Stannard Wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Ian Stannard (Sky Pro Cycling) has taken the first race on the Belgian cycling calendar. The Briton took a two-up sprint from Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) to win the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Stannard won the hilly, 198-km classic in 4:49:55. Edvald Boasson Hagen, Stannard’s teammate, outsprinted 2012 champion Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) for third at 0:24.
A moment of silence for Jan Hoet, a Belgian contemporary art director, and rider Kristof Goddaert preceded the start in Gent. When hostilities began, Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty), Stijn Steels (Topsport), Maciej Paterski (CCC), Christophe Laborie (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Andreas Schillinger (NetApp-Endura), Aliaksandr Kuchynski, and Ramon Sinkeldam (Giant-Shimano) jumped clear in the first 30 km. Attrition took its toll, and with 50 km left, the peloton reeled in the four riders who remained in the break.
A number of attacks followed the catch, some of which Vanmarcke made. With 42 km to go, a 40-strong group led the field onto the Leberg. Van Avermaet accelerated, and Boasson Hagen, Lars Boom (Belkin), Yoann Offredo and Arnaud Démare (both from FDJ.fr), Nikki Tepstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Egoitz Garcia (Cofidis), and Kenneth Van Bilsen (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) went off of the front. With 37 km left, Offredo crashed, and Boom and Terpstra powered up the Molenberg. Seven km later, on the Paddestraat, Boasson Hagen, Van Bilsen, and Demare bridged up to the pair. Thirty km remained.
Boom led the leaders onto the pave, and Terpstra followed with an attack. Boom and Boasson Hagen followed. The trio forged a 45-second lead over the peloton, but the three did not cooperate and were only 0:20 ahead of the bunch at the beginning of the last section of cobbles. Boasson Hagen and Boom exchanged attacks, but the peloton reeled in the trio.
With 17 km left, the peloton was down to 20 riders. Stannard attacked, and Van Avermaet followed. Terpstra, Vanmarcke, and Boasson Hagen eventually chased, but the two leaders cooperated until the last km. Van Avermaet jumped into the lead, but Stannard countered to win the race.
Stannard, Sky’s second winner of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Juan Antonio Flecha won in 2010), felt confident as the race neared the finish. “I knew the guys behind us had dropped off a bit so it was just about playing it right,” he said. “I felt strong on the lead-in and I was confident for the sprint. I knew 300 m [was a good distance]. I needed to wind it up a little bit and not have it be super fast.
“It worked out well. I knew I had to try and hit him as hard as I could and I was able to get a gap.”
Van Avermaet was left with his disappointment. "… he [Stannard] surprised me and took two m,” the Belgian said. “My body didn't react any more as I thought it would react. It is a disappointment because I thought I would be the strongest in the sprint. You know if you are in the break with Stannard he always keeps going until the finish. And normally I should be able to beat him in the sprint. But I think the weather conditions fit him better."
Many of today’s riders will be in other classics. How will they fare? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!