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Mathieu van der Poel claims first E3 Saxo Classic title

Mathieu van der Poel claims first E3 Saxo Classic title

With rival Wout van Aert struggling after a crash on the Paterberg, Mathieu van der Poel attacked with 44 km remaining to win Friday’s mini-Tour of Flanders E3 Saxo Classic, the sixth one-day race of the 2024 UCI WorldTour. It was van der Poel’s first victory in the E3 after two podiums and his first road triumph of the season.

The Course

Over 207.6 km starting and ending in Harelbeke, the E3 Saxo Classic contained narrow roads; 17 hills, six of which were cobbled; and three cobbled sections. Famous Flemish climbs Kapelberg, Paterberg, Oude Kwaremont came all in a row from Kilometres 160 to 169. There was a section of cobbles and two more climbs before the finish line, Tiegemberg the last ascent 23 km from the finish line.

Wout van Aert had won the last two editions. Mathieu van der Poel had been on the podium twice since 2021.

The Canadian contingent was Hugo Houle and Guillaume Boivin. Houle was 44th in 2022, while Boivin came 80th in 2019.

After a flurry of attacks following the start, a 10-rider breakaway established itself, and by the fifth climb, Knokteberg, it had a 4:00 lead over the Uno-X-pulled peloton. Boivin had abandoned by then. The pace quickened on the Hotondberg , the peloton readying itself for anticipated moves on the Taaienberg.

Van der Poel made a thrust on the Taaienberg. Van Aert tried to go along with Mads Pedersen, Jasper Stuyven and Matteo Trentin.

Van der Poel bolts on the Taaienberg.

A group of 30 congealed around the world champion. Julian Alaphilippe applied pressure on Berg Ten Stene, and then Pedersen pushed. The Boigneberg saw van der Poel, Matteo Jorgenson, van Aert and a handful of others come across to the Dane. The Lidl-Trek sorties continued, drawing the camera-ignored breakaway closer.

When Oier Lazkano stormed the Stationberg, van der Poel and van Aert went along and then counterattacked. Mathis Le Berre caught up and the trio started to pick up breakaway riders. Again there was a reformation of favourites. Jorgenson, Lazkano and a few others bridged over to the remnants of the breakaway.

Spanish champion Lazkano made a charge on the Kapelberg.

Lazkano was busy on Friday.

On the start of Paterberg, van Aert crashed. The group caught Lazkano and van der Poel went…

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