Van Avermaet on the Attack at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad24. February 2018, Meerbeke (BEL) — Road Team
Greg Van Avermaet showed his early season form with a strong ride at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad which saw the defending champion make all the right moves, including a final 10-rider group from which winner Michael Valgren (Astana Pro Team) made the winning move in the final kilometres.
A ten-rider breakaway was formed early in the race and the peloton, where all of BMC Racing Team’s rider were, allowed the group to gain an advantage of just over five minutes after the first hour of racing.
Francisco Ventoso went to the front of the bunch and continued to control the situation for the first 100km of the 196km race, before being joined by race debutant Nathan Van Hooydonck.
On the fourth section of the day, the Leberg, the breakaway’s advantage had been halved as attacks started to come from the front of the bunch.
Stefan Küng and Jempy Drucker continued to cover the attacks as the gap between the remaining breakaway riders and the reduced bunch continued to come down.
With 52km to go, Van Avermaet made his first move as he responded to an attack on the Molenberg, after which a 12-rider group featuring Stefan Küng established a small gap and swept up the breakaway.
The race came back together inside 40km to go for the first of many times which set the stage for an exciting finale however A crash in training the day before the race caused problems for Jürgen Roelandts who was forced to withdraw approximately 40km from the finish.
Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) was the next rider to attack solo and was able to gain a 30-second advantage on Van Avermaet’s group but was pulled back 26km before the finish line by the bunch led by Van Hooydonck.
BMC Racing Team’s strength in the race was evident with strong teamwork which saw Drucker, Küng, Michael Schär, and Van Hooydonck around Van Avermaet in the final 30km.
The group split again when attacks came on the iconic Muur - Kapelmuur and as the race reached the final climb, the Bosberg, a 12-rider selection featuring Van Avermaet had been made.
Despite a lack of cooperation in the group, the peloton remained 40 seconds behind for much of the last 10km but as the riders began to look at each other, Valgren made the winning attack inside the final 2km.
Behind, the peloton was closing in on Van Avermaet’s group and eventually came together meters before the finish line in a bunch sprint for top ten places, which saw Van Avermaet rolled across the line in the bunch.
Roelandts will not start at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday and will be replaced by Van Hooydonck.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“I am happy with my condition and I was in the group of leaders. The situation in the final was a bit strange. There was not much collaboration between the riders. There were lots of attacks but not much happening together. I think it’s a shame that it was a result like that. We were a small group of 10-12 riders and that was perfect to make a good result. My legs were good and I tried everything to win but the race situation and the headwind in the final weren’t ideal for me.”
“The team did a perfect job. They put me in the perfect position on the Muur which was the most important but also before, throughout the whole day. They kept me out of the wind and some guys followed attacks so I think we had everything under control. From the Muur and the Bosberg, I was by myself but this is normal because it was just the favourites who went. The outcome was not in my favor today. I would love to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Tour of Flanders in the same year but I have won Nieuwsblad and not Flanders, so let’s do the opposite this year.”
Nathan Van Hooydonck on his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad debut:
“It was hectic. The races in Dubai and Oman were not so hectic so I think this was just a typical day in Flanders. I felt like my legs were well-recovers from the racing in Oman. I felt good and I think i helped the team as well as possible. I would have preferred to be there after the Muur but I tried to lead out Greg a little bit before the Muur so as soon as I did this effort my legs were not good anymore. It was a nice experience. I wasn’t expecting to race Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne but it’s a nice race so I’m looking forward to tomorrow and will try to help the team as much as possible.”
“The team worked perfectly. The plan was to try to be with Greg in the final and to use one guy in the beginning to control, which was Fran Ventoso who did a great job. Then we had Stefan Küng and Jempy Drucker try to enter in the moves, which they did. It was an amazing job from Michael Schär and Nathan Van Hooydonck on the approach to the important points. Of course, it’s a shame that Jürgen Roelandts crashed yesterday. We hoped this morning that he would be ok but it wasn’t like this. With Jürgen in the final it was the plan to have him next to Greg. Maybe it would have been a different result. Greg was controlled and everyone was looking to him, and unfortunately there was no collaboration in the final. But the team is good, it is the first race, and we will stay focused and continue.”
Dr Dario Spinelli on Jürgen Roelandts:
“Jürgen Roelandts crashed in training yesterday. It was a low-speed crash but he landed on his left hip. Although, Jürgen was fine to start this morning he suffered discomfort in the race and was forced to withdraw. It is in Jürgen’s best interests to not start tomorrow in order to recover well before his next races.”
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Gent > Merebeke (196km)
Top 3: 1. Michael Valgren (Astana Pro Team), 2. Lucas Wisniowski (Team Sky), 3. Sep Vanmarcke (EF-Education First Drapac)
BMC Racing Team top 3: 22. Stefan Küng, 30. Jempy Drucker, 50. Greg Van Avermaet