Saturday 27th February – Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
The world champion Julian Alaphillippe almost pulled off a typcially swashbuckling move to take this one before getting caught on the Muur in Geraardsbergen.
He had, however, taken enough sting out of the legs of his opponents leaving the man of the early season, Davide Ballerini to easily take the sprint finish.
The perennial locally based classic contenders such as Oliver Naessen, Greg Van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke were left in his slipsteam and in my view look even less likely to land one of the big April races between them.
Having said all that, if you take the British sprinter Jake Stewart out of the top 10, the results could well have been from 2017 with Heinrich Haussler and Phillippe Gilbert rolling back the years.
It was so nice to see narrow Belgian farm tracks back on the menu and even from all the way over here in the UK, my fillings were clattering around my mouth remembering some of those crazy sectors that they had to ride over!
|1||BALLERINI Davide||Deceuninck – Quick Step||300||200||4:43:03|
|2||STEWART Jake||Groupama – FDJ||250||150||,,|
|3||VANMARCKE Sep||Israel Start-Up Nation||215||120||,,|
|4||HAUSSLER Heinrich||Bahrain – Victorious||175||100||,,|
|5||GILBERT Philippe||Lotto Soudal||120||90||,,|
|6||ARANBURU Alex||Astana – Premier Tech||115||80||,,|
|7||SÉNÉCHAL Florian||Deceuninck – Quick Step||95||70||,,|
|8||TRENTIN Matteo||UAE-Team Emirates||75||60||,,|
|9||GENIETS Kevin||Groupama – FDJ||60||50||,,|
|10||POLITT Nils||BORA – hansgrohe||50||40||,,|
Sunday 28th February – Kuurne/Brussels/Kuurne
Aka the Mathieu van der Poel show (again). There were over 80km left to ride when MvdP went surging out of the front of the peloton.
He attacked with further to go to the finish than Alaphillippe 24 hours before to start the pre-Tour of Flanders mind games.
Jhonathan Narvaez of Ineos was his unlikely co-contributor, a rider more suitable to the mountains than the bergs but both sped across the gap to the days no-hope breakaway making contact before we got our first glimpse of the Oude Kwaremont for 2021.
This cobbled beast has a special place in my heart, and not just because I enjoy the beer from the bar half way up!
After that we saw the race settle down a lot with a flatter run in and circuits around Kortrijk. A new group with some original breakaways and Van der Poel seemed to be living a charmed life off the front at about 17 seconds but with only 3km to go it looked enough.
However a long drag of crosswind was enough to let what was left of the peloton get back on.
The sprint finish saw former rainbow jersey Mads Pedersen of Trek win easily. Worthy of note was Tom Pidcock making his Flemish debut for Ineos getting up for for third place.
He will be a marked man now!
|1||PEDERSEN Mads||Trek – Segafredo||200||125||4:37:04|
|2||TURGIS Anthony||Team Total Direct Energie||150||85||,,|
|3||PIDCOCK Thomas||INEOS Grenadiers||125||60||,,|
|4||TRENTIN Matteo||UAE-Team Emirates||100||50||,,|
|5||BIERMANS Jenthe||Israel Start-Up Nation||85||45||,,|
|6||COLBRELLI Sonny||Bahrain – Victorious||70||40||,,|
|7||POLITT Nils||BORA – hansgrohe||60||35||,,|
|8||VAN AVERMAET Greg||AG2R Citroën Team||50||30||,,|
|9||VAN LERBERGHE Bert||Deceuninck – Quick Step||40||26||,,|
|10||RESELL Erik Nordsaeter||Uno-X Pro Cycling Team||35||22||,,|
There will be those who say that 2 sprint finishes and the mild weather will not make this a memorable opening weekend of classic racing but I thoroughly enjoyed it and now look forward to seeing Mark Cavendish in Le Samyn tomorrow.
This is a race which has a brutal finishing circuit and finishes in the town of Dour… which looks a bit bland!