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Tour of Flanders: What the stars said after cobblestone clash

Julian Alaphilippe 'blew up,' Peter Sagan still on the comeback, Greg Van Avermaet will keep hunting: Here are the reactions from De Ronde.

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The Tour of Flanders proved as breathtaking as ever this weekend.

From the grinding attrition of Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s power-play to the final slug-fest between Kasper Asgreen, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel, the cobblestone monument more than lived up to the pre-race hype.

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Asgreen outfought the favorites and stole the show Sunday, but what were the other stars saying after the cobblestone clash? Here’s what:

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step): 42nd

Julian Alaphilippe was active through the final hours of the race, attacking over the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont and working with Asgreen to pile the pressure on Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert. The Frenchman fought his way into the final selection only to be blown off the wheels when Asgreen attacked to draw out van Aert and van der Poel at 27km to go.

Having gone into the race as one of the top favorites, Alaphilippe finished 42nd, 2:35. His next scheduled race is Liège-Bastogne-Liège at the end of this month.

“We rode very well and took our responsibility. We were well represented in the final,” the world champion said. “Kasper was one of our strong guys. He rode to perfection. It was a beautiful victory, he deserves this. He’s a great guy, a machine. It’s not the last race that he has won.”

“I was glad to accompany him a bit in the final. I tried something at the Kruisberg but saw that it would be complicated for me. Sadly enough I cracked in the final kilometers. My legs blew up. I was cramping everywhere.

“I tried to support Kasper as well as possible and tried to stay with the group as long as possible. I also have the races in the Ardennes still coming up. Now I need to recover. It’s been a long day.”

https://twitter.com/sporza_koers/status/1378705082066296834

Patrick Lefevere (Deceuninck-Quick-Step manager)

Veteran manager Patrick Lefevere had watched on as his team claimed its fourth classic of the year, and Kasper Asgreen’s second in just nine days. Lefevere is currently pinning down the future of his team as he works to renew sponsor agreements and extend deals with his riders, many of whom are out of contract at the end of 2021.

“On the one hand I am very satisfied, on the other hand, I was finalizing Kasper’s new contract this week. I think it will cost me a bit more now. Well, that’s part of the game, of course.

“It’s no surprise that Kasper won today. It was coming. Two years ago Kasper was already 2nd in the Tour of Flanders, last year he also participated [finishing 13th] and this year he won the E3 Saxo Bank Classic in a magnificent way.

“This week we talked about his sprint with him. He felt a little bit offended – he said, ‘You think I can’t sprint, but I can sprint. I have already won races in the sprint.’ He is convinced of his qualities and he makes it happen. He is maniacal about cycling. He is a very calm guy and knows very well what he is doing and makes a lot of sacrifices for his sport – he hasn’t been home since Milano-Sanremo.”

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe): 15th

Peter Sagan was out of the mix for much of the day as he challenged for an against-the-odds second victory at Flanders. Having had to reschedule his early season after a bout of coronavirus and a long spell in quarantine, the Slovak was just starting to return to form in the weeks before De Ronde.

Sagan missed the decisive moves when Mathieu van der Poel and Deceuninck-Quick-Step made a series of attacks through the final 60km, but made his way into the second chase group to finish 15th, 2:15 back. He will now cool his jets ahead of the Giro d’Italia next month.

“The Tour of Flanders, as expected, was very hard and fast. We had a strong squad and I’d like to thank them for their work but, unfortunately, when the decisive attacks came, my current form just wasn’t enough to respond and follow them. I need to keep working in order to reach the level I had before being infected with COVID.”

Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroën): 3rd

Greg Van Avermaet rode a wily race, keeping his golden helmet down and sparing his bullets for when he needed them most.

After racing De Ronde some 14 times in his long quest for victory in his home monument, the Ag2r-Citroën captain used his experience to make his move at the key time. “Golden Greg” punched out of the chase group with three kilometers to go and fended off a challenge from Jasper Stuyven to claim third-place.

Van Avermaet’s podium finish was his best result in Flanders since finishing in second in 2017. It also marks the high point of a consistent – if off-the-pace – season that has seen him in the top-20 of every classic he started except Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in late February.

“I’m really happy to be on the podium again, after a few years, in a race I love so much. I’ll try again but it’s not getting easier.

“I’ve been on the podium a few times with a sad face because I thought more was possible. But this time I was all smiles behind my mask. I got the maximum out of it, and more than third place wasn’t possible. I’m satisfied.

“I was good but I didn’t have the legs to go with Mathieu, Wout, or Alaphilippe so I had to do it at my own pace. There were certainly more than three riders stronger than me. With my experience and course knowledge, I knew I had to try and stay in the group. If some of the others would bonk then my chances would increase and maybe a podium would be possible.”

https://twitter.com/sporza_koers/status/1378713367788019713

Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo): 4th

Like Greg Van Avermaet, Jasper Stuyven wasn’t able to match the key accelerations through the final bergs Sunday. Nonetheless, the Trek-Segafredo captain battled through the closing hour to land in the chase group after Kasper Asgreen and Mathieu van der Poel rode clear.

Stuyven was the first to react to Van Avermaet’s move in the race for the podium but faded as his veteran rival went the distance in the final haul to the line in Oudenaarde. After winning Milano-Sanremo in March, Stuyven has enjoyed one of his best classics campaigns to date, and will now take a break before refocusing on the Ardennes.

“I didn’t react immediately [to Van Avermaet] and then thought, okay, let’s go. I mean, I felt it was going to be super hard, and also, when he took over from me, I could feel there was a difference in power. In the sprint, I tried, but it was pretty clear that I didn’t have the legs anymore for third.

“I think it’s nice to get a fourth place in the end. In Flanders, it’s my best result, and it’s not so bad to get first and fourth in the first two monuments of the season. I have to be happy; of course, I wish that I would have finished it with a podium, but that’s how it is.”