Dutch and Flemish cyclists sprint to photo finish in exciting Tour of Flanders


In a race called the best of the last 10 years, yesterday's edition of the Tour of Flanders was won by a few centimetres in a sprint to remember

Dutch winners for men’s & women’s elite

Dutch cyclist Mathieu van der Poel won the Tour of Flanders yesterday by a few centimetres in one of the most exciting finishes in the road race’s recent history.

Van der Poel’s final sprint against Flemish cyclist Wout van Aert took place after the third in what was a break-away trio – the French world champion Julian Alaphilippe – bumped against one of the in-race motorcycles, crashing and injuring his arm.

The final result of the 244-kilometre race with 17 climbs was Van der Poel at 5:43:17, Van Aert a fraction of a second later and Norwegian rider Alexander Kristoff third by eight seconds. The photo finish between the favourites and the ensuing wait for the results made for one of its most tense and exciting moments in the Tour’s history.

It’s really a shame that there has to be just one winner

- VRT commentator Michel Wuyts

“This was the greatest edition in 10 years,” said VRT commentator Michel Wuyts. “It’s really a shame that there has to be just one winner. Of the 30 editions that I’ve covered now, this is in the top three, next to 1999 – when it was an all-Belgian podium – and the unstoppable rise of Tom Boonen in 2005.”

Van der Poel is the third Dutch cyclist to win the famously gruelling one-day monument. His father was the second, having won in 1986, and now they are the first father-son duo to have both won the race.

A Dutch cyclist also won the women’s Tour of Flanders this year. While it may have not been quite as exciting a finish, Chantal Van den Broek-Blaak certainly put in an impressive performance, breaking away 18 kilometres from the finish on the cobblestoned Oude Kwaremont climb.

Van den Broek-Blaak (pictured), a former road race world champion, sailed over the finish line more than a minute ahead of Dutch teammate Amy Pieters, who sprinted for second place. Third went to Belgian champion Lotte Kopecky.

The women’s elite class of the Tour was 136 kilometres this year, with 11 climbs. It was staged following the men’s elite class.

Postponed from its usual spring date, the 104th edition of the Tour of Flanders had to take place without the usual hundreds of thousands of fans lining the route and awaiting the cyclists from tribunes at the finish line.

Due to coronavirus measures, the Tour’s organisers asked fans to watch the monument race at home rather than in person. While some local residents in towns along the route came out to watch, the entire length was largely void of spectators.

Photos, from top: Wout van Aert’s (right) seven-centimetre loss was a blow to the Flemish rider; Chantal Van den Broek-Blaak won the women’s elite handily
©Eric Lalmand/BELGA