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Pogačar was caught up in a pileup early in the 273km race. He quickly remounted and was back in the bunch apparently without any major problems.
“I’m on form but this is a different type of race than what I’m used to, with all these climbs and cobbles,” Pogačar said at the start. “I want to be in the front at every hill. But I don’t have a real plan.”
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UAE Emirates soon pulled to the front to keep things under control as the peloton sped toward the first of three passages up Oude Kwaremont and the finishing circuits.
Deeper into the race, Pogačar uncorked a searing acceleration on the second of three passage up Oude Kwaremont to place himself into the front group. The leaders split coming up the Paterberg leading to the Koppenberg.
Speaking after sign-in, teammate Matteo Trentin said the team is rallying around the two-time Tour de France champion.
“The feeling is good on the team,” Trentin said. “We need to see for me, because it’s a day by day thing for me. I had bronchitis and a crash, but it’s difficult to make a plan. You need to be 110 percent to be in the front. Being healthy on the race is already a big goal.
“Tadej is the main guy today,” Trentin said. “It’s out of the normal thing to see a GC rider to come to a race like Flanders. He is a racer. When he comes to a race, he doesn’t come just to start, he comes to win. It’s really good for cycling.”
There’s no real pressure on Pogačar except the pressure he puts on himself to win.
After Flanders, Pogačar is scheduled to race Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège before a break.
Pogačar confirmed Friday that the only race on his schedule before the Tour will be the Tour of Slovenia in June.
🚴🇧🇪 | Eerste valpartij van de dag… En Tadej Pogacar ligt op het asfalt… Het lijkt mee te vallen. #RVV22
📺 Koers kijk je op discovery+ pic.twitter.com/r9bXARqi3b
— Eurosport Nederland (@Eurosport_NL) April 3, 2022