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OUDENAARDE, Belgium (VN) — Defending De Ronde champion Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step-Alpha Vinyl) dropped his chain on the Koppenberg, and lost all hope of defending his Tour of Flanders crown.
The Danish rider didn’t use it as an excuse and admitted he just wasn’t good enough to win anyway.
“On the Kwaremont I followed Tadej, but I just exploded,” Asgreen said. “Tadej was super, super strong. In the end, he just slaughtered me. That was the crucial moment for me.”
Asgreen blew his engine trying to follow Tadej Pogačar and eventually finished as the best-placed Quick-Step rider, in 23rd position in the middle of the group that sprinted for 15th place.
It was another tough blow for the so-called “Wolfpack,” which continued to get battered on the roads where the team typically does the battering.
Asgreen explained that the team did everything right up to that point, and managed to put Zdeněk Štybar and Jannik Steimle in front.
During the second passage over the 2,200m-long cobbled Oude Kwaremont climb it was up to the team leaders because two-time Tour de France champion Pogačar hit out hard.
At the top of the Kwaremont there was no major gap but most of the riders in the front group were hanging on the ropes, including Asgreen. On the following steep, Paterberg climb, Asgreen was dropped.
“I tried to bring him back between the Paterberg and the Koppenberg. I don’t know what happened,” Stybar said.
Asgreen managed to bridge back up but on the Koppenberg he was gone for good.
Pogačar powered away with Mathieu van der Poel and Valentin Madouas while Asgreen faded back and eventually had set foot to the ground when his chain dropped. Asgreen was asked if the dropped chain ruined his chances.
“No, I don’t think so. As far as I know, they went away on the Koppenberg and I would not have been able to follow,” he said. “I would have been in the group behind that we ended up coming back to with two kilometers to go.”
‘Wolfpack’ troubles mount ahead of Paris-Roubaix
Asgreen, Štybar, and Yves Lampaert all confronted illness last month but tried to bounce back just in time for De Ronde and Paris-Roubaix. The expectations coming into De Ronde weren’t too big.
“Everybody knows there have been a lot of illnesses in the team. No excuses though. We’re not good enough right now,” Štybar said.
Lampaert regretted the bad luck for Asgreen at the Koppenberg.
“At the top, he’s standing still with a mechanical. That’s a crucial moment to encounter bad luck. I rode a pretty good race. During the second passage over the Kwaremont my derailleur went into crash mode and I had to set foot to the ground. We weren’t lucky and that’s going to continue for quite a while I’m afraid,” Lampaert said.
The popular Belgian rider had high hopes that he might be back in top form for Paris-Roubaix.
“I’m slowly getting better. From a lost position I managed to come back into the second group so that’s not bad. I’m confident it’ll get better.” Lampaert already cracked the podium in Paris-Roubaix back in 2019, finished seventh in 2015, and fifth last year.