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Dwars door Vlaanderen: Matteo Jorgenson wins solo on dramatic day in Flemish hills

Matteo Jorgenson alleviated Visma-Lease a Bike’s despair on a dark day, winning the Dwars door Vlaanderen after attacking the late breakaway.

His victory was a bright spot on a dark day for the team that saw Wout van Aert crash out of the race and possibly see his Tour of Flanders hopes vanish in an instant.

Jonas Abrahamsen delivered an impressive second place for Uno-X Mobility, while Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) powered home to third place ahead of Tiesj Benoot (Visma-Lease a Bike).

After winning Paris-Nice, Jorgenson proved himself to be a more than suitable understudy for Van Aert, taking control of the race with Benoot and, with his successful attack with 7km to go, stepping up as the first American winner of Dwars door Vlaanderen.

Lidl-Trek, after taking the lead in chasing the day’s breakaway and spending a book full of matches to shatter the peloton in the crosswinds, had to settle for seventh with Jonathan Milan winning the bunch sprint 1:44 behind the race winner.

“It’s unbelievable, it really is. This whole season has been a dream so far. It’s surreal,” Jorgenson said after the victory. 

“As a team, our whole strategy is based around having numbers in the finals. There was a moment there on one of the last cobbled sections, where Stephan Küng was going into the gutter, and Tiesj [Benoot] was just a little bit gapped, and yeah, thankfully I waited for him because without him I think I wouldn’t have won this race.”

Jorgenson said after the race that he had been riding behind Van Aert when the crash occurred and learned his teammate was being treated for injuries.

“On the radio after the finish, they told me that Wout was in the hospital, so my thoughts are with Wout. I really hope he is OK.”

How it unfolded

The Dwars door Vlaanderen was supposed to be a test of whether or not Wout van Aert’s new build-up to the Tour of Flanders would be a success. Instead, his hopes ended in a massive crash with 67km to go that also brought down favourites Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) and Lidl-Trek’s Jasper Stuyven.

The collective cry of disbelief would echo across Belgium, punctuating what had been a rather mundane first 120 kilometres of racing.

It took almost 30 kilometres before a breakaway could go clear in the early stages of the run out from Roeselare but when a group finally was let go it contained 11 riders.

Dries De Pooter (Intermarché-Wanty), Casper Pedersen (Soudal-QuickStep), Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), Dries De Bondt (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), Victor Vercouillie (Flanders-Baloise), Thomas Gachignard (TotalEnergies), Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X Mobility), Niklas Märkl (DSM-Firmenich-PostNL), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto Dstny), Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Jayco-AlUla), and Donovan Grondin (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) were the lucky ones to try and hold off the peloton.

The gap hovered around 2:30 until the race headed into the key final 70km.

A few minor incidents acted as foreshadowing – with 90km to go a touch of wheels sent Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ) out the back with a mechanical.

Lidl-Trek were intent on demonstrating their newfound dominance and, with 76k to race, they drilled it into a crosswind section and split the peloton into echelons, bringing the leaders’ advantage tumbling.

Further attacks by Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) and Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease a Bike) followed but they were unable to get away.

Then, disaster struck on a wide-open section of road when it appeared that a gust of wind caused a shift in the peloton and Van Aert touched wheels and crashed, bringing down half of the first chase group.

The disaster slightly distracted from the breakaway starting to come apart. Vercouille was dropped first, then Grondin. They were picked up by the remnants of the chase group that had Tiesj Benoot and Matteo Jorgenson flying the Visma-Lease a Bike flag in Van Aert’s absence with Alberto Bettiol and Michael Valgren (EF Education-EasyPost), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ).

They closed to 25 seconds from the front group with 54km to go with the third chase a minute further behind. Meanwhile, Grøndahl Jansen and Norsgaard lost touch with the breakaway.

On the Ladeuze with 38km to go the first two groups finally come together, making the lead group 11-strong again with Benoot, Jorgenson, Küng, Pedersen, De Pooter, Bettiol, Valgren, De Bondt, Eenkhoorn, Abrahamsen and Gachignard.

Küng pushed the pace on the Huisepontweg and shattered the leading group, and Jorgenson, Bettiol, Abrahamsen, and De Bondt made the split. Benoot scrambled across before the end of the sector with Tarling taking a bit longer to power into the group, making it seven in front with 1:50 on the peloton.

With 22km to go, Bettiol attacked on the approach to the Nokereberg. Jorgenson tried to follow and managed, with Küng, Abrahamsen and De Bondt, to bridge across to the Italian.

More disaster struck with Bettiol cramping with 19km to go and having to stop pedalling, dropping out of the lead group. Benoot and Tarling made it back to Jorgenson, leaving six in front with 18km to go.

The gap began coming down as the leaders took a moment to regroup – they had 1:15 with 15km to go on the remnants of the breakaway and even more to the Lidl-Trek and Alpecin-Deceuninck-led peloton.

Approaching the Nokere, Benoot attacked with Tarling tacking and De Bondt leaping across.

On the final climb, Tarling couldn’t hold the pace but De Bondt could. However, they didn’t get enough of a gap and the group reformed after the climb.

Tarling finally time trialled his way back to the group with 7km to go, rejoining just as Jorgenson put the hammer down and opened up a huge gap.

The chasers had to concede with Benoot not taking turns and Küng, Tarling, De Bondt and Abrahamsen out of gas after such an aggressive final hour.

Abrahamsen attacked into 3km to go for the podium spot, while Benoot finally tried to crack the rest before the final kilometre.

Results

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SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
AUTHOR: laura@cyclingnews.com
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