Whatever the outcome at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) won’t be leaning on his truncated build-up to the Classics as an explanation. Treatment for a long-standing back injury delayed the start of his road season until Milan-San Remo just ten days ago, but he already looked to be hitting top speed during his time in Italy, starting with third place on the Via Roma.

Last Friday afternoon, just as his eternal rival Wout van Aert was in the process of annexing the E3 Saxo Bank Classic 1,300km to the north, Van der Poel offered a further reminder of his own Ronde credentials by winning stage 4 of the Settimana Coppi e Bartali in Montecatini.


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