Mathieu van der Poel won a battle of nerves with Tadej Pogacar to claim the Tour of Flanders raced over cobbled hills on Sunday.
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The pair broke away with 20km to go before playing cat-and-mouse over the final kilometre, allowing Dylan van Baarle and Valentin Madouas to steal in for second and third at the line.
A furious Pogacar came fourth as the two-time Tour de France winner for once played his cards wrong.
Pogacar made the key break on the penultimate of 18 cobbled climbs 20km from home. Only Van der Poel was able to follow as they opened up a 50sec gap on a small group of followers.
The Slovenian again attacked on the last climb as the stocky Van der Poel showed deep resilience by clinging on and gambling all on his bulk to win the sprint.
“I nearly cracked on the Paterberg (the last climb),” Van der Poel admitted. “It’s a shame that Pogacar didn’t get on the podium, he was the best out there today”.
Van der Poel won the Tour of Flanders in 2020 before coming runner-up behind Kasper Asgreen last season.
— Sporza 🚴 (@sporza_koers) April 3, 2022