There were no gifts today, as Jumbo-Visma’s Christophe Laporte timed his attack to perfection to secure his second cobbled classics win in a row in a thrilling edition of Dwars door Vlaanderen.
After all the discourse that followed the Frenchman’s win at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, Laporte arguably had a point to prove today at Dwars, the final rendezvous on the Flemish bergs before this weekend’s main event, the Ronde.
With just over 50km to go, the 30-year-old – who’s clearly in the form of his life – slipped into a dangerous move which included his Jumbo-Visma teammate Tiesj Benoot, Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Quinten Hermans, Jhonatan Narváez of Ineos, and two pairs of Groupama-FDJ (Stefan Küng and Valentin Madouas) and EF-Education EasyPost riders (Mikkel Frølich Honoré and Neilson Powless).
As the race slowly contracted in the final kilometres, that group eventually caught the final dogged remnants of the early breakaway, Oier Lazkano and Alexander Kristoff, before a flurry of attacks, counterattacks, and, then, stalling, gifted (sorry, Christophe) Laporte one golden chance to launch a seated acceleration with four kilometres left.
Küng tried and failed to follow, Laporte was gone, his critics well and truly answered in emphatic fashion.
The Frenchman’s back-to-back victories this week continued Jumbo-Visma’s staggeringly dominant cobbled classics campaign.
Of the five major cobbled one-day races in 2023 – Omloop, Kuurne, E3, Gent-Wevelgem, and Dwars door Vlaanderen – the Dutch squad have won all five, with four different riders.
Surely now is the moment they can finally, finally break the curse at the big one, the Tour of Flanders, which they last won way back in 1997 with Rolf Sørensen?
It would be hard to best against Jumbo-Visma in this kind of dominant streak, but the team has been known to fall at the final hurdle in the past…
While Van der Poel and Pogačar may have watched today’s race through their fingers, the whole of Spain will be viewing the grim skies of Flanders with new eyes today, after Oier Lazkano’s phenomenal second place.
While Laporte took the win, the 23-year-old Spaniard stole the show – making it into the early breakaway, driving it along as it valiantly held off the chasing groups, looking at home on the cobbles and rough roads of Flanders, working spectacularly well with Kristoff in the break…
And then, just as you thought his race was over after being swallowed up by the chasers, the Movistar man kept plugging away, latching onto an attack by Neilson Powless, before blowing past the American in the dying metres, as the Jasper Philipsen-led bunch closed in from behind, to secure a staggering and thoroughly-deserved second place on the podium.
And in doing so, Lazkano secured the best ever placing for both a Spanish and a Movistar rider at Dwars door Vlaanderen, beating Alejandro Valverde’s 11th from 2018.
Remember the name…