It is a miracle that it hasn’t occurred earlier, however the thrilling finale of Gent-Wevelgem uncovered the deep rivalry between life-long rivals Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix). In a tactical finale, the duo ended up eyeing one another and ending in the back of the nine-man group that fought for the victory in Wevelgem.
For the primary time of their lengthy rivalry, Van Aert was unable to cover his annoyance shortly after the race, and blamed Van der Poel for marking him and preferring to see him lose, reasonably than having an opportunity to win himself.
“It was a tough race and, as predicted, a gaggle managed to journey away on the Kemmelberg. It is too dangerous, although, that I did not win as a result of my legs had been feeling nice. It is a missed likelihood,” Van Aert stated.
When requested if he felt like everyone marked his strikes, Van Aert pointed particularly at Van der Poel: “Really, there was just one rider who was actually focusing on me. Apparently, he most popular to see me lose reasonably than making an opportunity to win the race himself.”
Van der Poel was fast to reply that he discovered Van Aert’s phrases a bit of shallow as he was racing to win, as all the time.
“It is a bizarre response from Wout. He is probably the greatest riders within the entrance group, and if he goes, then I’ve to react, after all. If I did not do this, my group would ask me why I did not react when he went. It is a bit shallow to say I raced to make him lose as a result of I all the time journey to win the race,” Van der Poel advised Sporza.
One week forward of the final main one-day race of the Northern Classics, the Tour of Flanders, the small confrontation between these two titans will certainly be a fundamental matter within the build-up to the Ronde.
Over the previous 10 years, Van der Poel and Van Aert have raced one another numerous occasions, and any race incidents had been all the time waved away by displaying mutual respect. The 2 have been racing one another in cyclo-cross because the junior class, whereas on the highway, the duo already confirmed from 2016 on that they had been the brand new children on the block. Van der Poel has received Dwars door Vlaanderen, Brabantse Pijl and, unforgettably, the Amstel Gold Race in 2019. Van Aert has had stellar success on the highway to this point, successful Milan-San Remo, Strade Bianche, and three levels on the Tour de France.
At Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, it was Van der Poel who opened the dispute between the favourites with a fierce acceleration on the plugstreets, 70km from the end line, pulling away a gaggle of 9, together with eventual winner Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo). Van Aert adopted go well with with a fierce acceleration through the second ascent of the Kemmelberg with 50km to go, and was marked by final 12 months’s Tour of Flanders winner Alberto Bettiol (EF Professional Biking), eventual runner-up Florian Sénéchal (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Van der Poel. A number of extra riders bridged up, and the chase group co-operated properly till reaching the ultimate ascent of the Kemmelberg, 30km from the end line.
Nonetheless, late within the race, as assaults began flying, with Bettiol usually being the primary to maneuver, Van Aert closed a niche again down with 5 kilometres to go after which continued solo. Who would mark the highest favorite’s transfer? It was Van der Poel who introduced everyone again to the Belgian’s wheel in an extended pursuit.
As soon as Van Aert was caught, Groupama-FDJ’s Stefan Küng attacked, and as soon as once more Van Aert closed the hole to the Swiss time-trial specialist, with Sénéchal and Bettiol bridging up as properly, making a powerful four-man group with 3.5km to go. The opposite riders watched one another, and Van der Poel ended up chasing the 4 males again down, with Trentin closing the ultimate metres.
The poker sport continued, and on the 2km banner, Bettiol accelerated away with Matteo Trentin (CCC) and Sénéchal. Van Aert was the primary to react, however John Degenkolb (Lotto-Soudal) and Van der Poel refused to assist chase. Pedersen then blasted away in direction of the leaders and the eventual victory, whereas Van Aert and Van der Poel stored one another in verify. A ultimate transfer from Van Aert beneath the purple banner within the ultimate kilometre was marked by Van der Poel, and from there, Van Aert marked Van der Poel, whereas Degenkolb, Küng and Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) rode away. Van Aert outsprinted Van der Poel for eighth place.
“I feel [Van der Poel] forgot that I’ve already received fairly a number of occasions, so I had the choice to play a little bit of poker,” Van Aert stated. “Now we each find yourself empty-handed.
“I rode to win the race, however did not get any freedom. I had my likelihood if it got here right down to a dash. I knew the assaults would hold flying, however I can not hold reacting to each transfer, and I all the time discovered the identical rider on my wheel. It is his proper to behave like this, however now we each don’t have anything.
“It is clear that I am prepared for the Tour of Flanders, however Gent-Wevelgem would have been good on the palmarès, too. I’ve received plenty of good races this 12 months. It allowed me to play poker a bit so as to win the race, however at this time that did not work out properly.”
In a separate interview, Van der Poel stated that he knew it will be a tactical race within the ultimate kilometres, and that he wasn’t planning to react to each transfer.
“The group was too giant to journey to the end identical to that, so that you knew there can be assaults. It is a gamble sport from there. There have been a number of riders I needed to control,” Van der Poel stated. “Clearly, Wout was one of many quickest riders within the group, but additionally Degenkolb and Trentin. I knew Pedersen was certainly one of them, too, however he can play poker a bit extra when teams are going.”
The Dutch ace defined that he emptied himself to convey again Van Aert at 4km from the end line: “I used my dash to get the group of 4 riders within the ultimate kilometres [Van Aert, Küng, Bettiol and Sénéchal]. It was a bet. It was a matter of doing that effort or not having an opportunity for the victory in any respect. From there, I had nothing left within the tank. I used to be on my restrict when the decisive transfer went.”
After listening to Van Aert’s remarks, Van der Poel got here again from the Alpecin-Fenix group bus the place he had taken a bathe to set one thing straight within the Sporza studio close to the end line.
When requested by host Karl Vannieuwkerke about how he would charge himself in comparison with Van Aert, he stated: “On the climbs, we had been one another’s match, I might say. From there, I felt like he was giving a greater impression. My finest legs had been lengthy passed by then. If he goes alone, I’ve to chase him again down as a result of in any other case, you possibly can’t win the race. In my view, you are still driving the race to win it at that time. I stored believing in it. Once I closed the hole again right down to the 4 leaders, I had nothing left within the tank, and after I seemed again, I noticed that the entire group was glued to my wheel. I hoped that I might have bridged up alone, however that wasn’t the case. I used to be on the restrict.
“I am not blaming him [Van Aert] in any respect,” Van Der Poel continued. “I did chase him again down a number of occasions, however I wished to win the race. I do know that proper now he is one of many strongest riders on this planet. If I am not chasing him again down, then I am not going to win the race. That is bike racing. We had been a detailed match for one another.”
Requested if he would textual content Van Aert, Van der Poel stated that he wasn’t planning to take action.
“No, he’ll examine this, I suppose. I am not mad at him, however I simply wished to supply my aspect of the story,” Van der Poel stated.
He added that he had no regrets about skipping the World Championships final month as he figured he would not have made it into the primary group excessive of the ultimate climb, identical to in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“Skipping the Worlds allowed me to do a coaching block in Livigno [Italy] to get me again to the extent I wanted to be forward of those Classics,” Van der Poel stated.
When requested if he felt assured forward of the Tour of Flanders, Van der Poel was his regular assured self: “You need to be assured. Will probably be a really laborious race. It is a laborious race to win. The passage on the Kemmelberg taught me that I am going properly. That is boosting my confidence.”