Tour of Flanders cycling 2021 - Three questions for the Ronde after intriguing Dwars door Vlanderen
With Mathieu van der Poel suffering a rare moment of weakness, plus Anthony Turgis and Dylan van Baarle in sublime form, this year's edition of Dwars door Vlanderen provided plenty of questions heading into the Ronde van Vlanderen. Can van Baarle bring home the biggest prize of all for Ineos? Is Turgis really in with a shot? And did van der Poel and Alaphilippe really peak too soon in the season?
'This is absolutely wonderful!' - Dylan van Baarle secures another big win for Ineos
A big surprise win that might cause ripples within Ineos. A Frenchman firing on all cylinders. A rare off-day for one of the all-time greats. What does the Dwars door Vlanderen result tell us about the Ronde this weekend?
Divided priorities in Ineos?
It was a strange edition of the Dwars door Vlanderen, with an hour-long solo attacking move from Dylan van Baarle proving to be the winning moment of the race. That in itself is strange enough, the burly Dutchman being more used to domestique duties than crossing the line first himself.
He has a few wins to his name, van Baarle, but they are scattered across the specialties – with an overall GC win in the Tour of Britain, plus a mountainous stage win at the Dauphiné. It’s fantastic to see him in such great form here in the classics – but that form might prove a headscratcher for the Ineos performance directors.
Could we see a new ‘leader’ emerge in the ranks of Ineos as they go into the Ronde on the back of this great performance from their long-serving Dutchman? Tom Pidcock has been under the weather in a couple of the more recent races, so that could leave the door even wider for van Baarle. Might Luke Rowe finally have his day of glory after flying the flag for Ineos and Team Sky in the monuments for so long?
Dwars door Vlaanderen men's highlights - Dylan van Baarle takes impressive win
Can Turgis really win?
One of the form riders of 2021 must surely be Anthony Turgis. He hasn’t made it to the top step of the podium yet this year, but secured a fantastic second place in Kuurne-Brussesl-Kuurne, and has never been out of the top 15 in his six one-day races so far this season. He is even being muttered about in some circles as a dark horse outsider to win the Ronde.
Whether he does will depend on the right selection being made – and will also require a hefty dose of luck. What we have seen already is that he has good legs, his bridging move from group 2 to group 1 in Gent-Wevelgem was only enough to assure him ninth place, but it demonstrated he is in flying form nonetheless. Could we see him produce a surprise a la Bettiol this year in the Ronde? It's possible.
Mathieu van der Poel blew up in Dwars door Vlanderen, after putting in a big shift to try and keep his sprinter teammates in contention for the finale. He said pretty openly post-race that he “didn’t have the legs” on Wednesday, but he was also bullish about Sunday when he’ll attempt to defend his crown as Flanders champ.
Watch the stunning Tour of Flanders finish as Van der Poel and Van Aert duke it out
“I don’t draw any conclusions from that for the Tour of Flanders. It really wasn’t my day, Whether it was the heat? That could be it – I don’t like the heat,” the Dutchman told Wielerflits.
Of course, van der Poel was not the only struggler. Julian Alaphilippe was pretty anonymous yesterday, and his whole Deceuninck QuickStep team was uncharacteristically subdued.
Could it be that the Wolfpack blew down one too many houses early in the year and are now running out of puff? Or are they simply sharpening their teeth ahead of the Ronde. We shall see on Sunday.
- - -
Meet Johan Museeuw: The Lion Of Flanders
Museeuw was a rider who dominated the one day classics. Ex-pro Bernie Eisel joins Johan on some of his favourite cobbled climbs from the Tour of Flanders to find out what set him aside at these prestigious races. You can stream this and more of the best cycling stories in the world exclusively on GCN+.