Van der Poel takes Tour of Flanders after Alaphilippe's dramatic crash
Dutchman beats rival Wout van Aert in the final Monument of 2020 after Julian Alaphilippe fractured his hand crashing into a support motorbike. Chantal van den Broek-Blaak won the women's race.
Mathieu van der Poel clinched a thrilling sprint victory at the Tour of Flanders to win his first career Monument race, beating rival Wout van Aert to the line in the rain in Oudenaarde.
It was a dramatic end to the fourth and final one-day Monument of the season, as world champion Julian Alaphilippe, who had been in the lead group with both van der Poel and van Aert, crashed out with 35 km to go after hitting a slow-moving support motorbike.
In a race reduced by nearly 25 km from its usual distance and with a route that was not publicised ahead of the race to avoid crowds gathering during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Dutchman repeated the feats of his father Adri (who won the race in 1986).
"It's incredible," he said after being asked about following in his father's footsteps.
Alaphilippe was taken to hospital after clutching his right elbow and howling in pain following the crash. The weather was still dry at the time of the incident.
His Deceuninck-QuickStep team released a statement saying he had gone to hospital where two metacarpal bone fractures in his right hand were discovered.
The 28-year-old Frenchman will undergo surgery on Monday morning.
Meanwhile, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak made it double delight for the Netherlands with a solo victory in the women's race.
The 2017 world road race champion attacked 15 km from home on the race's last ascent up Oude Kwaremont, and despite attempts by the chase group to bridge across, managed to hold her lead to the line.
Alaphilippe threatens, then crashes
The morning's early break made it to 50 km to go in the 243-km race before being caught by the peloton.
World champion Alaphilippe of Elegant-Quickstep and Ineos Grenadiers' Dylan van Baarle were the first to attempt a move, attacking before the Koppenberg climb. While they were quickly caught by the group, it was a sign of Alaphilippe's desire to show something in his race debut while wearing the rainbow jersey.
The decisive move came when Alaphilippe and van der Poel, riding for Pro Continental team Alpecin-Fenix, attacked on the Steenbeekdries with 39 km to go, joined shortly after by van Aert.
Despite their rivalry – the trio were the favourites to win the race – the leaders worked together at the front to keep the chase group at bay.
However, drama followed when Alaphilippe, riding third in the group, found himself unsighted by the two men in front of him as they swerved out of the way of a slow-moving support moto.
The Frenchman had little chance of avoiding a collision and flipped into the air, landing on his right side and appearing to hurt his elbow.
Fans obey rules as old rivals duel it out
The two men left at the front of the race rode together all the way into Oudenaarde, with the chasers appearing to settle for a sprint for third despite a late attempt by Oliver Naesen to bridge the gap to the leaders.
While there were some fans by the roadside at and near the finish, they largely abided by social distancing rules. A request from organisers for fans to stay at home appeared to have been followed, with only limited numbers supporting the riders and almost no fans turning up at the start in Antwerp.
With no pressure from the group behind them, van der Poel and van Aert were able to methodically plan the sprint.
Home hope van Aert was happy to let his rival lead out, sitting on van der Poel's wheel until the last 150 metres.
But the Belgian was unable to get past as van der Poel crossed the line first by a third of a wheel to emulate his father, 34 years on.