The Dane showcased his strength on the rough cobbles of Flanders and became one of the youngest riders this century to finish in the top 3.
One year ago, Kasper Asgreen was signing with Deceuninck – Quick-Step three months into the season and shortly after made his first appearance with the team as part of the roster that helped Fabio Jakobsen take the win at Scheldeprijs. From there, he lined out at the start of the Vuelta a España and proved of immense help for the World Tour leaders, before capping off a memorable year by taking the gold medals at the last ever edition of the World TTT Championships for trade teams, in Innsbruck.
Fast forward a few months, and the ever-improving Dane has recorded a phenomenal first ever podium finish at the 103rd Ronde van Vlaanderen, after a sumptuous performance which saw him leave an indelible mark on the season’s first cobbled Monument (270.1 kilometers) and earn plaudits at the end of a hard day which he concluded ahead of World Champions and multiple Monument winners.
“My job at the beginning of the race was to control the breakaway and get the team into position before the main hills of the day. Then, as the race progressed and the peloton got whittled down, I tried to go into some of the moves and keep an eye on things”, said an upbeat Kasper of the role he had at the start of his just second Monument since making the step to the World Tour.
Kasper’s ride and result were made even more impressive by the fact that the 24-year-old initially had other duties, sharing the workload at the head of the bunch with Tim Declercq and Iljo Keisse behind the four escapees who managed to stretch out their advantage to eight minutes. Not only that the contributed to the chase with some long stints, but Asgreen also jumped away from the field with 50 kilometers to go, tracking a dangerous move of Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R) and Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education).
The trio were joined by Dylan Van Baarle (Team Sky), and against all expectations, carved out a lead hovering around half a minute as they prepared to take on the Oude Kwaremont – Paterberg combination for the second and final time. Their advantage was scratched with relative ease by the favourites’ group, who made the catch on the penultimate hill, where Alberto Bettiol (EF Education) fired away, carving out a small gap which he eventually carried all the way to the line.
Despite the victory being out of reach with three kilometers to go, consequence of a lack of cooperation between the riders in the chasing group, Asgreen still threw in another dig and opened and maintained a small gap over the others on the flat run-in to Oudenaarde, soloing to second for Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s 14th top 3 finish in 18 participations at the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
“When Bettiol passed me, it was impossible to follow, so I just tried to hang in there with the main group. As we approached the finish and I still had something left in the legs, I decided to attack and pressed on seeing that there was some daylight between me and the others. Second is a huge result for my career, one that surprises me, but also a step in the right direction, which feeds my confidence ahead of the next races”, concluded Kasper after his well-deserved podium, which came on the back of an imperious ride.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images