The 75th edition of Dwars door Vlaanderen was a race from start to finish. After a few insanely fast hours, the race broke loose on the Taaienberg. At about 50 km from the finish Van Baarle accelerated. No one got too close from the back and so the Dutchman soloed to a stunning victory on the Verbindingsweg in Waregem.
The peloton started under a blazing sun in Roeselare and the good weather was clearly a motivating factor. No less than 50 km was covered in the first race hour and the tone was immediately set. The riders rode faster than the quickest schedule for a whole day and that made a classic early breakaway almost impossible. In the end it was Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers), Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal) and Wallays (Cofidis) who rode together for about a minute.
Yet even their attack did not last too long. First it was Vermeersch who was dropped, but on the Taaienberg Hayter and Wallays also ran out of time. An acceleration of Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën Team) shattered the peloton. Among others, Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Nizzolò (Team Qhubeka Assos), Teuns (Bahrain-Victorious) and Benoot (Team DSM) were positioned in the wheel of the Olympic champion.
From that moment on, one after the other attack was fired. Eventually a group formed that included Stuyven, Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), Van Baarle (INEOS Grenadiers), Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), Dewulf (AG2R Citroën Team) and Politt (Bora-hansgrohe). In the background, it was Dutch champion Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) who started to shake the tree just after Berg Ten Houte at 52 km from the line. The group broke up, but it was impossible to break away.
With about 50km to go, Van Baarle went on the attack alone at the front. Behind him, the groups Stuyven-Kristoff and Van Avermaet-Van der Poel regrouped on the Kruisberg, after which they headed for the Trieu. When Van Avermaet attacked there once more, Dutch champion Van der Poel surprisingly had to drop out at 35 km from the finish. World champion Alaphilippe also missed out.
The lone leader Van Baarle was not bothered by all the attacks in the background. He stayed 20 to 30 seconds ahead of the chasing group. Dylan Teuns was the next rider who had to let go. Did the heat take its toll in this 75th edition?
An attack by Stuyven at 18 km from the line brought the chasing group a little closer to the solo leader again. The effort of Stuyven did not break the group and in the background the peloton came closer again meter by meter. On Nokereberg it was Greg Van Avermaet's turn again. He hurt his companions, but Van Baarle pedaled on calmly in the meantime. His advantage remained around half a minute.
In the final kilometer the peloton caught up with the chasing group. A strong Van Baarle had nothing to fear at that point. His lead was big enough to win solo on the Verbindingsweg. The Frenchman Laporte (Cofidis) could just stay ahead of the sprinting peloton. Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) won the sprint for third place.
Van Baarle shined in the 75th edition of Dwars door Vlaanderen, succeeding his compatriot Van der Poel.
Picture: (c) Photonews