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Flanders had it all. Huge performances from superstar riders, scandal-ensuing crashes, DSM unexpectedly going full heel mode, and (crucial to an unnervingly large number of fun moments) people being caught on camera falling over. So read on for all of the unserious news from Flanders, the small stuff you may have missed in a Duvel-induced haze.
Lessons in how to watch a bike race
Choose your adventure. Tadej Pogačar is racing past on the Kwaremont. He’s literally just dropped Mathieu van der Poel. The race is HAPPENING. You have three options.
- Stand by the side of the road whooping and hollering as you watch witness bike racing excellence. (Tip: this is the choice of most people).
- Be so overwhelmed by what you are seeing that you succumb completely to gravity and fall backwards knocking over a table laden with drinks.
- Take this opportunity of this being a time where there will be zero lines at the portaloos.
DSM: Demeaning Strategy for a Monument winner
TV viewers of the men’s De Ronde were left wondering whether they’d accidentally clicked on 0.5x speed when footage snapped to scenes of Team DSM slowed to a snail’s pace at the front of the peloton on the Kortekeer.
Spread across most of the front of the bunch, they impeded progress behind before trying to gun it as they reached the top of the gradient and tipped onto the descent. The plan didn’t work and the team’s social media manager hastily deleted a tweet praising the plan following a less than pleasant reaction to their tactics. The next day people are still sending them clown emojis.
Was it worth it? One argument would be what else were they meant to do? They possess neither the individual rider or team strength to truly compete for a race like the Tour of Flanders, but does that mean making John Degenkolb, a multiple Monument winner, lower himself to this level?
Eddy Merckx has chastised them for the move (shock), as has Mathieu van der Poel, and some have argued that it’s technically banned by UCI regulations.
To make things worse, the estimated 3.7km/h speed wasn’t even part of the plan before the race, as the team’s sports director Phil West explained to Wielerflits afterwards.
“We wanted to take up a position at the front and defend it instead of making great efforts to get to the front. It was not a preconceived plan to drive up as gently as possible. Everyone expected the Big Three to be on their way soon. It was up to us and the other teams not to let that just happen with good tactics. This was part of that. For us it was wise to ride up the first hills conservatively to keep several riders in front longer. The boys responded to that.”
Meanwhile, in the women’s race. SDWorx showed the DSM men how to do it properly, by slipping on the Koppenberg, causing a jam behind, and then having multiple riders peel off the front, with Lotte Kopecky eventually staying away. The trick is clearly not to just go slow, but to stop riding at all!
Feed Zone 🥖
💂♀️ Ethan Hayter won the uphill sprint on stage 1 of the Tour of the Basque Country
🛒 Jumbo supermarkets CEO says their sponsorship of the cycling team isn’t necessarily ending
🤞 Michael Valgren returns to the peloton this week at the Région Pays de la Loire Tour after 10 months out with injury
😩 Tom Pidcock blasts “stupid mistake” of “complete hunger flat” after mostly anonymous Tour of Flanders performance
🖐️ A month on from his Paris-Nice crash, Thomas De Gendt found out his hand is actually fractured, not just bruised
🚑 Men’s Flanders injury headlines: Ben Turner (elbow fracture), Tim Wellens (collarbone fracture), Biniam Girmay (a birthday concussion), Taco van der Hoorn (elbow fracture)
🤷♂️ This random Instagram account (admittedly with 36k followers) is claiming Movistar will no longer sponsor the cycling team next year, with Saudi Arabia set to step in to provide funds, though we’ve yet to find any evidence to back up their claim.
Lukewarm rider quote of the week
“I’m feeling very good, hopefully I’m ready to fight for the win here, I’ll do my best. It’s a nice race, I’m looking forward to racing here.”
Jonas Vingegaard (or maybe the AI speaking on behalf of Jonas Vingegaard?) can barely contain his excitement before the start of Itzulia Basque Country’s first stage. We get it, these interviews are just obligations for riders, who are not all poets, yet forced to put up with never-ending and unwanted invasions of their precious time. But that’s why we’ve set up this award. Better celebrate the mundanity than ignore or be angered by it. So well done, Jonas. Cracking stuff.
Over to you, Jonas
Following Pogačar’s exploits at both Paris-Nice and the Tour of Flanders, some focus will now shift to how Jonas Vingegaard gets on at the Tour of the Basque Country.
In stage races, Vingegaard has only finished outside the top 2 on GC once in the past two years. He will head to Spain aiming for overall victory, if not only as a reminder to Pogačar that he’s still about it after the Slovenian banished his 2022 Tour demons with an assured victory at Paris-Nice.
While the course this week isn’t the most enthralling we’ve ever seen, the line-up is strong. You have Richard Carapaz and Rigoberto Urán present for EF Education-EasyPost, Dani Martínez and Egan Bernal are representing the Ineos Grenadiers, then there’s Enric Mas (Movistar), Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) and Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates). At the very least, it’s something to tide you over until Paris-Roubaix.
Cycling on TV (all times CET) 📺
• Itzulia Basque Country – Stage 2 (2.30pm-5pm)
• Itzulia Basque Country – Stage 3 (2.30pm-5pm)
• Women’s Scheldeprijs (11.40am-2.10pm)
• Men’s Scheldeprijs (2pm-5pm)
• Itzulia Basque Country – Stage 4 (2.30pm-5pm)
• Itzulia Basque Country – Stage 5 (2.30pm-5pm)
Imagine it. You’re about. to start the Tour of Flanders and not just that. You have a very, very good chance of winning the thing. You’ve been thinking about it all winter, it’s giving you extra motivation for those training sessions you would really rather not do.
Five minutes before leaving the bus to line up on the start line, you’re scrolling Twitter, something kind of dumb, kind of funny pops up, comparing you, a two-time Tour de France winner, to TV’s most-dressed man Adam Blythe. You reply to it saying that’s all the motivation you need for the day. You lock your phone. You step outside. You win the bike race. This is Tadej Pogačar’s world and we’re all living in it.
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