E3 Harelbeke March 26, 2021

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Who will win the E3 2021


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  • Poll closed .
I really don’t understand what you want in a race. I can understand finding a super-strong team boring if they also have the top favourite. But this was a team blowing everything up to put the top favourites in a bad tactical situation. It had action from early on, a long initially unsuccessful solo, frenetic chasing and a winner that wasn’t settled until late.
I think it was an entertaining race. As you said action started very early and attacks never stopped from then on. It was a tactical masterpiece by a team with a history of tactical masterpieces in such races.

But I wouldn't say the winner wasn't settled until late. I mean, the specific rider winning was unknown until late, but once DQS came out of the Taaienberg with 4 of the top 8-9 riders in the group you kinda knew they were gonna win the race. Of course you have the odd situation where a Stannard monster still beats them, but in 90 out of 100 possible race scenarios after the Taaienberg DQS wins it.

That's my main problem with dominant teams. They tend to make classic races more predictable than dominant riders, especially if dominant riders are incapable of reading races or using their teams (BTW doesn't anyone know what was the point of having Vermeersch up front if he didn't help or attack once Van der Poel bridged with Van Aert, GVA, etc?).

Still, this was a beautiful day of racing, which gives me good vibes for the upcoming cobble races after the disappointment of the Omloop.
 
What the hell was the plan anyway?

Van der Poel was insane for just letting the gap go out when the attack wasn't that explosive and he only had 5 meters. But the rest should aim to be on that move ASAP. You know Asgreen is gonna go again.
This may come as a surprise, but sometimes, in a bike race, people get tired. More so when there are two guys sitting on waiting for you to respond.
 
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When Asgreen was caught, I was expected Senechal or Stybar to give it a go. I sure wasn't expecting Asgreen to just sit on for a few Ks and then attack again. And I suppose that was the mistake the others were making; letting him sit on! Probably thinking "It's okay. He's been out solo for 50 Ks; he's tired!" Forgetting that Asgreen seems to be one of those riders, who doesn't really know the meaning of the word "tired".
 
When Asgreen was caught, I was expected Senechal or Stybar to give it a go. I sure wasn't expecting Asgreen to just sit on for a few Ks and then attack again. And I suppose that was the mistake the others were making; letting him sit on! Probably thinking "It's okay. He's been out solo for 50 Ks; he's tired!" Forgetting that Asgreen seems to be one of those riders, who doesn't really know the meaning of the word "tired".
I think it was Sénéchal who patted Asgreen on the back when he was brought back, a "very well done, you worked hard for us, now we are in the best position to finish it off" kind of pat. Not a "okay, now rest, and then you can try again" kind of pat. Or so it seemed to me.
 
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I think it was Sénéchal who patted Asgreen on the back when he was brought back, a "very well done, you worked hard for us, now we are in the best position to finish it off" kind of pat. Not a "okay, now rest, and then you can try again" kind of pat. Or so it seemed to me.
Maybe it was all acting, or perhaps Sénéchal thought he had it in the bag in a sprint, which he nearly did.
 
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I think we'll see MVDP and Wout bludgeoning the "wolfpack" into submisision at RVV again this year - with camera shots of QS faces similar to that of Senechal's at BB last year when MVDP locked him in the pain closet on the Muur.
those 60km extra do make a big difference also. Seen it before.

Only wolfpack guy left next week is Alaphilippe tho. And that gives them another advantage. What if, for once, Alaph decides just to sit on? With teammates behind?
That could put DQS in a very strong position
 
Might be less tired if he hadn't been pulling too much.
the thing is. It's pretty clear VDP doesn't like tactical finales. Strade Bianchi was a honest race, it's so difficult the strongest wins most of the time.
Flandrien races, the strongest can win, but it's already more tactical. VDP's mindset is just ride, because if you stop riding, you get attacks, and then you have to gamble to respond. HE rather keeps the pace in a group, do maybe a bit more work, but then still finish it in the sprint.

This time that was practically impossible with 3 DQS and yes, it would need a different approach and a bit of a lucky gamble. But I don't think he'll ever become that kind of rider. He'll lose a lot of tactical finales. Like Sagan in the past
 
the thing is. It's pretty clear VDP doesn't like tactical finales. Strade Bianchi was a honest race, it's so difficult the strongest wins most of the time.
Flandrien races, the strongest can win, but it's already more tactical. VDP's mindset is just ride, because if you stop riding, you get attacks, and then you have to gamble to respond. HE rather keeps the pace in a group, do maybe a bit more work, but then still finish it in the sprint.

This time that was practically impossible with 3 DQS and yes, it would need a different approach and a bit of a lucky gamble. But I don't think he'll ever become that kind of rider. He'll lose a lot of tactical finales. Like Sagan in the past
It helps that Vlaanderen itself is a lot harder than E3, but the current landscape is a lot more equal than that of last year, and DQS will have Alaphilippe in the race too. But IMO it's quite a longstanding trend that DQS can win lesser cobbled classics this way but that it's much harder to pull this off in De Ronde itself. Terpstra and Gilbert were on godly days when they won, Devolder is more than a decade ago and was another route.

Another issue I think is the cobbled hills are a little too short and a little too few than is ideal for Van Aert and VdP. Like they're clearly the 2 strongest on them, but it's just harder to murder the opponents and flats are more more important.

As for Sagan, I think Sagan is the polar opposite of VdP for strategic accumen. He's been screwed over plenty, but his tactical mistakes and blunders are FAR rarer. He's also notoriously great at positioning in sprints, and that's much of what's won him his 2nd and 3rd WCs.

The worrying thing for Van der Poel isn't that he makes tactical mistakes. It's that he makes very basic tactical mistakes and then goes surprised pikachu afterwards.
 
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MvdP AGAIN messed up his positioning at the moment when it mattered the most. You could see he was on his very limit on top of the Taaienberg.
I already mentioned his needlesly stupid effort after WvA came back from his flat tire, and the enthusiasm with which he kept pulling after attacking on the Tiegemberg to get definitely rid of WvA.

All of those tactical mishaps cost him dearly in the finale. But first of all: I don't think it would matter with Asgreen riding this hard, and Stybar + Senechal controlling so well. Most if not all scenario's would have led to one of those attacking in the last 10K and winning solo. There was simply no good way to chase Asgreen without investing too much in the chase, and still having something left to beat Stybar + Senechal.

But anyway, MvdP made some mistakes and he could have done better (I'll invite him for a separate zoom meeting):
MvdP said in an interview he could have used WvA to counter attacks in the last 10K together, but he first made sure he made life difficult for WvA and himself by trying to put him under pressure, even if that didn't help the chase on Asgreen and it didn't do any damage to the DQS riders controlling the race in his slipstream. Maybe he should have thought a bit earlier who his biggest threats were before ending up giving them a free ride until the last 10K, and suddenly realizing he lost all chance of winning. Same goes for AG2R who were so focused on surviving Tiegemberg and dropping WvA that they didn't think about Stybar and Senechal, and they were way to eager to catch Asgreen too soon, which enabled him to have a second chance.

The only good (but still far from ideal, considering the depth of DQS) way to catch Asgreen is to let him dangle around 10-15 seconds, while trying to regain some energy, even allow WvA to come back, but keep Asgreen in front (or you know Stybar and Senechal will attack, and even Asgreen if he can sit on again). They didn't do that.

All critics for what happened in the last 10K should realize that it was too late by that time (all tactical mistakes were made, and there was no way back): the moment they caught Asgreen, and AG2R and MvdP spend a lot of energy, it was either Asgreen, Senechal or Stybar who would attack and no way any of those other riders could have neutralized all attacks.
 
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The DQS deadlock tactics are so boring. It's legit and good for them, but just boring for the race unless you are a fanboy.
I agree, but then they would say winning isn't boring. And in the end it's still the riders' legs that make the decicion. If everyone had worn blank jerseys it would have still been an exciting race.

And chapeau Asgreen, crazy ride!
 
Might be less tired if he hadn't been pulling too much.
Well that’s another matter. And maybe he lost energy burying WvA after he cracked. And maybe if he hadn’t continued to pull then WvA would have caught back on. I love that he rides hard “too much”, it’s the last thing I’m going to criticize.

All this criticism of tactics here always amazes me. It was a great tactical race with great efforts from most involved. Someone’s gonna lose. Enjoy it!
 
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VDP should have sat up once they caught Asgreen or even before that. So Van Aert comes back, what's the problem? He brings Vermeersch with him, who can go on the attack or chase moves in the final K's. And, given past history, I would take my chances in a sprint against Van Aert, who I've beat recently on a sprint, than go alone against 3 Steppers and 2 Ag2r's. Even more cause Van Aert cracked on the last climb and with all the chase he had done he shouldn't have a lot left in the tank for another burst in a sprint.

If Quick Step were worried about Van Aert, they should commit one of their guys to keep the gap up, instead of doing shorts turns with him.
 
Reactions: Volderke
It helps that Vlaanderen itself is a lot harder than E3, but the current landscape is a lot more equal than that of last year, and DQS will have Alaphilippe in the race too. But IMO it's quite a longstanding trend that DQS can win lesser cobbled classics this way but that it's much harder to pull this off in De Ronde itself. Terpstra and Gilbert were on godly days when they won, Devolder is more than a decade ago and was another route.

Another issue I think is the cobbled hills are a little too short and a little too few than is ideal for Van Aert and VdP. Like they're clearly the 2 strongest on them, but it's just harder to murder the opponents and flats are more more important.

As for Sagan, I think Sagan is the polar opposite of VdP for strategic accumen. He's been screwed over plenty, but his tactical mistakes and blunders are FAR rarer. He's also notoriously great at positioning in sprints, and that's much of what's won him his 2nd and 3rd WCs.

The worrying thing for Van der Poel isn't that he makes tactical mistakes. It's that he makes very basic tactical mistakes and then goes surprised pikachu afterwards.
Most of his wins in CX and XC have come by crushing is opponents with pure strength, so he never really had to rely on tactics that much. Van Aert has also made a few until the 2020 season (pulling/bringing bacck attacks when other guys in the group where clearly faster).
 
@Volderke I think you completely misread the race then. VDP was trying to put DQS under pressure. Not Van Aert. It was an unfortunate thing Van Aert got dropped on the Tiegemberg as a result.

He couldn't wait for him either as they still needed to catch Asgreen at that point...
Doesn't matter what he was trying (and ofcourse he couldn't help WvA was dropped), but once he got on the top and only had dead weight in his wheel, he should have backed off a bit.
 
Thing is, it wasn't only Mathieu, it was Greg and Naesen too. People seem to overlook the fact that they had two AG2R riders and both watched as Asgreen attacked again. Does Mathieu have to do everything by himself? Greg himself admitted that they made a mistake when they didn't react immediately to Asgreen.

On the Tiegemberg it was crucially unfortunate that Wout got dropped, I don't think that, in particular, was Mathieu's goal when countering. Again, he realizes that he needs Wout against the overwhelming Steppers (in numbers).

He's never been an expert tactician because often times he's so strong that it matters much less. I just wish he could learn to dial it back sometimes, he wastes so much energy that gives him 0 benefit, on the contrary, it means he has less energy for the final.

He's already pulling more than he should, as does Wout. In the chase everyone looks to them too. I've also noticed that in sprints he tends to open before anyone and both in MSR and yesterday he paid the price for that. Had he waited a bit more Senechal probably wouldn't have gone past him.
 
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Thing is, it wasn't only Mathieu, it was Greg and Naesen too. People seem to overlook the fact that they had two AG2R riders and both watched as Asgreen attacked again. Does Mathieu have to do everything by himself? Greg himself admitted that they made a mistake when they didn't react immediately to Asgreen.

On the Tiegemberg it was crucially unfortunate that Wout got dropped, I don't think that, in particular, was Mathieu's goal when countering. Again, he realizes that he needs Wout against the overwhelming Steppers (in numbers).

He's never been an expert tactician because often times he's so strong that it matters much less. I just wish he could learn to dial it back sometimes, he wastes so much energy that gives him 0 benefit, on the contrary, it means he has less energy for the final.

He's already pulling more than he should, as does Wout. In the chase everyone looks to them too. I've also noticed that in sprints he tends to open before anyone and both in MSR and yesterday he paid the price for that. Had he waited a bit more Senechal probably wouldn't have gone past him.
I remember he once said that he couldn't understand why sprinters tend to wait so late until they launch their sprints. Perhaps he is moving towards an epiphany.
 
Thing is, it wasn't only Mathieu, it was Greg and Naesen too. People seem to overlook the fact that they had two AG2R riders and both watched as Asgreen attacked again. Does Mathieu have to do everything by himself? Greg himself admitted that they made a mistake when they didn't react immediately to Asgreen.

On the Tiegemberg it was crucially unfortunate that Wout got dropped, I don't think that, in particular, was Mathieu's goal when countering. Again, he realizes that he needs Wout against the overwhelming Steppers (in numbers).

He's never been an expert tactician because often times he's so strong that it matters much less. I just wish he could learn to dial it back sometimes, he wastes so much energy that gives him 0 benefit, on the contrary, it means he has less energy for the final.

He's already pulling more than he should, as does Wout. In the chase everyone looks to them too. I've also noticed that in sprints he tends to open before anyone and both in MSR and yesterday he paid the price for that. Had he waited a bit more Senechal probably wouldn't have gone past him.
I don't get why you're surprised. It's the same like it was with Sagan few years back. Except everybody is now looking on MvDP. IMHO, he's also not so strong compared to others as I mention in MSR thread and he probably has even weaker classics team to the one Sagan had. And as a very wise man and brilliant rider once said to young Sagan through media - "In spring classics, the power is not enough, you also need to have the know-how to win one. " Obviously this stand unless, the power of a guy is so much overmatching others, that he can respond to every attack, which also doesn't seem to be the case for both MvDP and WVA, even though Mathieu does look a little better than Wout.
 

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