The highly credentialled star of the women's peloton has had a limited race season in 2021, but took a big win in her opening cobbled classics race, sprinting to the win ahead of fellow escapee Niewiadoma.
"It was an awesome race and awesome weather, but also, I want to shout-out to Flanders Classic because they put on such a beautiful, small Tour of Flanders today," Van Vleuten said. "I think they improved the course, and that was the reason that I was here on the start line, and I'm happy with how the race went."
The peloton was reduced to just 30 riders with 36 kilometres to go over the Knotenberg when Van Vleuten launched the winning attack, the Dutch star followed by Niewiadoma. The talented pair quickly opened a gap, and although their advantage never pushed beyond 30 seconds over the chasing, it was enough to ensure it would be a two-rider sprint in the finish.
Ellen Van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) made two attempts to bridge the gap to the leading pair, once with Alison Jackson (Liv Racing) and later with Yara Kastelijn (Plantur Pura), but it wasn't enough to reel in van Vleuten and Niewiadoma.
Grace Brown (Team BikeExchange) on the front of the peloton to bring the race back together for Sarah Roy, but the reigning Australian national road race champion punctured out of the front group, leaving Brown to drop off the pace-making so she could save herself for the finale.
The reduced main group could see the leading pair as Trek-Segafredo led the chase, and in the closing kilometres they were only 12 seconds behind, but that was all that the breakaway needed to seal a victory.
Van Vleuten started her sprint early, with 300 metres to go, and held off Niewiadoma to take the win. Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM) led home the bunch sprint for third.
Brown was Australia's highest-placed finisher in sixth, with young rising star Sarah Gigante (TIBCO-SVB) in eleventh.