- - E3 Saxo Classic 2023

E3 Saxo Classic 2023

photo credits @ WTFK

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) claimed a stunning victory in today’s E3 Saxo Classic, beating Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) in a drag race to the finish after the trio battled it out along the cobbled climbs of the Flanders Classic.

A blistering attack from van der Poel with 60 kilometers to go, saw the three riders jettison the peloton, with more attacks coming from Pogačar on the Paterberg and the Oude Kwaremont, leaving them out front for the remainder of the race.

From there, they rode together until the finish in Harelbeke, with Pogačar unleashing a final attack with 3.5 kilometers remaining, but to no avail.

In the end, it was van Aert who proved to be the strongest rider today, nixing his Dutch rival on the the line, while the Slovenian was relegated to third place.

Meanwhile, the USA’s Matteo Jorgensen (Movistar) attacked from a chase group to finish fourth at 33 seconds back.

Race Highlights

It took 30 kilometers of racing before a small breakaway group containing Thomas Bonnet (TotalEnergies), Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), Kelland O’Brien (Jayco AlUla), Mathis Le Berre (Arkéa-Samsic) and Martin Urianstad (Uno-X) managed to escape the peloton. 

However, a tight leash was kept on the escapees, limiting their maximum advantage to around two minutes.

With 87 kilometers to go, van der Poel’s Alpecin-Deceuninck teammate Dries De Bondt attacked off the front of the bunch, taking his team leader with him.  

On the Taaienberg, Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step) went off the front, a move that was quickly marked by van der Poel, but this soon came to nothing. Then, the Dutchman attacked again, followed by Van Aert, but this move was shut down as well.

With 77 kilometers to go, the breakaway group was reined-in, followed by an attack from Nathan van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma), Matej Mohorič and Søren Kragh Andersen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) into the Eikenberg.

In the meantime, a crash at the back of group two on the Stationberg saw Dylan van Baarle (Jumbo-Visma), Florian Sénéchal (Soudal Quick-Step) and Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers) all taken out of contention, while at the front, the decisive move of the day happened.

Van der Poel and Van Aert flew off the front, with Pogačar quick to latch on. They soon joined the three leaders that were still at the front, meaning Alpecin and Jumbo both had two riders in the leading group.

This would be the last many of the riders in the bunch saw of the front of the race.

With about 40 kilometers to go, Pogačar attacked on the Paterberg, which saw Kragh Andersen, Van Hooydonck and Mohorič dropped. Van Aert was briefly hanging off the back in this phase, but clung onto the leading two, meaning it would be a powerful trio into the final.

Meanwhile, behind, a group of four chased the trio: Mohorič, Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) and Ivan García Cortina (Movistar) all attempted to haul the group up the road back in. The time gap was reduced to about 40 seconds with 4km to go, but it would not be enough.

Just before 3 kilometers to go, Pogačar tried a seated attack round a corner, but could not dispose of his two big rivals. He did the same again just before the flamme rouge, leaving a little gap to Van Aert and Van der Poel before going again.

Into the final 500 meters, Pogačar opened up the sprint before Van Aert and Van der Poel lit things up, and Van Aert accelerated around his rivals to cross the line first.

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