How Matteo Jorgenson’s Dwars door Vlaanderen win is a beacon of hope for Visma-Lease a Bike

The American rider continued a stunning season with a solo win in Flanders, providing some hope for his team who have been plagued with illness and injury

If there is one team that is seems to have almost an equal amount of bad luck as it does success, it’s Visma-Lease a Bike. There have been emphatic wins for the Dutch squad in Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Omloop het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne this season, but in the last couple of weeks, things have looked to slowly be unravelling for the team in yellow and black.

It was announced last week that Visma-Lease a Bike would be forced to start Dwars door Vlaanderen without Christophe Laporte or Dylan van Baarle, with the French rider suffering from a saddle sore and a stomach bug and the Dutchman also falling ill in the lead-up to the race. Jan Tratnik, another key domestique for Wout van Aert in the Classics, has also been plagued with misfortune, abandoning Dwars door Vlaanderen early due to being unwell, unable to play a role for his team.

If the Omloop het Nieuwsblad winner’s retirement from the Dwars door Vlaanderen wasn’t bad enough for the Visma squad, Wout van Aert was later part of a serious crash midway through the race which took out the majority of the favourites for the Tour of Flanders on Sunday. Van Aert suffered abrasions across his back and looked to be in extreme discomfort after the crash, he was taken away in an ambulance and his team has since confirmed a broken collarbone and ribs. His will not participate in the Tour of Flanders.

But as their leader headed to hospital, the scenes at the front of Dwars door Vlaanderen painted a very different picture for Visma-Lease a Bike. Both Paris-Nice winner Matteo Jorgenson and former Strade Bianche winner Tiesj Benoot found themselves in the front group as they approached the final, steep bergs in Flanders, providing a beacon of hope on a day which the Dutch team would otherwise have hoped to forget.

As the only team with two riders in the front group, Visma-Lease a Bike had a big numerical advantage as they approached the final 20 kilometres of racing. Jorgenson commented after the race that it was part of the team’s strategy to ensure they had multiple cards to play in the finals of big Classics, and they controlled the race situation to perfection at Dwars door Vlaanderen. Jorgenson launched a perfectly-timed move after a flurry of attacks with 7 kilometres of the race remaining, at which point none of his breakaway companions were able to respond after a testing day in the Flemish hills. From that point onwards, all that was left was for the American rider to time trial to the line and Benoot to mark any moves from the group behind – the result was an emphatic solo win for Jorgenson, the biggest one-day victory of his career so far.

So while Wout van Aert’s crash is a huge blow for Visma-Lease a Bike, the duo of Benoot and Jorgenson paint a brighter picture looking ahead to the Tour of Flanders on Sunday. The 24-year-old finished in ninth place in De Ronde last year when riding for Movistar, and appears to have hugely improved on his condition since moving to Visma-Lease a Bike at the start of this season. His form at Dwars door Vlaanderen is proof that Jorgenson has the ability to win at the highest level on the cobbles, and the part Benoot played in supporting him should not be underestimated, either. When the older rider attacked on the Nokere climb a few moments before his teammate made his winning move, Benoot was able to distance his breakaway companions seemingly with little trouble, something that should give him confidence ahead of Flanders.

The exact line-up for Visma-Lease a Bike in the Tour of Flanders is yet to be confirmed by the Dutch team but they do have replacement options by bringing in riders like Julien Vermote and brothers Tim and Mick van Dijke. Van Aert would undoubtedly have been extremely marked in the race over the Flanders hills, and it could end up being to Jorgenson’s benefit that he doesn't have the same pressure as his Belgian teammate in what would be his home race. There’s no denying that in an ideal situation, Visma-Lease a Bike would be lining up on Sunday with their superstar Classics rider ready to go, but Jorgenson and Benoot’s ability to have a serious impact on the race should not be underestimated.

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