One thing I’ve learned from watching spectatorless desert races ridden on four-lane highways is this: they make me even more thirsty for the start of the cobbled classics. And today’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was like a long, cool drink of water, courtesy of Lion of the Peloton™ Peter Sagan‘s move in the final 50km that busted the race apart. But it was Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) who took his second Omloop victory in a three-up sprint with Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale Drapac) second and third respectively.
Rider of the Race
While a magnificently hirsute Peter Sagan was the one who forced the selection as he attacked with 50km to go, bringing with him five riders including Vanmarcke and GVA, when you’re up against such a force of nature (and an astounding bike handler), my Rider of the Race has to go to the man who beat him!
There were a number of things that both GVA and Vanmarcke did right. First and foremost, they were able to follow Sagan’s decisive move – something that a lot of experienced classics riders did not or could not do. There was no PhilGil, no Kristoff, no Stybar, no Stannard – and poignantly no Boonen. Secondly, they both kept their cool and were able to follow Sagan when the world champion took to the front on every technical turn, the start of almost every climb and cobbled section from then on. Sagan had used the Wolvenburg to snap the elastic on the majority of riders, it wouldn’t be silly to think he might try the same as the kilometres ticked down to rid him of the rest. Thirdly, they continued to work with Sagan (albeit not as much as Sagan would have liked) to hold back a challenge from a Sky-led chase and didn’t start their tactical looking around, jockeying for position, until they had over a minute in hand and the flamme rouge in their sights.
And on the day, it was GVA who knew the finishing kilometre best – Sagan seemed to have been caught out by the right hand curve – and who had the most left in his legs. Successfully defending his title and beating Sagan second year running will bring him a lot of confidence for his campaign to win Flanders as well as a lot of pride in that, as a Belgian, winning in Belgium is as good as it gets. It will also please a lot of fans who will be thinking that perhaps this is the making of another great classics rivalry (that would be me).
Women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
There didn’t seem to be any way to watch the women’s race today – something that continually bewilders everyone – because, look!, we have highlights from Sporza!
As I didn’t see the race, I won’t attempt to talk intelligently about it, but you can find race reviews here on CyclingWeekly and Team Sunweb’s website, as it was Sunweb’s Lucinda Brand who brought a solo victory home for the Dutch team. She was 15secs ahead of Boels-Dolman’s Chantal Blaak and the ever-resilient Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) rounded out the podium. And if you aren’t following Sarah Connolly on Twitter, make sure you do as she continues to share great commentary and insight on women’s cycling all season long.
O Tommeke, Tommeke, wherefore art thou, Tommeke?
Tom Boonen has never won Omloop. And as he is going to retire in the Roubaix velodrome in April, he never will. Not that I think this will particularly tarnish his stellar palmares but it has been noted. Today, he was caught up in a big crash 60km from the finish – one that took down Alexander Kristoff as well – and though he got back on his bike and tried to chase back, but he was later caught up in a second crash, as he told Cycling News:
I didn’t crash the second time, but others landed on my bike and it turned out to be broken. It took a long time before I got a new bike. After that second crash we were minutes behind the leaders. I was riding there with Tony Martin. Suddenly, the team cars were flying by and it became quite dangerous. I was wondering why I was still bothering, and why I was taking risks.
He’ll be at the start line for KBK tomorrow. Just stay safe, Tom – we want to see you in full flow at Flanders and Roubaix.
1 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) 4:55:06
2 Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) s/t
3 Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale Drapac) s/t
4 Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) +0:45
5 Oscar Gatto (Astana) +0:52
1 Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) 3:19:58
2 Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) +0:15
3 Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) s/t
4 Ellen van Dijk (Team Sunweb) s/t
5 Elisa Longo Borghini (WiggleHigh5)