This Sunday saw two excellent editions of the Tour of Flanders. Although the winds were quiet and the weather was relatively mild for Belgium at this time of year, the racing proved to be as exciting as ever.
Going in to the men's race, cyclocross superstars Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert were the strong favourites. World champion Julian Alaphilippe was expected to lead the Elegant Quickstep team as they hoped to challenge van der Poel and van Aert's dominance.
However, it was Kasper Asgreen who proved to be the strongest for Quickstep on the day, taking a sensational and somewhat surprising win ahead of van der Poel in the sprint to the line. The two riders dropped their opponents whilst ascending the Kwaremont and worked well together on the run-in to the line, whilst the chase fractured behind them.
Asgreen showed that he is in great form in E3 Saxo Bank Classic last week, but he is commonly known as a breakaway specialist and we might have expected him to attack van der Poel in the closing stages.
However, the Danish champion trusted his sprint and took a convincing victory over van der Poel, whose legs seemed to give up in the closing 50 metres. Greg van Avermaet won the sprint for third place.
Annemiek van Vleuten took a very impressive solo win in the women's race, the second of the season for both Movistar and herself. It was also her second win at De Ronde, 10 years after she first claimed victory there in 2011.
Van Vleuten rode an attacking race, trying at first to break away on the Kanarieberg, launching an attack which whittled the group down to only the strongest riders. Once she was brought back to the reduced chasing bunch, Trek Segafredo's Audrey Cordon-Ragot attacked and went clear, building up a solid lead of up to 44 seconds.
Soraya Paladin joined her and the two riders worked well together until they were eventually caught at the base of the Kwaremont with 18km to go. The brutal slopes of the Kwaremont meant that only 7 riders were left at the head of the race after this climb.
Van Vleuten launched her final, blistering attack on the Paterberg and her lead over the chasers only grew as she rode into the finish in Oudenaarde, taking an emphatic win. Lisa Brennauer beat Grace Brown in the battle for third place.
Van Vleuten celebrates her second win in the Tour of Flanders (credit: Alex Broadway/Swpix.com)
In contrast, Mathieu van der Poel is disappointed to finish second to Asgreen (credit: Alex Broadway/Swpix.com)
Trentin tries to hold the wheel of a cool Wout van Aert (credit: Alex Broadway/Swpix.com)
Asgreen celebrates the biggest win of his career so far (credit: Alex Broadway/Swpix.com)
Tom Pidcock looks pensive ahead of his first Tour of Flanders (credit: Alex Broadway/Swpix.com)
25 seconds ahead of her nearest rival, Annemiek van Vleuten had time to enjoy the moment (credit: Alex Broadway/Swpix.com)
Mathieu van der Poel (Credit: Alex Broadway/Swpix.com)
Riders fight for position on the cobbled climbs. (credit: Alex Broadway/Swpix.com)
No hard feelings: van der Poel and Asgreen celebrate together on the podium (credit: Alex Broadway/Swpix.com)