The cobbled classic began today with the first race of the “Opening Weekend”, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. With a tough 200 kilometre long parcours awaiting the riders, combined with swirling winds and strong rain, it proved to be a really tough day out in the saddle.
An early break was able to form after the flag drop and they quickly built up their lead to over seven minutes at one point. Yet, with exposed sections of road looming in the distance, the bunch soon increased the pace and the gap began to tumble.
The peloton split into several groups, with Nils Eekhoff riding strongly to make the front group of 16. However, the route then turned into a headwind and the pace once again slowed down and the peloton was able to regroup. Tiesj Benoot made some testing attacks but wasn’t able to make anything stick before Søren Kragh Andersen escaped in a breakaway group with 70 kilometres to go.
With a lot of teams represented, their advantage grew out to over two minutes as the number of cobble sections, climbs and kilometres ticked by. In the peloton behind Benoot did a great job to follow and mark any dangerous attacks and as the race entered the final 20 kilometres Kragh Andersen’s group held a lead of one minute and 40 seconds.
On the famous Muur, Lampaert and Stuyven put the pressure on in the breakaway, splitting the group. Kragh Andersen dug deep to gain contact with them over the top and the trio worked well over the Bosberg to hold off the chasers. Heading into the final three kilometres to go they had an advantage of 20 seconds and the attacks started. On his limit, Kragh Andersen was unable to follow the duo, but dug deep and crossed the line for a strong third place in what was his opening race of the season.
|1||STUYVEN Jasper||Trek - Segafredo||5:03:24||300|
|2||LAMPAERT Yves||Deceuninck - Quick Step||,,||250|
|3||KRAGH ANDERSEN Søren||Team Sunweb||0:06||215|
|14||BENOOT Tiesj||Team Sunweb||1:28||25|
|DNF||EEKHOFF Nils||Team Sunweb||-||-|
|DNF||PEDERSEN Casper||Team Sunweb||,,||-|
|DNF||SÜTTERLIN Jasha||Team Sunweb||,,||-|
|DNF||DENZ Nico||Team Sunweb||,,||-|
|DNF||ARNDT Nikias||Team Sunweb||,,||-|