“Cyclist at fault, hit her next time”; Tour of Flanders – the best day of racing ever? + more on the live blog

If Carlsberg (or should that be Leffe) did Sundays…

The Tour of Flanders was something else, wasn’t it? We were treated to two phenomenal winners in Mathieu van der Poel and Lotte Kopecky, aggressive, attacking and tactical racing, the long-awaited return of thousands of screaming (and probably drunk) Belgians at the side of the road, and – before I forget – one of the most dramatic final kilometres you’re ever likely to see.

> Two out of three ain’t bad: Mathieu van der Poel takes second Tour of Flanders win in thrilling finale 

So as most of Belgium wakes up bleary eyed and hungover after possibly one of the best days of racing ever, here’s a little roundup of some of the post-Flanders talking points.

Or should that be Ronde-up? I’ll get my coat…

It surely doesn’t get much better than winning the Tour of Flanders in the Belgian champion’s jersey, does it?

What made Lotte Kopecky’s win, which saw her become the first woman to take the Ronde in the Belgian tricolour, even more special was the return of the fans to the roadside and the finish, especially after two eerily silent Covid editions in 2020 and 2021.

> Lotte Kopecky wins Tour of Flanders in Belgian champion’s jersey 

And boy, did the fans make up for lost time, celebrating Kopecky’s win in the proper manner, beer cups to the sky (we’ll gloss over the fact that Lotte revealed in her post-race interview that she doesn’t like beer…).

Also struggling with her drink was Annemiek van Vleuten, who at least proved to us mere mortals that she can’t do everything:

In the men’s race, the boy-king Tadej Pogačar suffered his own Stephen Roche at Liège 1987 moment, coming fourth in a two-horse race after a game of cat-and-mouse gone awry in that scarcely believable final kilometre.

Maybe Pog was just trying to emulate Tottenham Hotspur’s 2016 league campaign?

Despite his sulk at the finish line, the 23-year-old Slovenian’s performance was extraordinary, bending the Tour of Flanders – a race Tour de France winners don’t ride, a race that you apparently need years of experience to excel at – to his will, on his debut, only three days after his first proper cobbled classic. You get the picture.

He was the strongest rider in the race, no doubt, just not the smartest in the finale. But that prolonged show of strength, beginning with his bullet-like assault up the Oude Kwaremont with 55km to go, proves that he can do – and win – just about anything on a bike.

Just maybe not the Grand National, eh Carlton?

But, unfortunately for his opponents, the 23-year-old could soon have another cobbled monument on his to-do list:

Well he has to make up for Sunday’s disappointment some way, doesn’t he?

In the aftermath of the race, Pogačar’s name was even trending on UK Twitter for a brief period (we’ve made it folks!):

While most pundits were busy comparing Tadej to a certain Belgian legend (who could it be?), Brian Smith linked the Slovenian’s sartorial style to another – albeit Scottish – icon:

Lest we forget yesterday’s winner Mathieu van der Poel, who must have had a sense of déjà vu as he once again entered the final kilometre of the Tour of Flanders in a two-rider group.

While the Dutchman has often let his strength get in the way of success, this time he used all his tactical smarts, calmly playing Pog like a fiddle in the final kilometre, before seeing off Madouas and Van Baarle’s last ditch challenge with his explosive kick.

The Alpecin-Fenix rider made just as light work of his well-deserved post-race burger:

As well as his podium champagne, a moment that was weirdly captured by this bottle-mounted GoPro (not sure if the GoPro was included as a prize):

While most of the post-race talk centred on Pogačar’s once-in-a-generation-or-two range of talent, Van der Poel is also proving that when it comes to the classics not much is beyond him either:

He’ll also be pretty pleased, I imagine, to have overtaken his dad Adri (who won the race himself in 1986 ahead of Sean Kelly) on the list of Ronde winners…

Finally, big props to Fred Wright. The 22-year-old Brit, riding for Bahrain-Victorious, rode a superb, tactically flawless race to take seventh, even hanging on to Pog and MVDP until the final time up the Oude Kwaremont.

With Wright, Tom Pidcock and Ben Turner coming to the fore this spring, Britain’s future in the cobbled classics is looking very bright indeed…

What do you mean, you were watching the boat race?

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