Race Report: At the end of a tough battle over the Flemish climbs and cobbles of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, top favourite Wout van Aert soloed to victory from an attack on the Bosberg from a split peloton. Sonny Colbrelli out-sprinted Greg Van Avermaet for second place.
Wout van Aert added the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to his palmarès. The Jumbo-Visma rider rode away from the other top men on the Bosberg to finish solo in Ninove. Sonny Colbrelli and Greg Van Avermaet sprinted behind Van Aert for the podium places.
The first race of the season proper
The race proper should start on the Wolvenberg, 55 kilometres from the finish, with the cobbles of Holleweg, Karel Martelstraat and Jagerij right after. In previous years the Molenberg would have been next on the menu, but due to road works it had to be missed. In the past, this is where the winning group would have formed. The organisers replaced it with the unknown Marlboroughstraat (900 metres at 4.4%) in Sint-Blasius-Boekel and Biesestraat (800 meters at 3.8%) in Sint-Maria-Horebeke.
The race then tackles the Haaghoek-Leberg-Berendries triptych, which starts 38 kilometres from the finish. This is a particularly hard section, which ends with the Vossenhol, 31 kilometres out. The Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg (at 17 and 12 kilometres) will be the grandstand for the winner of the 2022 Omloop.
Traffic jam in Gent
The Classic season has finally started on the Huldegemsesteenweg in Merelbeke, Belgium with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday.
The old and new hopes for Belgium – Van Avermaet and Van Aert
Belgium has windmills too
Seven riders tried their luck on the 100 kilometre run-in to the ‘full gas’ action. The lead group included Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange), Quintin Jauregui (B&B Hotels), Ruben Apers (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Ben Healy (EF-EasyPost) and Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X). The Dutchman Matthijs Paaschens also wanted to join them, but he couldn’t close the gap which was at a maximum of 9 minutes.
And the racing starts
The cobbles of the Holleweg after 100K
The Jumbo-Visma men closed down the gap. Wout van Aert had previously stated that his team would start in the Omloop with ambition and that was obvious. The Dutch team took matters into their own hands and pulled seven minutes off the lead before the final started at the Valkenberg.
Can we expect much from Peter Sagan?
The first attacks came from Brent Van Moer, Philippe Gilbert and the young Magnus Sheffield, but they couldn’t get away. The peloton was too keen for that. This unrest was reflected in a number of crashes. Victor Campenaerts, Alessandro Covi and Lawrence Naesen (collarbone fracture) were some of the riders who hit the road.
The teams you would expect on the front of the peloton – Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) and Iljo Keisse (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl)
Florian Vermeersch had more success on the Wolvenberg with 50 kilometres to go. Together with Loic Vliegen and Stefan Küng, he quickly crossed towards the leading group – which still had a 35 second lead. That gap rose to 1 minute.
The break of the day: Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar) and Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise)
INEOS Grenadiers ‘young gun’ Magnus Sheffield tried to cross
It was a matter of waiting for the first attack by one of the big favourites. The attack came on the Berendries, where Tiesj Benoot did some preliminary work for Van Aert by attacking with his team-leader on his wheel. Just before the top, the Belgian champion took over and the gap was made. They could only be followed by Tom Pidcock, Jhonathan Narvaez and Sonny Colbrelli. The leading group was then caught.
Can only be Flanders
Benoot went on the attack again. On the road to the Muur van Geraardsbergen he took a 20 second lead and the group with Van Aert and Pidcock was again caught by the peloton. Benoot managed to survived the Muur, but was caught on the descent. The Bosberg, in a few kilometres, would be the last chance to split the race.
A battle on the Muur
Campenaerts and Naesen made a serious attempt just before that Bosberg and started the final climb with a small lead. Their move looked hopeful, until Van Aert opened the throttle himself. No one was able to follow and with a lead of about 10 seconds, he started the final 10 kilometres to Ninove.
A clash between Van Aert and Trentin
No problem for Wout
No team was able to close the gap to Van Aert in those last kilometres and for the first time in his career, Van Aert could add the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to his palmarès.
Solo Wout going for victory
Wonderful Wout… again!
Race winner, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma): “I am very happy that I won. I didn’t think it would go so well, although I was well prepared. Because I hadn’t raced yet, I just couldn’t put anything on it. Is this my top form? No, there will be a bit more in terms of race intensity. The Classics later in the season are also a lot longer, so I’m definitely hoping to take another step forward. If you keep attacking yourself, you keep control. Because the rest won’t attack. Unfortunately they were able to return. I already wanted to get a few metres before the cobblestones, that seemed like a good tactic. The plan was to go all the way anyway. When I came up, I saw that I was alone and I drove full on to the finish”
Van Aert spoke about the war in Ukraine: “The race is just an afterthought. It’s insane that this is still possible. For what it’s worth, I want to extend my support to all the victims. I hope common sense prevails soon.”
First road race of 2022 and the fist win for Van Aert
Het Nieuwsblad Result:
1. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma in 4:50:48
2. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious at 0:22
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën
4. Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën
5. Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6. Rasmus Tiller (Nor) Uno-X
7. Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
8. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
9. Florian Senechal (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl
10. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
11. Simon Clarke (Aus) Israel-Premier Tech at 0:25
12. Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
13. Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Movistar
14. Matis Louvel (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
15. Alex Kirsch (Lux) Trek-Segafredo
16. Owain Doull (GB) EF Education-EasyPost
17. Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious
18. Thomas Pidcock (GB) INEOS Grenadiers at 0:27
19. Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ at 0:32
20. Fred Wright (GB) Bahrain Victorious at 0:42
21. Ethan Hayter (GB) INEOS Grenadiers at 1:20
22. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious at 1:30
23. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Arkea-Samsic
24. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
25. Dries Van Gestel (Bel) TotalEnergies.