After years of strong Omloop Het Nieuwsblad performances that didn’t quite materialize into victories, BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet crossed the line first Saturday ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff). 21-year-old Tiesj Benoot of Lotto-Soulda took third.
The three riders were among a group of five escapees that managed to outfox the peloton, staying clear to the end to battle for the victory among themselves. Van Avermaet emerged victorious in the ensuing sprint.
- 1. Greg VAN AVERMAET, BMC RACING TEAM, in 4:54:12
- 2. Peter SAGAN, TINKOFF, at :00
- 3. Tiesj BENOOT, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :00
- 4. Luke ROWE, TEAM SKY, at :00
- 5. Alexis GOUGEARD, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :05
- 6. Jens DEBUSSCHERE, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :09
- 7. Adrien PETIT, DIRECT ENERGIE, at :09
- 8. Edward THEUNS, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :09
- 9. Jasper STUYVEN, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :09
- 10. Matthieu LADAGNOUS, FDJ, at :09
A sizable breakaway of 12 riders went off the front in the early goings of the 200km race, which started and finished in Ghent, Belgium. The breakers worked their advantage up over five minutes after around 100km. With a little under 60km to go, Sky’s Luke Rowe jumped clear from the peloton on the Taaienberg climb in an attempt to bridge. He was followed by Van Avermaet, Sagan, and Benoot.
The quartet eventually caught the survivors of the main breakaway group and formed a new selection. Having missed out on the move, Etixx – Quick-Step went to work at the front of the peloton, with the likes of Stijn Vandenbergh and Niki Terpstra setting a high tempo in the hopes of springing Tom Boonen for the win. The riders up the road had less than a minute of an advantage with 25km left to race, and several of them fell off the pace, but the pack couldn’t quite manage to reel them all in.
Trek’s Jasper Stuyven made an attempt to bridge to the group solo, but he was unable to make up much ground before sliding out in a corner, which put an end to any hope he had of making the catch.
With 10km to go, only Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale) remained from the early breakaway, forming a quintet with Van Avermaet, Sagan, Benoot, and Rowe. The group worked well together to keep the chasers at bay, coming into the final kilometer as a cohesive unit in preparation for a sprint.
Van Avermaet jumped early from over 200 meters out. Sagan pushed to get onto his wheel, but he was not able to overtake the 30-year-old Belgian, who won the sprint convincingly. Sagan was forced to settle for runner-up honors. Benoot nabbed third, and Rowe, who had led the podium trio out of the peloton nearly 60km prior, rolled across the line fourth.
Van Avermaet has now finished inside the top six at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in five consecutive editions — this time, however, he came away with the victory in the end.
“It was really important for me to win the first classics race of the season,” Van Avermaet said. “I’m happy that I could finally win a classic like this because I was close a few times here and I know how hard it is to win a classic in the springtime.”
With plenty of experience narrowly missing out on big wins, Van Avermaet will be savoring his success, especially given the way he pulled off the win, outsprinting speedster Peter Sagan.
“You never know how many victories you’re going to have so I’m of course going to enjoy this one and hopefully I’ll have more to come. Beating Sagan in a sprint like this only gives me more confidence.”