Cycling: Van der Poel wins Tour of Flanders as Alaphilippe crashes out

(Reuters) - Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel beat his powerful Belgian rival Wout Van Aert in a photo-finish sprint to win the Tour of Flanders ‘Monument’ classic on Sunday, as world champion Julian Alaphilippe crashed out of the race.

Van der Poel, whose father Adri won the one-day race in 1986, launched the two-man sprint and managed to just hold off Van Aert after 241 kilometres.

Norway’s Alexander Kristoff took third place.

“They had already called my name twice, but I couldn’t believe it. I’ve asked for confirmation 10 times. I have no words for this. I am speechless,” said Van der Poel, grandson of the late Frenchman Raymond Poulidor, who won another of the Monument classic races - Milan-Sanremo - in 1961.

Alaphilippe, who had split the peloton with an attack in the Kopperberg, went head over heels after his right elbow clipped the back of a race motorbike 35km from the line after the trio had broken clear.

The 26-year-old Van der Poel, riding just in front of the Frenchman, narrowly avoided the bike on the right side of the road.

Alaphilippe eventually sat up, holding his right arm and screaming in pain before being attended to by race doctors before being taken to a hospital where x-rays showed two fractures in his hand.

“A few motorbikes wanted to go behind us, because our gap was growing, I wanted to take profit as much as possible to go behind the moto, and I think Julian was not concentrating or something. It’s a real pity that he hit the moto,” said Van Aert, who had been looking to become the first rider to win the Tour of Flanders and Milan-Sanremo in the same year since Eddy Merckx in 1975.

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson