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Denmark's Kasper Asgreen of the Deceuninck-Quick Step team, left, crosses the finish line to take first place in the Tour of Flanders in Oudenaarde, Belgium on April 4, 2021.Olivier Matthys/The Associated Press

Denmark’s Kasper Asgreen claimed the biggest victory of his career when he beat pre-race favourite Mathieu van der Poel to win the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.

Deceuninck-Quick Step rider Asgreen pipped defending champion Van der Poel of the Netherlands in a two-man sprint finish after 254.3 kilometres between Antwerp and Oudenaarde.

“I felt good in the last two kilometres and I decided to trust my sprint. I left Mathieu in front and stayed in the wheel and decided when I wanted to go,” said Asgreen, the first Dane to win the race since Rolf Sorensen 24 years ago.

“It was a really, really hard race, we were both on the limit.”

The Tour of Flanders is the second of five Monuments, the major one-day races of the elite calendar.

Van der Poel hit a virtual wall in the final metres as he was leading the sprint, almost coming to a halt and shaking his head as Asgreen sped past.

Asgreen, one of six riders to break away from the main group with 37 km left, attacked 26 km from the line and was only followed by Van der Poel and Belgian Wout van Aert.

Van der Poel then produced of his trademark brutal attacks in the penultimate hill, dropping Van Aert and Asgreen, only for the Dane to come back on a flat section.

A faster sprinter, Van der Poel however was on an empty tank while Asgreen still had a bit of strength to add to his victory in the E3 Saxo Bank classic last month.

Belgian Greg van Avermaet took third place.

Earlier, Swiss Michael Schaer was disqualified for littering outside designated areas.

The AG2R-Citroen rider was told to leave the race by stewards 107 kilometres from the finish after he disposed of a bottle where not permitted.

The sanction came three days after the new International Cycling Union’s rule came into force.