to take full advantage. Van Der Breggen just looks on another level
this year, even by her own high standards, and her advantage quickly grew. In fact, already by the Kwarmont she had eeked
out a one minute lead, and at that point the race was done and dusted. Behind, Kasia Niewiadoma was particularly
aggressive over the final climbs, but two chasing groups merged inside the final kilometre,
and it was Amy Pieters who took the sprint ahead of Annemiek Van Vleuten, making it an
all Dutch podium and the perfect weekend for the Dutch all round. The women’s worldtour will return in two
weeks time with the Amstel Gold Race. And, since we’re talking about the WorldTour,
we should probably give you an update on the rankings. Van Der Breggen has propelled herself up to
second, just behind her Boels Dolmans teammate Amy Pieters, whilst Peter Sagan’s 6th position
was enough to give him the lead in the men’s, ahead of Alejandro Valverde and Tiesj Benoot. In terms of our rider of the week, we’ve
got plenty of choice. Annamiek Van Vleuten who, according to her
twitter feed, finished third with a dislocated shoulder, Oliver Naesen who finished 11th
despite two bad crashes, Vanmarcke who finished 13th after a similar amount of bad luck, our
two solo winners, or Michael Valgren for his impressive 4th place after another high speed
crash. However, our rider of the week is Mads the
beast Pedersen. After being away in a trio for the last 50km’s
of the race, ALMOST hanging on to Terpstra when he thundered past on the Kemmelberg,
and then holding a group of the strongest classics riders in the world at bay, he took
2nd place, in his debut at the race no less. And he’s just 21! According to Cafe Roubaix, he is the youngest
rider in the last four decades to finish on the podium of the Tour of Flanders, whilst
Veloropa shows us how that performance compares to some previous greats, such as Freddy Maertens
who also finished 2nd on his debut, 45 years ago, and Rik Van Steenbergen who won at his
first try in 1944. That is a mightily impressive ride, and more
than deserving in my book of our rider of the week award. OK, moving on, or in some ways moving backwards,
there was another semi classic, or warm up race, in the form of Dwars Door Vlaanderen,
last Wednesday. Some atrocious weather conditions greeted
the riders on the day, the action may have been hot but the riders were anything but. There was an impressive show of strength and
impressive tactical riding by Yves Lampaert in the men’s race He outwitted a five man
group in the closing kilometres to make it back to back wins for him at the race. You have to take your tip off to QuickStep,
though. This year at the big Belgian one day races
they have won all but one, and they came close there too with Elia Viviani a bitterly disappointed
2nd at Gent Wevelgem. One of the big stories of the race was just
how competent Alejandro Valverde was, making all the major splits and at one point looking
good for the win. Both he and teammate Quintana had taken part
in order to get experience on the cobbles prior to this year’s Tour de France. Should a featherweight climber like Valverde
be able to compete with the big guns over the cobbles? No not really. Would we have been surprised if he’d won? No not really. We had another all Dutch podium in the women’s
event. Ellen Van Dijk was one of the few to be relishing
the conditions, and when she attacked with 7km’s to go, she never looked book, and
nobody ever saw her again. The ever consistent Amy Pieters was 2nd, with
Floortje Mackaij third.` Meanwhile, down in Spain, Alejandro Valverde
has been up to his usual tricks, i.e. winning. In some ways it was a shame to see him skip
the Tour of Flanders, he had been considering that, but nevertheless he did race somewhere
and took his 9th win of the year. The Spaniard made his move on the Alto de
Muru, the final climb of the race. Carlos Verona was initially with him, and
although eventually dropped, the Mitchelton Scott rider did hold on for second place. And finally for this week it’s the Volta
Limburg Classic up in the Netherlands, where, surprisingly, there wasn’t a Dutch winner. Jan Tratnik, winner of the TT at the Coppi
e Bartali race just a week ago, narrowly missing a fall, but his breakaway companion Oscar
Riesebeek wasn’t so lucky. Check out Team Roompot’s twitter account
for the photo – thankfully he was alright. Tratnik was able to go on to take his second
win in the space of a week. Well, that’s it for this week, next week
we’ll be reporting on the Tour of Basque Country – one of hardest week long races on
the calendar, so spare a thought for the likes of Michal Kwiatkowski and Vincenzo Nibali
who will start that race the day after finishing the Tour of Flanders – that is hardcore. We will also, of course, be looking mainly
at Paris Roubaix, the hell of the north, so make sure you join us next week for that. In the meantime there will be loads more cobbled
content coming up on GCN leading up to that race, including a recon of the final 100km’s
and a tyre pressure test over the Carrefour de l’Arbre – I wouldn’t recommend 100
psi, it’s…………….well it’s painful. Before all of that, though, make sure you
let us know if these are the hardest five climbs in Flanders.