(Oudenaarde) Tadej Pogacar, two-time Tour de France champion, joked that he can now retire happy after winning the Tour of Flanders for the first time on Sunday.

Pogacar, winner in Paris in 2020 and 2021, became only the third cyclist to win both races, after Frenchman Louison Bobet and Belgian Eddy Merckx.

The 24-year-old Slovenian prevailed with a superb solo attack.

“I can say that I can retire proud of my career,” Pogacar said with a smile. I can be super happy and proud. »

Pogacar dropped Mathieu van der Poel 18km from the end of the 273.4km race from Bruges to Oudenaarde, beating him by 16 seconds.

Mads Pedersen finished third, ahead of Wout van Aert – both one minute and 12 seconds behind Pogacar.

Hugo Houle, of Sainte-Perpétue, finished in 66th position.

The Flanders race is famous for its small, narrow hills and cobblestones.

The cold and wet weather on Sunday contributed to several accidents.

Polish Filip Maciejuk was disqualified after he swerved through the peloton and caused a massive collision.

The misadventure knocked out 2016 champion Peter Sagan, who was in his last Tour of Flanders.

The pace, however, remained fast.

“With the speed on the cobbles, I was already suffering,” said Pogacar.

The Slovenian has also won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in Belgium in 2021 and the Tour of Lombardy in Italy in the past two years.

Of the Monument races, the two he has yet to win are Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, which has even harder cobbles than Sunday’s event.

The 2023 edition of Paris-Roubaix will take place next Sunday.

Dutchman Van der Poel won Milan-San Remo this year, while Pogacar finished fourth.