Michael Valgren (Astana) won the 73rd edition of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday in Meerbeke with a late attack out of a select group in the final kilometers. Lukasz Wiśniowski (Sky) was second and Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac) rounded out the podium.
“It’s been a dream of mine to do these races,” Valgren said at the finish. “I was a bit locked in my first years with Saxo Bank and I was with Contador. Last year, they gave me a chance, I performed well in E3 and Flanders. This year, I’ve only been focusing on this. It’s amazing that I won, I am super happy.”
The race marked the opening of the spring classics and a new Omloop Het Nieuwsblad route meant the riders tackled the famed Muur van Garaardsbergen-Bosberg double deep in the finale of the race. A select group of nine riders formed after the Muur, which saw Vanmarcke put down a blistering attack. He had a small gap over the other top contenders, as he rode by the Church at the top of the Muur with about 15 kilometers remaining. Stybar bridged to Vanmarcke to create a leading duo, but they would be brought back before the ascent of the Bosberg.
The riders in the chasing group included two-time defending champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), three-time cyclocross world champion Wout van Aert (Vérandas Willems-Crelan), Belgian national road champion Oliver Naesen (Ag2r-La Mondiale), fast-men Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) and Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), and three Astana riders.
Wiśniowski and Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) made the junction to the group just before the Boseberg, but both would be dropped straightaway. However, the Sky rider would find the strength to chase back on, again.
Over the final kilometers into Meerbeke, the leading group attacked each other time and time again, as no one had been able to get away on the Bosberg. Vanmarcke had a go with about two kilometers remaining, but that was shut down quickly. Valgren then counterattacked and everyone else in the group simply watched him ride away and didn’t react to his move.
After the final right-hand turn into the finishing straight, Vanmarcke attacked again in pursuit of Valgren, but it was much too late at this point. Wiśniowski somehow found the strength to jump out of the group in pursuit of Vanmarcke, as the other riders waited for the sprint.
Wiśniowski would pass a fading Vanmarcke to take second, as the remnants of the peloton, which was led by FDJ and Lotto Soudal in the closing kilometers, caught the former leaders in the final couple hundred meters. Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) led the group home to take fourth with Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) finishing fifth. Vanmarcke had been able to hang on for third.
- 1. Michael Valgren, ASTANA PRO TEAM, in 4:50:14
- 2. Łukasz Wiśniowski, TEAM SKY, at 0:12
- 3. Sep Vanmarcke, TEAM EF EDUCATION FIRST-DRAPAC P/B CANNONDALE, at 0:12
- 4. Jasper Stuyven, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 0:12
- 5. Philippe Gilbert, QUICK-STEP FLOORS, at 0:12
- 6. Edward Theuns, TEAM SUNWEB, at 0:12
- 7. Bert Van Lerberghe, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CRéDITS, at 0:12
- 8. Sonny Colbrelli, BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 0:12
- 9. Arnaud Demare, FDJ, at 0:12
- 10. Marcus Burghardt, BORA – HANSGROHE, at 0:12
For the 2018 edition of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the organizers changed the route and had the peloton start from Gent and finish in Meerbeke. Meerbeke was the finishing town of the Tour of Flanders from 1973 to 2011 and thus, the brutal Muur van Geraardsbergen-Bosberg finale was back in a cobbled classic. The riders had a total of 196 kilometers and 13 climbs to cover on Saturday. Many of the climbs were cobbled and there were also a few flat sectors of cobblestones to factor into the mix.
A 10-rider breakaway escaped in the early kilometers of the race and included Aleksejs Saramotins (Bora-Hansgrohe), Marco Mathis (Katusha-Alpecin), Michael Van Staeyen, Kenneth Vanbilsen (Cofidis),Tim Ariesen, Brian Van Goethem (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Edward Planckaert (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Michael Carbel (Fortuneo-Samsic), Dries De Bondt (Vérandas Willems-Crelan), and Ludwig De Winter (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic).
Though there were a few climbs and cobble sectors after the first hour of racing, the race truly didn’t get going until the Den Ast climb just before the 100-kilometer mark. From then on, it was climb after climb until the finish.
With 53 kilometers to go, the race was full on and the riders hit the Molenberg with absolute force. Many riders attacks including Tim Wellens of Lotto Soudal. The Belgian was very active at the front. Van Avermaet also showed his face at the front.
A select group of 12 riders formed shortly after the Molenberg and contained many of the race’s heavy hitters. Naesen was present, along with Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Stybar, and Arnaud Demare (FDJ).
After this dangerous move was brought back into the fold, 23-year-old and former Omloop podium finisher Tiesj Benoot attacked at the bottom of the Valkenberg. Benoot was left to go on his own and the chances of him making it all the way to the finish alone were very slim. He still had over 40 kilometers to go. He was caught just after the Tenboose with 25 kilometers left to race. Only the famed climbs of the Muur and Bosberg remained and the peloton was all together.
The run-in to the Muur was intense with an incredibly high speed in the bunch and riders fighting hard for position at the front. The Muur is incredibly steep and also narrow, meaning no matter how strong a rider is, if he’s too far back in the group he will miss the winning move.
On the Muur, it was Vanmarcke who attacked, but his move would not stick. Naesen had go on the Bosberg and he was joined by Van Avermaet and Vanmarcke, but even those three strong riders could not hold off the others.
With two kilometers to go, the race looked to be coming down to a select bunch, as nobody was able to escape from the 12-rider group. Meanwhile, FDJ and Lotto Soudal were not represented among the leaders and were charging hard at the front of a large chase group. The chase group was closing fast.
Vanmarcke put in a dig, but was shut down immediately by Stybar and then Valgren pounced. The Dane made his move at exactly the right moment and immediately opened an almost insurmountable gap. In the lead group, there was a lot of looking around, as nobody wanted to waste their energy chasing this late in the race. The fear was that if a rider helped chase down Valgren, then he would have no shot in the sprint to the line.
The looking around backfired on the leaders, as Valgren crossed the line solo to take the victory. Wiśniowski and Vanmarcke jumped away in the finishing straight to take second and third. They did this not a moment too soon, as the other leaders were caught by the hard-charging chase group.
The spring classics continue Sunday with Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. The route for “KBK” is a fair bit easier than Omloop and the race should end in a bunch gallop to the line, though that has not happened the last two years.
- 1. Michael Valgren Andersen, (DEN) ASTANA PRO TEAM, in 04:50:14
- 2. Lukasz Wisniowski, (POL) TEAM SKY, at 0:00:12
- 3. Sep Vanmarcke, (BEL) TEAM EF EDUCATION FIRST – DRAPAC P/B CANNONDALE, at 0:00:12
- 4. Jasper Stuyven, (BEL) TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 0:00:12
- 5. Philippe Gilbert, (BEL) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 0:00:12
- 6. Edward Theuns, (BEL) TEAM SUNWEB, at 0:00:12
- 7. Bert Van Lerberghe, (BEL) COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at 0:00:12
- 8. Sonny Colbrelli, (ITA) BAHRAIN – MERIDA, at 0:00:12
- 9. Arnaud Demare, (FRA) FDJ, at 0:00:12
- 10. Marcus Burghardt, (GER) BORA – HANSGROHE, at 0:00:12
- 11. Owain Doull, (GBR) TEAM SKY, at 0:00:12
- 12. Mads Würtz Schmidt, (DEN) TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN, at 0:00:12
- 13. Scott Thwaites, (GBR) TEAM DIMENSION DATA, at 0:00:12
- 14. Sacha Modolo, (ITA) TEAM EF EDUCATION FIRST – DRAPAC P/B CANNONDALE, at 0:00:12
- 15. Dries Van Gestel, (BEL) SPORT VLAANDEREN – BALOISE, at 0:00:12
- 16. Timo Roosen, (NED) TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at 0:00:12
- 17. Amaury Capiot, (BEL) SPORT VLAANDEREN – BALOISE, at 0:00:12
- 18. Silvan Dillier, (SUI) AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 0:00:12
- 19. Amund Grøndahl Jansen, (NOR) TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at 0:00:12
- 20. Zdenek Štybar, (CZE) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 0:00:12
- 21. Jens Keukeleire, (BEL) LOTTO SOUDAL, at 0:00:12
- 22. Stefan KÜng, (SUI) BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:00:12
- 23. Magnus Cort Nielsen, (DEN) ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:00:12
- 24. Stijn Vandenbergh, (BEL) AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 0:00:12
- 25. Marco Marcato, (ITA) UAE TEAM EMIRATES, at 0:00:12
- 26. Baptiste Planckaert, (BEL) TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN, at 0:00:12
- 27. Oliver Naesen, (BEL) AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 0:00:12
- 28. Yoann Offredo, (FRA) WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at 0:00:12
- 29. Pierre Luc Perichon, (FRA) TEAM FORTUNEO – SAMSIC, at 0:00:12
- 30. Jean-Pierre Drucker, (LUX) BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:00:12
- 31. Maarten Wynants, (BEL) TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at 0:00:12
- 32. Wout Van Aert, (BEL) VERANDA’S WILLEMS – CRELAN, at 0:00:12
- 33. Frederik Backaert, (BEL) WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at 0:00:12
- 34. Anthony Turgis, (FRA) COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at 0:00:12
- 35. Alex Kirsch, (LUX) WB AQUA PROTECT VERANCLASSIC, at 0:00:12
- 36. Yves Lampaert, (BEL) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 0:00:12
- 37. Patrick MÜller, (SUI) VITAL CONCEPT CYCLING CLUB, at 0:00:12
- 38. Oscar Gatto, (ITA) ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:00:12
- 39. Sean De Bie, (BEL) VERANDA’S WILLEMS – CRELAN, at 0:00:12
- 40. Julien Vermote, (BEL) TEAM DIMENSION DATA, at 0:00:12
- 41. Maxime Vantomme, (BEL) WB AQUA PROTECT VERANCLASSIC, at 0:00:12
- 42. Alexey Lutsenko, (KAZ) ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:00:12
- 43. Dion Smith, (NZL) WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at 0:00:12
- 44. Kristijan Koren, (SLO) BAHRAIN – MERIDA, at 0:00:12
- 45. Luke Durbridge, (AUS) MITCHELTON – SCOTT, at 0:00:12
- 46. Christopher Juul Jensen, (DEN) MITCHELTON – SCOTT, at 0:00:12
- 47. Søren Kragh Andersen, (DEN) TEAM SUNWEB, at 0:00:12
- 48. Andreas Schillinger, (GER) BORA – HANSGROHE, at 0:00:12
- 49. Thomas Sprengers, (BEL) SPORT VLAANDEREN – BALOISE, at 0:00:12
- 50. Greg Van Avermaet, (BEL) BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:00:12
- 51. Dylan Van Baarle, (NED) TEAM SKY, at 0:00:12
- 52. Niki Terpstra, (NED) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 0:00:12
- 53. Michael Hepburn, (AUS) MITCHELTON – SCOTT, at 0:00:12
- 54. Daniel Oss, (ITA) BORA – HANSGROHE, at 0:00:12
- 55. Matteo Trentin, (ITA) MITCHELTON – SCOTT, at 0:00:12
- 56. Ramon Sinkeldam, (NED) FDJ, at 0:00:12
- 57. Bert-Jan Lindeman, (NED) TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at 0:00:32
- 58. Aime De Gendt, (BEL) SPORT VLAANDEREN – BALOISE, at 0:00:41
- 59. Tiesj Benoot, (BEL) LOTTO SOUDAL, at 0:01:29
- 60. Jasper De Buyst, (BEL) LOTTO SOUDAL, at 0:01:48
- 61. Nico Denz, (GER) AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 0:02:42
- 62. Gediminas Bagdonas, (LTU) AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 0:02:42
- 63. Jenthe Biermans, (BEL) TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN, at 0:02:42
- 64. Michael SchÄr, (SUI) BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:02:42
- 65. Floris Gerts, (NED) ROOMPOT – NEDERLANDSE LOTERIJ, at 0:02:42
- 66. Nathan Van Hooydonck, (BEL) BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:02:42
- 67. Grega Bole, (SLO) BAHRAIN – MERIDA, at 0:02:42
- 68. Thomas Leezer, (NED) TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at 0:02:42
- 69. Tim Wellens, (BEL) LOTTO SOUDAL, at 0:02:42
- 70. Laurens De Vreese, (BEL) ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:02:42
- 71. Ben Swift, (GBR) UAE TEAM EMIRATES, at 0:02:42
- 72. Reto Hollenstein, (SUI) TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN, at 0:02:42
- 73. Luka Pibernik, (SLO) BAHRAIN – MERIDA, at 0:02:42
- 74. Stijn Devolder, (BEL) VERANDA’S WILLEMS – CRELAN, at 0:02:42
- 75. Dmitriy Gruzdev, (KAZ) ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:02:42
- 76. Viacheslav Kuznetsov, (RUS) TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN, at 0:02:42
- 77. Bert De Backer, (BEL) VITAL CONCEPT CYCLING CLUB, at 0:02:42
- 78. Bryan Coquard, (FRA) VITAL CONCEPT CYCLING CLUB, at 0:02:42
- 79. Jelle Wallays, (BEL) LOTTO SOUDAL, at 0:02:42
- 80. Johan Le Bon, (FRA) VITAL CONCEPT CYCLING CLUB, at 0:02:42
- 81. Olivier Le Gac, (FRA) FDJ, at 0:06:14
- 82. Alexander Edmondson, (AUS) MITCHELTON – SCOTT, at 0:06:14
- 83. Nils Politt, (GER) TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN, at 0:09:12
- 84. Ivan Garcia Cortina, (ESP) BAHRAIN – MERIDA, at 0:09:12
- 85. Fabio Felline, (ITA) TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 0:09:12
- 86. Fernando Gaviria Rendon, (COL) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 0:09:12
- 87. Cyril Lemoine, (FRA) COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at 0:09:12
- 88. Mitchell Docker, (AUS) TEAM EF EDUCATION FIRST – DRAPAC P/B CANNONDALE, at 0:09:12
- 89. Matti Breschel, (DEN) TEAM EF EDUCATION FIRST – DRAPAC P/B CANNONDALE, at 0:09:12
- 90. Dimitri Claeys, (BEL) COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at 0:09:12
- 91. Lars Bak Ytting, (DEN) LOTTO SOUDAL, at 0:12:16
- 92. Mads Pedersen, (DEN) TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 0:12:16
- 93. Aleksejs Saramotins, (LAT) BORA – HANSGROHE, at 0:12:16
- 94. Truls KorsÆth, (NOR) ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:12:16
- 95. Ludwig De Winter, (BEL) WB AQUA PROTECT VERANCLASSIC, at 0:12:16
- 96. Boy Van Poppel, (NED) TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 0:12:16
- 97. Bram Tankink, (NED) TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at 0:12:16
- 98. Edward Planckaert, (BEL) SPORT VLAANDEREN – BALOISE, at 0:12:16