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Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) escaped from an elite group — including Mathieu van der Poel — to take the win at the 2021 E3 Saxo Classic.
Teammate Florian Sénéchal came around a marked Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) to take the second podium position.
“I had an amazing team here and they were all so strong I could hear them cheering for me behind and I could hear how well they were blocking the other guys,” Asgreen said. “We always had someone there so it was perfect. A huge thanks to the guys – this was amazing teamwork and it would not have been possible to do a ride like this without them there.”
Wearing the colors of the Danish national champion, Asgreen had been away on a solo attempt at 66km to go but was reeled in with less than 20km left on the hard work of van der Poel, and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
Deceuninck-Quick-Step had three cards to play in the final kilometers, also with the last edition’s winner Zdeněk Štybar in a group of seven on the front of the race.
Once Asgreen went off the front again, at 5km to go, no one was willing to chase and put van der Poel within striking distance of the win.
“I knew after the effort I did today that I wasn’t going to have any chance in the last kilometer, so I had to get away and arrive alone if I wanted to win the race. It was all or nothing at that point,” Asgreen said.
— Deceuninck-QuickStep (@deceuninck_qst) March 26, 2021
The masterclass in tactics of greatest numbers proved to be the “Wolfpack’s” greatest advantage over the raw power of van der Poel and 2016 Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R-Citroën).
How it happened
With seven of the past 16 editions of this race stamped with the team’s name, Deceuninck-Quick-Step brought number and strategy to this year’s E3 Saxo Classic.
No 2020 race was held due to the pandemic, and so Štybar returned as defending champion.
Attacks came early and often, with Victor Campanaerts (Qhubeka-Assos) accelerating at 95km to go, and was assisted by teammate Sep Vanmarcke, and marked by van Aert.
Attacks continued, repeatedly, with Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) making an ill-fated attempt which was countered by the “Tractor” Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) who dragged a large group past the American up a cobbled sector.
Štybar took over for Declercq, with van der Poel and van Aert in the bigger man’s draft as full-gas racing was on with still 75km of racing to play out.
Van Aert suffered an unfortunate flat and took a wheel from Shimano neutral service. This caused another acceleration, and the race had broken into three groups, with two groups away off the front.
While the Jumbo-Visma rider steadily worked his way back to the front, John Degenkolb (Lotto-Soudal) hitched a ride on his wheel.
Van der Poel, never one to let a race happen around him launched an attack, with Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) marking him, and allowing the small group to reconnect with the race animator.
The young Dane attacked and went solo just near the 60km mark. The acceleration to control this Deceuninck-Quick-Step move was too much for Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), who was jettisoned from one front group to the next until he was back in the main group.
Asgreen continued his long-range attack up the cobbled Oude Kwaremont with the fractured chase groups coming together behind him.
Van Aert brought Van Avermaet and Dylan van Baarle (Inoes Grenadiers) on a mission to bring back the long Wolfpack rider.
With the race inside of the 20km to go banner, Asgreen was still away with Van Avermaet, Sénéchal, Oliver Naesen (Ag2r-Citrëon), and Dylan Van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) all pushing the pace — but letting van der Poel to the lion’s share of the work.
On the Tiegemberg climb, van der Poel brought Štybar along in an acceleration which distanced Van Aert. Van Avermaet and Naesen were marked by Sénéchal and group made it over the climb together without an immediate threat from the Jumbo-Visma rider.
Van Aert lead a chase group of four, however no one would assist in bringing the Belgian up to the front, and were content to let the gap continue to open behind the now seven race leaders.
Asgreen was brought back at 12km to go, joined by his two teammates. Instead of calling it a day and dropping back, Asgreen settled in behind the furious pace set by van der Poel and Van Avermaet.
Over the following 7km, attacks were thrown, but the pace was too high for anything to stick.
During a lull at 5km to go, Asgreen, having recovered from his solo, surprised the other six. While his two teammates sat back and watch him get six seconds, van der Poel, Van Avermaet, and Naeson finally took up the chase, navigating road furniture in the outskirts of Harelbeke.
“I tried to use the traffic island to put some distance between them and myself so I could get a gap before they could react. I don’t know if that made the difference. I think everyone had a hard day and everyone was on the limit,” commented the winner.
Naeson gave a pull, which appeared to be a move to catapult Van Avermaet, however, van der Poel again covered these moves.
Into the final drag, as Asgreen prepared to celebrate, the entirety of the group behind him forced van der Poel into the lead position.
With nothing left to the line, Sénéchal was able to come around the fading four-time world cyclocross champion to give the Wolfpack the second podium position, while “MVDP” held for third place.
Van Aert, one of the favorites was some 90 seconds back of Asgreen, and a minute behind rival van der Poel.
E3 Saxo Bank Classic Results
|1||ASGREEN Kasper||Deceuninck - Quick Step||4:42:56|
|2||SÉNÉCHAL Florian||Deceuninck - Quick Step||0:32|
|3||VAN DER POEL Mathieu||Alpecin-Fenix||0:32|
|4||NAESEN Oliver||AG2R Citroën Team||0:32|
|5||ŠTYBAR Zdeněk||Deceuninck - Quick Step||0:32|
|6||VAN AVERMAET Greg||AG2R Citroën Team||0:32|
|7||VAN BAARLE Dylan||INEOS Grenadiers||0:32|
|8||HOELGAARD Markus||Uno-X Pro Cycling Team||1:28|
|10||HALLER Marco||Bahrain - Victorious||1:30|
|11||VAN AERT Wout||Team Jumbo-Visma||1:30|
|12||TURGIS Anthony||Team Total Direct Energie||1:34|
|13||LAMPAERT Yves||Deceuninck - Quick Step||2:12|
|14||STUYVEN Jasper||Trek - Segafredo||2:12|
|15||BENOOT Tiesj||Team DSM||2:12|
|16||VERMEERSCH Florian||Lotto Soudal||2:47|
|17||DE BUYST Jasper||Lotto Soudal||2:47|
|18||TRENTIN Matteo||UAE Team Emirates||2:47|
|19||CLAEYS Dimitri||Team Qhubeka ASSOS||2:47|
|20||KÜNG Stefan||Groupama - FDJ||2:47|
|22||NIEUWENHUIS Joris||Team DSM||2:56|
|23||JACOBS Johan||Movistar Team||2:56|
|24||VAN DER HOORN Taco||Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux||2:56|
|25||PIDCOCK Thomas||INEOS Grenadiers||2:56|
|26||BALLERINI Davide||Deceuninck - Quick Step||3:04|
|27||GARCÍA CORTINA Iván||Movistar Team||3:04|
|28||KOCH Jonas||Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux||3:04|
|29||DEGENKOLB John||Lotto Soudal||3:04|
|30||VANMARCKE Sep||Israel Start-Up Nation||3:04|
|31||HAUSSLER Heinrich||Bahrain - Victorious||3:04|
|32||GOGL Michael||Team Qhubeka ASSOS||3:04|
|33||BJERG Mikkel||UAE Team Emirates||3:04|
|34||OLIVEIRA Rui||UAE Team Emirates||3:04|
|35||THEUNS Edward||Trek - Segafredo||3:04|
|36||LIVYNS Arjen||Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB||3:04|
|37||TOUZÉ Damien||AG2R Citroën Team||3:04|
|38||STEWART Jake||Groupama - FDJ||3:04|
|39||VLIEGEN Loïc||Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux||3:04|
|40||DE VYLDER Lindsay||Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise||3:04|
|41||VAN GESTEL Dries||Team Total Direct Energie||3:04|
|42||KRAGH ANDERSEN Søren||Team DSM||3:04|
|43||DOULL Owain||INEOS Grenadiers||3:04|
|44||BETTIOL Alberto||EF Education - Nippo||3:04|
|45||CAMPENAERTS Victor||Team Qhubeka ASSOS||3:04|
|46||TERPSTRA Niki||Team Total Direct Energie||3:04|
|47||SCHÄR Michael||AG2R Citroën Team||3:09|
|48||TILLER Rasmus||Uno-X Pro Cycling Team||6:30|
|49||VAN HOOYDONCK Nathan||Team Jumbo-Visma||10:18|
|50||DEWULF Stan||AG2R Citroën Team||10:18|
|51||GREIPEL André||Israel Start-Up Nation||10:50|
|52||DE BONDT Dries||Alpecin-Fenix||10:50|
|53||HOLLMANN Juri||Movistar Team||10:50|
|54||MAS Lluís||Movistar Team||10:50|
|55||EENKHOORN Pascal||Team Jumbo-Visma||10:50|
|56||STANNARD Robert||Team BikeExchange||10:50|
|57||COLBRELLI Sonny||Bahrain - Victorious||10:50|
|58||PASQUALON Andrea||Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux||10:50|
|59||HVIDEBERG Jonas Iversby||Uno-X Pro Cycling Team||10:50|
|60||ROOSEN Timo||Team Jumbo-Visma||10:50|
|61||GENIETS Kevin||Groupama - FDJ||10:50|
|62||KIRSCH Alex||Trek - Segafredo||10:50|
|63||EDMONDSON Alex||Team BikeExchange||10:50|
|64||OLDANI Stefano||Lotto Soudal||12:47|
|65||GIDICH Yevgeniy||Astana - Premier Tech||12:47|
|66||KRISTOFF Alexander||UAE Team Emirates||12:47|
|67||HALVORSEN Kristoffer||Uno-X Pro Cycling Team||12:47|
|68||DECLERCQ Tim||Deceuninck - Quick Step||12:47|
|69||LIENHARD Fabian||Groupama - FDJ||12:47|
|70||WÜRTZ SCHMIDT Mads||Israel Start-Up Nation||12:47|
|71||GIBBONS Ryan||UAE Team Emirates||12:47|
|73||BOASSON HAGEN Edvald||Team Total Direct Energie||12:47|
|74||MENTEN Milan||Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB||12:47|
|75||LE GAC Olivier||Groupama - FDJ||12:47|
|76||PERRY Benjamin||Astana - Premier Tech||12:47|
|78||ZAKHAROV Artyom||Astana - Premier Tech||12:47|
|79||RESELL Erik Nordsæter||Uno-X Pro Cycling Team||12:47|
|80||VANHOOF Ward||Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise||12:47|
|81||BIERMANS Jenthe||Israel Start-Up Nation||12:47|
|82||COLMAN Alex||Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise||12:47|
|84||DEKKER David||Team Jumbo-Visma||12:47|
|85||VAN MOER Brent||Lotto Soudal||12:47|
|86||GOŁAŚ Michał||INEOS Grenadiers||12:47|
|87||WYNANTS Maarten||Team Jumbo-Visma||12:47|
|88||VANENDERT Jelle||Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB||12:47|
|89||BASSO Leonardo||INEOS Grenadiers||12:47|
|90||BAUER Jack||Team BikeExchange||12:47|
|91||VAN POPPEL Boy||Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux||12:47|
|92||ERVITI Imanol||Movistar Team||12:47|
|93||SIMMONS Quinn||Trek - Segafredo||12:47|
|94||FRISON Frederik||Lotto Soudal||12:47|
|95||BRUNEL Alexys||Groupama - FDJ||12:47|
|97||VAN HOECKE Gijs||AG2R Citroën Team||12:47|
|98||VINJEBO Emil Mielke||Team Qhubeka ASSOS||12:47|
|101||MERTZ Rémy||Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB||12:47|
Results provided by ProCyclingStats.