Pogacar wins Tour of Flanders for first time, Van der Poel second

107th Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres 2023 - Men's Elite
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AUDENARDE, Belgium – Two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar joked that he could now retire happy from cycling after winning the Tour of Flanders classic for the first time.

Pogacar, who won the showcase Tour in 2020 and 2021, became only the third cyclist to win both races after Frenchman Louison Bobet and Belgian great Eddy Merckx.

The 24-year-old Slovenian clinched victory with a superb solo attack to add Flanders – one of the five “monument races” in one-day cycling – to his glittering list of wins.

“I can say that I can retire after today and I can be proud of my career,” Pogacar said, smiling. “I can be super happy and proud.”

Pogacar dropped Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel about 18 kilometers from the end of the 273.4-kilometer (169.5-mile) trek from Bruges to Audenarde and beat him by 16 seconds.

Dane Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) was third, ahead of Belgian Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in fourth spot – both 1:12 behind Pogacar.

Called “Ronde van Vlaanderen” in Dutch, the Flanders race is renowned for having narrow short hills and cobbles.

Sunday’s cold and humid weather contributed to several crashes. Polish rider Filip Maciejuk was disqualified after swerving into the peloton and sparking a mass crash that took out 2016 champion Peter Sagan in his final Flanders.

“I’m really sorry for my mistake and causing the crash today. I hope all those involved are in good health,” Maciejuk wrote on Twitter. “This should not happen and was a big error in my judgment.”

The pace was quick throughout.

“With the speed on the cobbles I was already suffering,” said Pogacar, who races for UAE Team Emirates.

Sunday’s victory was his third monument win, after winning Liège–Bastogne–Liège in Belgium in 2021 and the Giro di Lombardia (Tour of Lombardy) in Italy for the past two years.

The two he has yet to win are Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, which has even tougher cobbles than Flanders and is being held on April 9. n der Poel won Milan-San Remo this year with Pogacar finishing in fourth place.

“San Remo is the most difficult one (of the five monuments), I arrived there in good shape this year,” said Pogacar, who won the Paris-Nice stage race this year.

He is uncertain whether he is bulky enough to take on Roubaix, which is known as “L’Enfer du Nord” (The Hell of the North).

“I think I need to gain a few kilos for Roubaix,” Pogacar said. “Toughen my hands for the cobbles.”

Thomas sees Giro d’Italia lead cut slightly by Roglič; Buitrago wins Stage 19

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TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas maintained his bid to become the oldest Giro d’Italia champion although his lead was cut slightly by Primož Roglič during the toughest stage of the race.

Roglič crossed the summit finish of the so-called “Queen Stage” three seconds ahead of Thomas at the end of the race’s final mountain road leg.

There were no flat sections and five tough, classified climbs on the 114-mile route from Longarone to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, which had gradients of up to 18%.

Stage 19 was won by Santiago Buitrago, who finished 51 seconds ahead of Derek Gee and 1 minute, 46 seconds ahead of Magnus Cort and Roglič, who just missed out on bonus seconds.

“I’m really happy with this victory. It was the most difficult moment of a difficult Giro for me personally,” said Buitrago, who rides for Bahrain Victorious. “I wanted to try and raise my arms before the end and coming here at Tre Cime di Lavaredo is amazing.

“This is the recompense for all the work that I’ve done. … There’s a lot of motivation for me and the whole team having seen the fruits of our labors.”

The 37-year-old Thomas, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers, is 26 seconds ahead of Roglič going into what will be a decisive penultimate stage

Third-placed João Almeida lost more time and was 59 seconds behind Thomas.

Roglič changed his bicycle shortly before the start of the penultimate climb and he made his move inside the final kilometer. However, Thomas was able to stick to his wheel and the British cyclist made his own attack in the final 500 meters and looked to have slightly distanced his rival.

But Roglič came back and gained what could be a vital few seconds.

The winner will likely be decided in the mountain time trial that ends in a demanding climb up Monte Lussari, with an elevation of over 3,000 feet and gradients of up to 22%.

“Tomorrow we go full again,” Roglič said. “It’s good. We got a bit of legs back, so tomorrow we go full, eh?

“If I wouldn’t be confident then I don’t start. The best one at the end wins.”

The race ends in a mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, where Thomas could beat the age record held by Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Thomas celebrates 37th birthday by retaining Giro d’Italia lead; Roglic into 2nd

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VAL DI ZOLDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas celebrated his 37th birthday with another strong ride in the mountains to retain the pink jersey during Stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia.

Thomas crossed immediately behind Primoz Roglic, who moved up from third place to second.

“The legs have been good,” Thomas said. “Need to enjoy these moments.”

Joao Almeida dropped from second to third overall after losing 21 seconds over the 100-mile route from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo, which included two first-category climbs followed by two second-category climbs in the finale – including an uphill finish.

Thomas – the 2018 Tour de France champion – leads Roglic by 29 seconds and Almeida by 39 seconds.

“It’s a pleasant day. I take time on Almeida and didn’t get dropped by Primoz,” Thomas said. “I felt pretty good, always under control but Primoz obviously went hard. It wasn’t easy. … I just want to be consistent until the end.”

Italian champion Filippo Zanna won the stage ahead of fellow breakaway rider Thibaut Pinot in a two-man sprint.

With only two more climbing stages remaining before the mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, Thomas is poised to become the oldest Giro winner in history – beating the record of Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Chris Horner holds the record for oldest Grand Tour champion, set when he won the Spanish Vuelta in 2013 at 41.

However, Thomas will still be tested over the next two days.

Stage 19 is considered perhaps the race’s toughest, a 114-mile leg from Longarone to Tre Cime Di Lavaredo featuring five major climbs. Then there’s a mountain time trial.