Biting wind, the smell of frites n’ beer in the air and cobbles. YES! The spring classics season is upon us and the new look parcours for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad produced two Danish Viking victories. A non-stop thriller of a men’s finale saw Astana play a three-up blinder and Michael Valgren attack at the opportune moment to take a solo victory. Sky’s Lukasz Wisniowski took second and Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale) repeated his third place from 2017. In the women’s race, Christina Siggaard (Team Virtu Cycling Women) won the bunch sprint from Alexis Ryan (Canyon SRAM) and Maria Confalonieri (Valcar PBM).
Rider of the RaceEmbed from Getty Images
Of course, it’s Michael Valgren. His race-winning move with 2.5km to go was beautifully timed and as the others looked at each other, he got a gap and never surrendered it. But that wasn’t his only attack, time after time he made little digs as well as chasing down threats. I thought he may have burnt his matches. Astana held the whip-hand placing three riders in the decisive move of 12 that went away on the Muur. They played their cards much better than Quick-Step in 2015 and Michael put in several digs before the counter-attack to Vanmarcke stuck.
There were three of us: Oscar [Gatto] and [Alexey] Lutsenko who are faster than me. They had to choose a wheel for the sprint so it was up to me to try to attack. I tried one time but Stybar was very active in closing it down. When Vanmarcke tried, Stybar was also there straight away but I kept behind and I knew it was a super time because Vanmarcke had just attacked and I could counter that. There was a bit of a headwind so when you get just 10 metres, who is going to close that gap?”
Unless you’re born Belgian, it takes time to learn how to ride these races. This is only the Dane’s second full year at the Spring Classics. He’s a fast learner and he never gives up. 2017 saw him feature in the finales including a 6th at E3 and 11th at Flanders and now he’s come out all guns blazing. I’m expecting more of the same as the races start to come thick and fast this spring.
We’re used to seeing him put his huge power to good use for the team. Reeling the break back for his captains at the Grand Tours. He’s extraordinarily good at it, so good that I feared that we might never see the attacking rider I knew him to be from his early days. The one that took a second place in the Amstel Gold Race in 2016. I was so very pleased to see him step up and grab his chance VIKING style today, it was a joy to cheer him home.
He also made me laugh on Sporza post race…
Four things we loved
Sep Vanmarcke on the move
I’ve sorely missed the balls-to-the-wall racing and lung-busting attacks that the bergs produce. Sep Vanmarcke’s move on the Muur was power personified. Will this be the year Sep wins a big one?
A free-flying Zdenek Stybar is always a welcome sight
I’m just glad @nyvelocity got to see him grit his teeth later
It did happen again – on the Muur and for a glorious moment he and Sep were away.Embed from Getty Images
Cyclocross World Champion Wout van Aert (Veranda’s Willems-Crelan) still in the race with enough strength to make that decisive move
Lukasz Wisniowski – the real dark horse of the day
Dropped on the Muur when Vanmarcke made his move, Lucasz clawed his way back on, then kept a cool head to haul Sep back in the finishing straight. Not too sure about Wizzo as a nickname, mind. 😳
Women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Once again, we were unable to watch this race unfold as there were no live streams. We do have some highlights and thank goodness there were plenty of tweet from teams and fans.
Despite many attacks in the new Muur / Bosberg finale, a large group sprinted for the finish line. Virtu Cycling’s Christina Siggaard hit out early and left fancied sprinters of the calibre of Jolien D’hoore (Mitchelton-Scott) and Chloe Hosking behind her to take the biggest win of her career. Excellent race reviews can be found on Cycling News and from Virtu Cycling.Embed from Getty Images
It’s been quite the day – I will now go lie down in a darkened room.
1 Michael Valgren (Astana) 4:50:14
2 Lukasz Wisniowski (Sky) +0:12
3 Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale)) same time
4 Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) s/t
5 Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) s/t
1 Christina Siggaard (Team Virtu Cycling Women) 3:35:20
2 Alexis Ryan (Canyon SRAM Racing) same time
3 Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Valcar PBM) s/t
4 Chloe Hoskin (Ale Cippolini) s/t
5 Coryn Riviera (Team Sunweb)
Header: Michael Valgren and Christina Siggaard – Tim de Waele/Getty Images