Road racing Gallery: Two grand champions, one remarkable Tour of Flanders
Few races capture the imagination quite like De Ronde. Here's how the race looked through the lenses of some of the sport's best photographers.
If it’s not the single greatest day of cycling on the calendar then it’s very close. The Ronde van Vlaanderen, one of cycling’s five Monuments, a true icon of the sport, a day where only the toughest can tame the cobbled climbs to have a shot at victory. And with both the men’s and women’s events held concurrently on the narrow, winding roads of Flanders, cycling fans are treated to quite the spectacle.
What follows is a collection of images that tell the story of Sunday’s 2023 Tour of Flanders. We start with the women’s race which turned out to be exactly the SD Worx show of dominance that many expected. That’s followed by the men’s race, where the greatest rider of his generation took victory with another masterclass in aggressive racing.
Thanks to Kristof Ramon and Jered & Ashley Gruber for the wonderful images you’re about to see.
Despite the cold weather, fans turned out in force for the biggest annual event on the Belgian sporting calendar. The women’s race rolled out from Oudenaarde with 156.6 km on the menu. Despite a few early attacks, the field stayed more or less together for the first 60 km. Until Kiwi champ Ally Wollaston set off alone. She’d spend more than 30 km out front on her own … … before being joined by Elinor Barker and Elise Chabbey. The trio would be caught on the lower slopes of the Koppenberg. That climb would prove chaotic, with all but a handful of riders forced to walk or run up the mud-slicked cobbles. Over the top of the Koppenberg, four leaders emerged: defending champion Lotte Kopecky, Marlen Reusser, Lorena Wiebes (all SD Worx), and Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ). Wiebes would be dropped on the Taaienberg with 37 km to go … … and on the third-to-last climb, the Kruisberg/Hotond, Reusser dropped off, leaving Kopecky (left) and Persico out front. Kopecky attacked Persico on the Oude Kwaremont and got a race-winning advantage. Persico battled on … … but would ultimately be caught by a chase group behind. Kopecky powered on alone over the Paterberg (note Persico about to be caught behind). Demi Vollering (left) and Kasia Niewiadoma fought it out in the chase group … … so too did Juliette Labous. Anna Henderson was around the mark for most of the day but was dropped late, finishing ninth. Back-to-back wins for an imperious Kopecky … … ahead of teammate Vollering who won the sprint for second in the chase group. World champ Annemiek van Vleuten had a careless crash with 48 km to go and eventually ended up 27th. That’s three WorldTour races SD Worx has finished 1-2 in this season: Strade Bianche, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and now the Tour of Flanders. They did the same at the 1.Pro-level Nokere Koerse. The men’s race got underway in Brugge and served up no fewer than 273.4 km. Few riders have quite so many fans as Wout van Aert. The race was marred by multiple crashes, some of them quite spectacular. Several breakaways got up the road throughout, the most dangerous featuring strong riders like Mads Pedersen, Tim Merlier, former winner Kasper Asgreen, and Stefan Kung. Asgreen leads the break up the Paterberg. Nils Politt had been up the road but was reeled in when the favourites came out to play. Tadej Pogačar attacked from the peloton on the Oude Kwaremont, 55 km from the finish, and got a gap. Here he is on the following climb, the Paterberg, passing riders who had dropped out of the break. An elite group chased Pogačar: (from left to right) Christophe Laporte, Tom Pidcock, Mathieu van der Poel, and Wout van Aert. This group would catch Pogačar … … but on the Koppenberg Pogačar surged again … … reducing the group to just himself, Van Aert and Van der Poel. Van Aert was dropped by Van der Poel and Pogačar on the Kruisberg. Mads Pedersen was smart in attacking from the break as the favourites closed in from behind. On the final time up the Oude Kwaremont, Pogačar attacked yet again, getting clear. At that point all but Pedersen had been caught. Pogačar soon caught and rode past the Dane, heading to the Paterberg alone. Van der Poel chased defiantly .. … as Pogačar piled on the pressure on the Paterberg. Note Pedersen in the background, soon to be caught by the remnants of the breakaway he had been in earlier. Among those riders, Neilson Powless who’s enjoying a remarkable season so far. Over the Paterberg, Pogačar rode solo all the way to the finish … … winning his first Tour of Flanders and 10th race of the year. At just 24, the Slovenian already has 56 pro wins to his name. Van der Poel was gracious in defeat, telling the press that Pogačar was clearly stronger. Pedersen won the sprint for third, taking a well-deserved podium place after his brave ride. Van Aert was among the many who hit the ground throughout the day. Fifth for Powless who’s had top-fives in one-day races and stage races this year. No one’s won more races in 2023 than this guy. He’s now won three of the five Monuments too. Can he add Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo to his palmares? One great day in Flanders, two great champions. What did you think of this story?
😐Meh 😊️Solid 🤩Excellent