Ian Stannard delivered one of the most impressive individual performances in recent memory as he single-handedly saw off Tom Boonen and a couple of his Etixx-Quick Step teammates to become the first man to win consecutive Omloop Het Nieuwsblads since Peter van Petegem almost two decades ago.
Rider of the race
This award really could only go to the victor, Ian Stannard (Sky). When successive attacks from a handful of the race favourites splintered the peloton and left Stannard out front with Tom Boonen and two of his strong Etixx teammates, Niki Terpstra and Stijn Vandenbergh, it didn’t look like he stood a chance. But Etixx, despite riding hard, weren’t able to put the Chelmsford Tractor into any difficulty. Instead of being steadily drained of fuel, he was able to enjoy a free tow to the final few kilometres.
But most impressive was that Stannard managed to match the steady hum of a Massey Ferguson with the acceleration of a retro Ferrari. Boonen’s leather may be wearing a little thin and his paint slightly chipped, but beating him in a flat finish is no mean feat. His ever-energetic teammate Terpstra is also no slouch, yet Stannard also managed to pip him to the post. It was a brilliant ride, and it’ll be fascinating to see whether he’ll be able to match this success in the more prestigious classics to follow.
Four things we liked
1. Action … and lots of it! Part of the reason the classics are so engrossing is that their dynamics are so utterly different to those of other races. It’s easy to forget quite how breathtaking they are. Today’s race was pretty much non-stop action from the moment Boonen shredded the peloton with a short attack with 50km still to ride. It was a gripping contest, and the finish certainly didn’t disappoint. If the rest of the classics campaign continues in this vain, it’s going to be a great season.
2. Etixx-Quick Step are fallible after all. When the final selection was made and Stannard became the filling in an Etixx sandwich, only the merging of a chase group looked like it would be able to spice things up. Surely, surely Etixx wouldn’t throw away such an advantageous position.
And then they did. The Belgian outfit contrived to completely mismanage things in the final kilometres. Instead of systematically taking it in turns to attack in an attempt to break their unwelcome companion, things descended in to anarchy, and they all seemed to attack at once. It was a surprising – and perhaps selfishly motivated – disorganisation, but it made for a fantastic finish.
3. Gilbert ploughing a lonely furrow. Cycling is often a lonely sport, with the interminable road and the unwelcome lactic acid the only things keeping riders company. The promise of glory is about the only cheering companion in such a desolate landscape, though rare does that tag along for the duration.
So it proved for Philippe Gilbert in today’s race, with the former world champ spending an agonising portion of the day alone, floating between a couple of chase groups with not even the faintest flicker of hope lighting the way. A forgettable eighth place was his eventual reward, one that probably left him wondering why he ever bothered in the first place. But here at VeloVoices, we like to recognise the unrecognised. For your knowingly futile fight, we say chapeau, Philippe.
4. We get to do it all again tomorrow! The classics are back, and coming at us thick and fast. Tomorrow we’ll be tuning in to another Belgian delight, Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne: a race that also presents nasty hellingen, leaden skies, carbuncular road furniture and, of course, heaps of frites and mayo. And don’t you just love it?
1. Ian Stannard (Sky) 4:58:41
2. Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick Step) same time
3. Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick Step) +0:08
4. Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx-Quick Step) +0:15
5. Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) +1:24
6. Greg van Avermaet (BMC) s/t
7. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) +1:29
8. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) +4:36
9. Luke Rowe (Sky) +4:55
10. Arnaud Demare (FDJ.fr) s/t
Link: Official race website