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“You have to keep believing in yourself and one day it will come true."

Photo: Paumer Kare Dhelie Thorstad

AG2R LA MONDIALE

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ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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ALEXIS GOUGEARD

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ARKÉA SAMSIC

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BORA-HANSGROHE

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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EDWARD THEUNS

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FLORIAN VACHON

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GREG VAN AVERMAET

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IAM CYCLING

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JASPER STUYVEN

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JEAN PIERRE DRUCKER

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JENS DEBUSSCHERE

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JENS KEUKELEIRE

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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LUKE DURBRIDGE

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MADS PEDERSEN

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MAGNUS CORT

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MARCO MARCATO

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MATHEW HAYMAN

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MIKE TEUNISSEN

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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MORENO HOFLAND

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OMLOOP HET NIEUWSBLAD

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PATRICK LEFEVERE

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PETER SAGAN

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PHILIPPE GILBERT

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STÖLTING SERVICE GROUP

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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TIESJ BENOOT

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TONY MARTIN

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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WANTY - GROUPE GOBERT

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ZAKKARI DEMPSTER

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27.02.2016 @ 21:46 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) finaly claimed the big victory in a cobbled classic when he rode to an impressive victory in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the opening race on the Belgian calendar. Having joined the right move on the Taaienberg, he was confident enough to wait for a 5-rider sprint and easily held off Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) in the uphill dash to the line on a disastrous day for Etixx-QuickStep that didn’t have a single rider in the top 10.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Greg Van Avermaet: If you keep believing in yourself, your dreams will come true

Greg Van Avermaet has kicked off the Belgian Classics with winning form, clinching victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad today in a nail-biting sprint to the line.

 

It is Van Avermaet’s first win of the season, and he couldn’t be happier to do it on home soil he said.

 

“It was really important for me to win the first Classics race of the season. 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.

 

“I kept trying and it worked out. I’m someone who doesn’t give up too quickly. I knew I was at the start in great form. I made the race. We rode away on the best moment. Everybody wanted to co-operate. That’s what makes the race nice. We kept working until Gent and I managed to finish it in the sprint.

 

“This victory is very important if you see how many spectators were out on the roads, how much media attention there is. It’s very important for myself too. It’s the first important appointment of the season.”

 

“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.”

 

“My main goal is still the Tour of Flanders and to have this win already in my pocket is the best way to start the season.

 

“For me, Rodez [his Tour de France stage winand the Omloop are different but they’re both important. Rodez was in summer, really warm, about 35 degrees. This was cold and the Classics season. It’s pretty important for me to win first Classics. It’s totally different. I can’t compare them. Maybe Sagan is two times second. It’s not comparable for me. This is a new season. I wasn’t thinking about Rodez. I’m happy that I finally could win a Classic like this. It was a few times close here and I know how hard it is to win Classics in the spring time. I’m really happy with it.

 

“I’ve always said that I’m a strong sprinter. I think I’m fast after a hard race. I still believe in what I’m saying. I always say it to myself, also when I was second, when I was third... I was saying to myself that I could beat them if everything goes perfect. You have the strength to wait for your sprint. You can do it. Those two victories confirm this. It was right what I was thinking. You have to keep believing in yourself. One day it will come out.

 

“You have to keep believing in yourself and one day it will come true.

 

“A winner? Let’s see. Maybe let’s talk in a few weeks how many victories I have. I’m going to enjoy the first one. Hopefully I start for more. For me it’s always pretty hard to win. We will see. Other seasons when I had a victory pretty fast I had a second and a third one. I always have to work for it. I know how hard it is to win a race like this but I’m pretty happy with what I did. Beating Sagan in a sprint like this only gives me more confidence and more support from the team. For me, it was a really important victory with what comes ahead. My main goal is still the Tour of Flanders. This one is already in my pocket. That’s the best conclusion I can make.

 

“My preparation went pretty well. I was really happy with Qatar and Oman. I was always close there also. With a little bit of progression again. I’m 30 years old but still I feel like every year I’m a little bit better. You also see it in my way of racing. I always try to improve myself a little bit. I put it all together again today. I was pretty happy with how the race went. For me, I always get a little bit stronger. This gives me more confidence for Flanders.”

 

Gilbert, Drucker and Gerts crash out on mixed day for BMC in Belgium.

It was a day of elation with Van Avermaet’s win but also disappointment for Philippe Gilbert, Floris Gerts and Jempy Drucker who were involved in a nasty crash at the 50km to go mark.

 

The trio were forced to abandon and Drucker and Gerts were taken to hospital to have X-Rays.

 

BMC Racing Team Doctor Dario Spinelli said “At this stage we have no further news of their condition. As soon as we know the results of their X-Rays we will be able to provide an update and assess the next steps.”

 

Peter Sagan: I started to feel the cramps in the final kilometres

Heading into the day as one of the pre-race favourites, World Champion Peter Sagan did not disappoint in Belgium at the opening cobbled classic of the season with a strong display just missing out on victory. At the end of 200.8km of racing, Sagan, with number 1 on his back, was out paced in the kick to the line after over 50km at the front of the race in the day’s winning breakaway.

 

“For this time of the season I felt pretty good,” said Sagan after the finish. “It’s one month now since my last race, and I’ve just been preparing and training in Sierra Nevada. It was a hard race today and in the finale I felt like in one or two weeks I’ll be better. But for now, it’s already a good sign.”

 

Sport Director Lars Michaelsen added: “I think the race played out very much like we had expected. We had a morning breakaway and we kept our guys fresh for the part of the race where it all happened.”

 

Michaelsen continued: “We saw some nice team work to try and bring Peter in an ideal position on Taaienberg. That's when the team showed they were really strong together and that Peter Sagan is a champion. I think that nearly going for the win, more than a month after his last race at Tour de San Luis, shows Peter's strength as a rider. I consider the result of the race positive. I'm happy with the strategy we had and with the fact the team followed it. In my opinion, if Peter had more races in his legs he would have probably won.”

 

“The break went a bit early,” Sagan added. “We worked well together but in the finale I saw the gap was coming down so I made two or three accelerations on the cobbles and this took it out of me. I started to feel the cramps in the final kilometres and Greg is in better shape than me with a few more race days. But there are more important races to come."

 

“Also, it was great to race here in the rainbow jersey – it’s a great race with a special atmosphere.”

 

“I’m good. It wasn’t bad. I was again second but still for now I come here in Belgium to compare with other riders. It was a good race and I was in the front. Then Greg Van Avermaet was in front of me,” a relaxed Sagan told Sporza at the finish.

 

“It’s [the Tour of Flanders] far away still. I did a lot of work before. In the end, I had less energy and it was my first race in one month. It was very good.”

 

Tomorrow the team heads to the second in a double header of Belgian races at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne for a second shot at victory.

 

Tiesj Benoot: The headwind made it impossible for me to launch an attack

Tiesj Benoot finished third for Lotto Soudal.

 

“I can hardly be disappointed with a third place in my first Omloop Het Nieuwsblad where I started as a protected rider,” he said. “The race exploded at the expected moment, at the Taaienberg. If men like Van Avermaet and Sagan attack, you simply have to follow them. It was still far from the finish, but all top teams were represented in the front of the race, except for Etixx – Quick-Step.

 

“I could rely on a fantastic team that reacted to every attempt in the peloton. That says a lot about the atmosphere and the shape of the whole team. Also the riders that were in the front group did a great job. Everyone did his very best to defend our lead. Even Alexis Gougeard, who was at the front of the race all day long.

 

”I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to sprint against these riders. I thought for a while that I could try to ride away, but at the end of the Lange Munte it was still about twenty kilometres to the finish with a strong headwind. So it would be very difficult. Eventually I rode a decent sprint, but Greg was the best and he’s the deserved winner.

 

“My third place of today proves that I had a good winter. In Mallorca and Algarve I received the confirmation of that great form, but the Omloop is the first real test. It’s a very good feeling to stand on the podium. It was really nice to be at the start here in my hometown, the atmosphere was simply fantastic.

 

“The Omloop was the first race of the spring. Tomorrow I won’t start at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, that was planned beforehand. Next weekend I ride the Strade Bianche, a very nice race that has a lot of potential and has already become an important race. Then I participate in Tirreno-Adriatico, were we’ll try to do the final preparations for the rest of the spring. I feel really good and after this third place I’m looking forward to the other spring classics.”

 

Lotto Soudal: It was not a tactical mistake not to focus on Debusschere

Team Manager Marc Sergeant was pleased with the performance of Lotto-Soudal. "We did not win, but we took control of the race,” he told Sporza

 

In the peloton, fast man Jens Debusschere was ready to sprint. "But I never considered Tiesj not to cooperate and to put everything on Jens. You can not do that.

 

"Tiesj has also taken his own chance. And in this finish you have to give him the chance to compete with Van Avermaet and Sagan. And imagine that Jens would have been beaten. Then you have an unhappy camp."

 

Luke Rowe with mixed emotions after breakthrough performance in Flanders

Luke Rowe sprinted to fourth place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad after a hard fought ride in Belgium.

 

The Welshman spent the last 60 kilometres in a five-man breakaway that stayed clear all the way to the finish, but despite his best efforts it was Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) who emerged triumphant by outpacing Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) at the line.

 

Van Avermaet jumped first to edge out the world champion in Ghent, and right behind Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) did just enough to deny Rowe a place on the podium.

 

Immediately after the race, Rowe admitted to having mixed emotions about his performance, and summed up how things had played out on the road.

He told TeamSky.com: "I did the best I could to be at the front on the Taaienberg, and after the move had gone it was a matter of us getting our heads down and trying to hold on to the finish. Everyone committed and we managed to do that.

 

"I gave it everything I had in the sprint, but on a finish like that it's the strongest rider on the day who wins. I didn't make any technical errors, but when I got out of the saddle I just didn't have any more to give. After a hard race that's sometimes the way it goes. Your saw the same with Sagan, you'd normally back him to beat Van Avermaet, but that unpredictability is what makes the Classics special.

 

"I'm frustrated I missed out on a podium, but happy to have been in the thick of the action against some massive names. It'll give me plenty of confidence moving forward.”

 

“We knew we had to pull hard,” told Cyclingnews. When you go in front like that there’s no point messing around. We all committed. Inside the final 10km everyone started soft tapping a bit and looking after their legs and that’s the only reason the gap came down. Then we put the foot back on the gas when we realized."

 

“I’ve got a lot of positives to take from that – I’ve got to be pretty happy with the day. “Sagan Van Avermaet, Benoot: they’re three of the best, at the top of their game. Throw those three names into any Classic and any one of them could win. To be mixing it with those boys is definitely a big confidence boost.

 

“I would have been nice to get on the podium. Obviously it’s something I’ve never done. I’m a bit gutted about that – like I said, mixed emotions – but fourth place, I’ll take it. It’s a good start, and a good platform to move from.”

 

Sport Director Servais Knaven was quick to praise Rowe's performance when TeamSky.com caught up back on the team bus.

 

He said: "We're really happy. It would have been nice for Luke to be on the podium - it's a pity he's not - but that's how it goes sometimes and he rode a really good race. 

 

"If you look at it, the four strongest guys attacked on the Taaienberg and no one could bring them back. Every year something happens on that climb as it's one of the only ones where you can make a big difference. Luke was in the right place at the right time."

 

Knaven added that after a long breakaway ride, sprint finishes can become a bit of a lottery, and he also praised the work of Rowe's team-mates.

 

"It was really good to see Gianni Moscon up there today. It was his first race in Belgium as a neo-pro and he has a great future ahead of him. Andy Fenn was up there a lot too, he rode a solid race, and Salvatore Puccio put in a good stint. The guys all rode well today."

 

Looking ahead to Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Knaven added: "Elia [Viviani] is our sprinter - the man we'll be working for. Kuurne is always a special race because there are always teams want revenge after a bad day at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

 

"I think Etixx - Quick-Step will go for it so it's going to be an interesting day. If it's windy it could be a group of 30 riders who compete for the win, or it could be a bunch finish. We will see."

 

Excellent Alexis Gougeard takes fifth after long day in Omloop breakaway

Alexis Gougeard confirmed that he has one of the biggest engines in the peloton as he finished fifth after having spent the entire stage in the breakaway.

 

”I felt good,” he said. “The tactic was to try to join the first breakaway and I did it. I should keep some energy for the final fight and not work too much in the break. I managed to stay with the big ones when they caught us but it was not so easy and [sports director] Julien Jurdie told me to keep calm.
 

“It is a good day for me and for the team. I had a little trouble managing the return of the Sagan group. I was glad Julien (Jurdie) encouraged me and told me to calm down, otherwise I would have worked with them and I would probably not have made it to the end. 

”I suffered in the last km and I started to suffer from cramps. I tried but it didn’t work even if I found myself in front of 500 meters to go. I think I have improved compared to last year. I feel stronger, better on the cobblestones. But tomorrow, in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, my legs will be painful.”

 

Adrien Petit belatedly confirms his potential in cobbled classics

With a seventh place in Het Nieuwsblad, Adrien Petit had a great weekend. Victim of a crash with Tony Martin, he did a great job to get a top result.

 

"I did a good race but I'm not too surprised  because we were still four of our team in the race for sixth place ," he told L’Equipe

 

"It is a simple question of atmosphere and then, yes, I had perhaps fallen asleep on my laurels. I definitely want to get back in the game.”

 

Tactical mistake costly for Jasper Stuyven: I had excellent legs to follow the best

Edward Theuns and Jasper Stuyven sprinted to 8th and 9th places in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Saturday, and with two promising young talents finishing in the top 10 in the first of the 2016 Classics it would seem a pat on the back and congratulations would suffice.

 

However, a tactical error in the crucial moment of the race cost the team a chance at a higher placing, and Stuyven was the first to admit he made a mistake when he tweeted:

 

”I had the legs but made some tactical mistakes! Still happy with the strong performance of@TrekSegafredo, thanks!”

 

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) won the first cobbled battle of the Classics season in a five-up sprint ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal).

 

As expected the cobbled Taaienberg climb proved to be the pivotal moment of the race, and when Luke Rowe (Sky) attacked from the bottom only Van Avermaet, Benoot and Sagan responded. The four dangerous men powered away to join forces with the remainder of the breakaway, and with 56 kilometers still to race, the peloton didn't press the panic button yet.

 

"We were there; perfect all day. I felt really, really good. I was looking at my SRM near the end, and feeling like we had only done 50kms," said Stuyven right after the finish. "On the Taaienberg, I was well positioned. I saw Rowe and Van Avermaet attack, and I figured the group wouldn't let them go. I was not really worried, but before I realized, they had a gap. I was there with really good legs and tried to stay calm and to wait for a good moment to try."

 

The gap opened quickly to the four danger men, and Etixx-Quick Step led the chase until a crash by Tony Martin disrupted their effort. Boy van Poppel, fatiguing from his tireless work all day, gave the last of his waning strength to help before Edward Theuns attacked. When Theuns' effort was brought to heel, Stuyven soon countered and gained 20 seconds on the peloton and within 35 seconds of the leaders, until it came to an abrupt end with a crash in a tight corner.

 

Stuyven: "After I made an effort, I was communicating with Dirk [Demol, director] and discussing whether to wait or not and before I knew it I was down in a corner. I feel my back, I took a hit, but nothing we can’t fix."

 

Stuyven was quickly back on his bike and the peloton's chase ensued to the leaders, but it was quickly becoming apparent they were losing the fight to catch back the strong legs out front.

 

"The Taaienberg hesitation cost me," admitted Stuyven. "I should have jumped out of the gutter and followed Benoot…I am maybe missing some experience. I got a tactical lesson today."

 

Director Dirk Demol was content with the team's performance, but knew that they missed the opportunity for a better result:

 

"We came here with the intention to go for a top 5. I have to say the whole team is riding well, but in the crucial moment, they were not all in the position they should be. After that we were only on the defensive; there was not much chance to come back, they were too strong in the front. We tried to go in a counter attack - Theuns then Jasper - they rode well, but I know we could have done better than 8 and 9."

 

"Today was a good opportunity for Edward and myself because Fabian [Cancellara] isn't here, and both of us in the top ten shows we're ready," continued Stuyven. He paused, then agreed: "Top ten is great, but it could have been more."

 

Arnaud Demare taken out by collision with Kristoff in Belgian opener

Co-leader of the FDJ team in the Belgian opening classic, a lonely Mathieu Ladagnous took tenth place and even though this result could start a beautiful classic season for him, FDJ had a badluck not to see more of there riders in the finale.

 

Leading the way in a strong position after Kruisberg and just before the Taaienberg after a beautiful work of Marc Sarreau and Ignas Konovalovas, the bad luck started.

 

"After the attack on Rowe (Team Sky) with Van Avermaet (BMC), Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) and world champion Sagan (Tinkoff), the squad was still there," said sports director Frederic Guesdon. "There was still a lot of riders and there were 7 from FDJ. We only lacked Olivier Le Gac who had done his job earlier. Unfortunately Arnaud Démare was victim of a collision with Kristoff (Katusha) at the entrance of the Haaghoek. As he was good and even surprised by his feelings, I asked the team to wait for him and help him but they were caught in splits and they did not get back.

 

"That said, I had the opportunity to see that guys are physically well. And it's encouraging ... " 

 

Mathieu Ladagnous was thus left alone in a group of 40 riders that finished 9 seconds behind the leaders and he took a fine 10th place.

 

On Sunday, the same team (except Olivier Le Gac who will be replaced by Daniel Hoelgaard) will do Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

 

Tom Boonen after Etixx-QuickStep disaster: I didn’t have the legs

Cobbles, crashes and attacks, the 71st Omloop Het Nieuwsblad had it all on Saturday, when 200 riders lined up in Ghent for the 200.8 km-long race which included 13 hills and 10 cobbled sectors. A couple of hours later, 142 of the 200 starters completed the event, the victory being scored by Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) from a select group of five. The Belgian outsprinted world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) on the uphill finish, while countryman Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) held off the charge of Luke Rowe (Sky) and rounded out the podium.

 

The main attack of the day came on Taaienberg, with 60 kilometers remaining of the race, and as soon as the four took off, Etixx – Quick-Step made its way to the head of the pack to control things and reduce the gap of the riders at the front. Unfortunately, the team received a big blow when Tony Martin crashed on a cobbled section and couldn't return to the peloton, although he did finish the race (with some bruises on the hip and on his left arm). Then, just as the team managed to cut the one-minute gap to just 40 seconds, bad luck struck again, as Dutch champion Niki Terpstra had a mechanical on the Haaghoek.

 

In the final ten kilometers, thanks to the huge effort of Stijn Vandenbergh, the advantage of the escapees was reduced to less than 20 seconds, but the bunch eventually ran out of road. In the sprint, Tom Boonen was the fastest Etixx – Quick-Step rider, coming 11th in Ghent. After catching his breath at the finish, the seven-time Monument winner shared his thoughts on the race.

 

"First of all, I want to congratulate Greg Van Avermaet and the other guys at the front. We came really close, but not close enough to bring them back. Probably we were a little bit too far in the peloton before the Taaienberg, but we also had bad luck: Nikolas was caught behind a crash, Tony hit the ground, while Niki dropped his chain, these last two incidents coming in a crucial moment, just as we were organizing the chase. We lost the momentum, but that doesn't mean we don't remain upbeat. Tomorrow we will have another day and we'll see what we can do. It's going to be a different race, and we'll come at the start with confidence", said Boonen of Sunday's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, a race which will see Niki Terpstra replace Iljo Keisse in the team's line-up.

 

"In the run-in to the Kruisberg, I was held up a few times by a few crashes and a flat tire," Boonen told Sporza. "Everyone was there to fight for position. I was too far the back at the Kruisberg and from then on it was a misery.

 

"When I came back to the front of the peloton with Niki Terpstra those guys up front were already far away. I don’t need to find excuses, I never had the legs to be there with those guys."

 

Manager Patrick Lefevere was also fair. "Everyone saw who rode away on the Taaienberg,” he told Sporza. "And we were not there. I think that the strongest riders were in front for a reason.

 

"Tony Martin crashed just after Holleweg and Niki Terpstra was unlucky with his chain on the Leberg and had to chase. We got closer to the leaders, but because Tom said he did not feel great, wewaited for Terpstra. That cost the team 15 seconds and that was about the difference at the finish."

 

"We lost the race of the Taaienberg" is the analysis of sports director Wilfried Peeters in an interview with Sporza. "We lost each other a little there. We had to put that right and then Niki Terpstra had bad luck on the Leberg.

 

"It took too much time to bring him bach again. We then have started the pursuit, but we were 10 seconds too late. If Niki had not been unlucky, then maybe we would have come back. But we were never really in the race.

And Boonen? "Tom never really felt 100 percent, but that's normal, it’s the first time back in Belgium. He has not had that feeling in the past. This is a step in the right direction and that is the important thing."

 

On Sunday, Etixx – Quick-Step will ride Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (203 kilometers), a race which the team is going to tackle with the following riders: Tom Boonen, Nikolas Maes, Niki Terpstra, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Stijn Vandenbergh, Julien Vermote, Martin Velits and Lukasz Wisniowski.

 

Tony Martin upbeat about cobbled debut despite hitting the deck

For Tony Martin, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was the first one-day cobbled race he rode since the 2008 Dwars door Vlaanderen, and although it wasn't a 100% pleasant experience, he is keen on taking the good things out of it: "It's too bad I crashed. Just as we were coming out of the corner, I slipped, was forced to change my bike immediately and couldn't help the team anymore. Still, I'm happy for the first part of my race, because I felt strong and crashing isn't the end of the world. I remain optimistic and I won't change my attitude towards the Classics, as I still want to do good in these races."

 

Wanty-Groupe Gobert after solid Omloop: We can mix it up with the best

Two riders of Wanty-Groupe Gobert finished inside the top 20 of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Dimitri Claeys in 12th and Marco Marcato in 19th place. Kévin Van Melsen was part of the early breakaway from the start.

The plan of sports director Hilaire Van Der Schueren - two or three riders in the final and one rider in the breakaway - was therefore executed to perfection.

“Mission accomplished. Therefore I cannot be unhappy. I think we proved that there is no reason for complaining if we have a complete team. Today we missed two strong riders: Backaert and Thurau. If we are riding with the strongest team, we are not out of our depth against the WorldTour teams."

For Dimitri Claeys it was a special day. The inhabitant of Ghent won the Omloop twice in the U23 category and was the best for Wanty-Groupe Gobert in the elite category today.

“It was hard and difficult. The intensity of the race is different than in the U23-race. In the beginning I had to adapt to this intensity when you ride to the climbs for example. On the cobbles of Paddestraat and Lippenhovestraat it was good. I also did a good sprint. More would have been possible but I have no reason to complain."

Marco Marcato was the second rider in the top 20. The Italian captain of the team was attentively riding at the front of the peloton.

“I am quite happy for today. The legs were pretty good and the bikes felt really good on the cobbles. I was there in the first group which is a confirmation of the work that I did untill now in training and in Qatar and Oman. I still need to work hard to be better at the start of Dwars door Vlaanderen and the races that follow afterwards but I have time,” said Marco Marcato.

On Sunday Wanty-Groupe Gobert lines up for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Tom Devriendt, Frederik Veuchelen, Kévin Van Melsen, Simone Antonini and Robin Stenuit do the double of Omloop and Kuurne. Roy Jans, Mark McNally and Kenny Dehaes complete the team.

 

Oliver Naesen confirms classics potential with great ride in Omloop

"The collective performance of IAM Cycling is encouraging given the level of competition,” the team’s sports manager Rik Verbrugghe commented.  “With Oliver Naesen, we have a little gem.  Dries Devenyns regained his pedal stroke from here two years ago.  And Vegard Stake Laengen also showed us a glimpse of good things yet to come.  When Martin Elmiger was hamstrung by that big crash with 30 kilometers to go, all he could do was quietly mourn in the chase group.”

 

“I was well placed on the Taaienberg at the decisive moment,” Oliver Naesen said after finishing 12th at the race.  “In fact, I stayed within three to four lengths without the benefit of a pull.  But when I tried my luck along with another Sky rider, we did not receive any cooperation from the others.  It’s a shame because I had sworn to myself I would finish top-10 in this, my second participation in Het Nieuwsblad.  I wasn’t missing too much, though, to be able to make my goal.”

  

Sondre Holst Enger, Roger Kluge, Matteo Pelucchi and Jonas Van Genechten will be on hand on Sunday to take part in the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the second classic to open the racing season in Belgium.  They will be replacing Martin Elmiger, Reto Hollenstein, Aleksejs Saramotins, and Vegard Stake Laengen.

 

Mechanical takes Moreno Hofland out of contention in Omloop

Technical problems hindered Moreno Hofland during the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider struggled with a derailed chain and abandoed the race. The race exploded on the Taaienberg, which gave Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) the chance to win.

 

The key moment in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the opening race of the spring classics, was on the Taaienberg with around 55 kilometres to go. Team LottoNL-Jumbo wasn’t good enough to be part of the breakaway in that moment.

 

“Everyone knows that you have to be in front at that point,” said Mike Teunissen, who debuted in the race. “We were around the 20th spot in the group. The first four or five riders were able to escape, so even the 10th spot wasn’t good enough. Sometimes, you get the chance to catch up, but with the Taaienberg, you don’t. They’re gone with the blink of an eye.”

 

Nico Verhoeven was counting on a second chance for Team LottoNL-Jumbo.

 

“They broke away already earlier and they normally don’t make it until the end,” the sports director added. “You know that the race takes shape at that point, so you have to be part of the move. We weren’t good enough to follow the best six or seven riders in the race today. We had three of our men in the chasing group afterwards and tried to come back.”

 

In the final part of the race, Moreno Hofland lost contact with the chasing group.

 

“My chain was skipping,” he explained. “First, I decided to keep on riding, but I just wasn’t able to any more. I had to stay in my saddle, so I wasn’t able to accelerate any more. I stopped to change bikes in the end. I gave it all to get back, but there wasn’t anyone in front of me. That was that. I was in a good position for a long time and I felt that I was going to hold that position, but I was unlucky.”

 

The chasing group came very close to the leaders.

 

“I had some cramps in the end of the race and Tom Van Asbroeck said that he was feeling good,” Teunissen said. “From that moment, I started to participate in the chase. We came very close, but there wasn't a moment of doubt in the leading group and we just took a little too long to organise our group.”

 

Scott Thwaites impresses on Belgian cobbles

After a fast and frantic start to the first Classic of the season – Omloop hetNieuwsblad – a group of 12 riders could go clear after just a few kilometres. Within this group was BORA – ARGON 18 rider Zak Dempster.

 

When team Sky and BMC started to prepare a move at the front of the peloton, the gap dropped down to less then 2 minutes. Some riders of the leading group tried to attack and the group split into two. Dempster was in the second group and at the same time Greg Van Avermaet, Peter Sagan, Luke Rowe and Tiesj Benoot could go clear of the peloton. They made fast progress on the leaders and when they overtook Dempster Dempster, the BORA – ARGON 18 rider was not able to follow. His escape had an end about 55 kilometres before the finish line.

 

“It was good to be in the break, but it was a little bit of a shock the cold weather. Normally after my shape in Qatar I expected to go a bit further today. But I can expect a lot more in the next races as I adapt to the conditions here in Belgium I think,” he said.

 

After some crashes and frantic moments in the peloton, another BORA – ARGON 18 rider tried to make his move. Scott Thwaites and another 5 riders tried to catch up with the leaders. But when Etixx Quickstep started to take over the control of the peloton, the second group was caught with 25 kilometres to go.

 

“Schwarzi (M. Schwarzmann) and Pösti (L. Pöstlberger) positioned me perfectly for the Kruisberg where the race typically starts to split. When the front group made their move, I was just a little too far back to respond. I tried to jump across with some other riders. We spent 20km around 30sec behind the leaders, but due to their strength we could not close the gap and were caught with around 25km to go. It was a tough sprint then, unfortunately I missed out on a top ten result, but I am very happy with my condition at the start of the Classics,” he said.

 

“When Scott had been caught from the peloton it was hard for him to position himself for the sprint. Not just due to his effort in the group, but also because he had been our only rider in that group. To finish 16th under these circumstances is a really good result I think. It was also good to have Zak in the group of the day. Hopefully we can show our strength again tomorrow and deliver a good result with Sam (Bennett),” André Schulze, sports director, said.

 

Kai Reus targets return to WorldTour after fantastic ride in classics opener

Kai Reus was on track for a top result for the small Veranda’s Willems team until he punctured out of the front group with around 20km to go.

 

"You fight it for years to get back to that level. And then it goes wrong. That's bad luck," the 31-year-old Reus told NOS. "I should be happy, but I almost feel like crying."

 

"I woke up this morning and I felt so good. I told the team management:This is my day Then you ride such a race and puncture on the Lippenhovestraat. How unlucky can you..?"

 

"In October, [Speed skater Jack] Orie actually told Richard Plugge (team manager of LottoNL-Jumbo, ed.): You need to sign Reus. But they have not listened.".

 

"I have given my business card and said: pick me up. I also really love this kind of race. That is what you do it for.”

 

Florian Vachon shows classics potential in Belgian opener

Fortuneo-Vital Concept’s Florian Vachon finished in the group that sprinted for sixth. 

 

"I'm happy with my race, I start to know the roads well,” he said. “It was my 5th participation. Yesterday’s recon also helped me. The classics like Het Nieuwsblad are tough races. If you have looked at the course before, you will know if it is better to go to the right or left of the road and you will have an advantage over others. I had good legs but I did not have enough strength to do the sprint. I lacked a little freshness because the desire was there. Seb [Hinault, sports director] spoke to me over the radio. I wanted to do even better because I know he loves these races. It is always good advice and in the last 20 kilometers he gave me a boost.”

 

Difficult day for young Stölting team in Belgian classic

Today Team Stölting Service Group made its European debut as Pro Continental Team at the prestigious classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (1.HC). Mads Pedersen finished as 39th.

 

With 24.1 years, Team Stölting Service Group had the lowest average age of all 25 teams. Six of the eight starting riders were neo-pros; lead by routined road captain Michael Reihs and experienced classics rider Gerald Ciolek they would get their first breath of classics air and get to know the roads that define the Flemish spring classics.

 

Due to a cold, Alexander Kamp had to abandon the race; Sven Reutter and Jonas Tenbrock also didn’t reach the finish.

 

The Team Stölting Service Group couldn’t follow the pace of the first peloton in the final; three riders finished in the second peloton 4:41 behind the winner. Here, Mads Pedersen won the sprint of the group for the 39th place.

 

“Another hard day at the Office, still a lot to learn - but it's getting closer #passiontoride,” he tweeted after the race.

 

Sports Director André Steensen said: “I liked what I saw in the final, being represented with 3 guys in the first peloton until the crash of Gilbert, which unfortunately caught our guys behind. A lot of our riders raced this race last year already, and we improved quite a lot, and only marginals stopped us from riding for a top 10 place in one of the hardest cobblestone races of cycling. I look forward to seeing the upcoming races, it seems like the team is improving for every race and we get closer to a result, even though this race is very prestigious, with competition from most of the cobbled classics specialists.”

 

Broken wheel costly for Alexander Kristoff in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Another season of Flanders classics began on Saturday with the first cobbled day of the year and the semi-classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite taking place for the 71st time. Team KATUSHA’s Alexander Kristoff was hoping for results today, but a few mishaps along the way kept the Norwegian sprinter from playing for the final.

 

”At one point I lost Marco’s [Haller] wheel as we were going through a corner but some guys behind me didn’t realize we were going through a corner and they ran right into me, breaking my back wheel. So more or less at that point the race was over for us. In truth I was already somewhat behind and don’t think I could have caught Sagaan and Van Avermaet. Then there were crashes and lots of braking, I knew for sure it would be difficult to come back. There were so many groups all around and I wasn’t really feeling so strong that I thought I could bridge up to that group,” said Alexander Kristoff.

 

”I was hoping to feel a little bit better here today, but each year it’s about the same for me in that I don’t feel so strong in Omloop. Tomorrow is more for the sprinters and I ended up saving some energy today in the last 30 km so hopefully that helps me in tomorrow’s race,” concludedAlexander Kristoff, referring to Sunday’s second day in Flanders. At 200,7 km, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne takes place on Sunday. There are 11 climbs on the course but the last ones come 50 km from the finish, making it a perfect setting for a sprint finish, something Kristoff looks forward to. 

 

Mathew Hayman fractures radius on extremely unlucky day for Orica-GreenEDGE

It was a day of misfortune for ORICA-GreenEDGE, which saw local Belgian riderJens Keukeleire suffer a mechanical with 59 kilometres to go as he was forced to take a wheel from teammate Alexander Edmondson. Mathew Hayman was seriously involved in a crash with Phillipe Gilbert (BMC) compounding the team’s misfortunes.

 

 While both Keukeleire and Edmondson were able to finish the race Hayman was rushed to hospital for scans with a broken right radius. It is still to be decided whether surgery will be required.

 

“It was a really unlucky race for us today, we had riders in excellent positions for most of the race,” explained sports director Laurenzo Lapage.

 

“We had the mechanicals with Keukeleire and Cort (Magnus) who needed a bike change and then the crashes with Hayman and Durbridge (Luke) all coming at key moments in the race.”

 

“Once you lose some ground in a race like this on the small roads it’s moving too fast to get back on and reclaim the good positions.”

 

Although on a day when things could have certainly gone better, Lapage was positive about the team’s overall showing and the willingness to fight.

 

“Considering this was our first race with this group of riders, we did a really perfect job up until the incidents in the last 60 kilometres. We have trained and worked really hard together and I was surprised how well we were doing.

 

"Hat’s off to the boy’s, we can take lots of positives into tomorrow’s race and we all wish Mathew Hayman a speedy recovery.”

 

ONE Pro Cycling get experience on the cobbles in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

The peloton was aggressive from the start with several small moves going away, the aim for the One Pro Cyclingwas to try and place a rider in the early breakaway. After 5km of racing a group of 8 riders established including Kristian House slid into the move to once again find himself in the race long break away. Just inside 20km of racing covered four riders came across the gap to make a 12 strong group of riders at the front of the race.

 

The breakaway was allowed a maximum of five minutes before Etixx- Quickstep began to chip away at the time advantage the break had gained. The breakaway finally caught by a strong chase group after 150km of racing and finally being absorbed by the peloton.

 

With a combination of bad luck with crashes and mechanics coupled with a tough day in the saddle saw the team not get an end result that they may have wanted but a good process and a lot of learning was done by the whole team.

 

Speaking after the race Sports Director said “the goal today was to try and place a rider in the break which the boys did really well with. A good rotation saw us all over the early moves and Kristian establishing himself in the break. It was the first experience for a lot of our guys and they did well. It was a shame we didn’t have anyone there at the sharp end of the race but racing with the best in the world is always going to be tough and as long as we learn plenty from the race and keep moving forward we can be happy”

 

A quick re-group and focus sees the team moving positively towards Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in the morning.

 

Aggressive performance by Roompot in Belgian opener

The most important achievement for Roompot in the Omloop with start and finish in Ghent was the break of nearly 150 kilometer for Brian Van Goethem.

 

"It was my intention to be there and I succeeded only after five attempts,” he said about the establishment of the leading group. "It is nice to experience this in such a big race although I did not have the best legs today. After Taaienberg I tried to follow Van Amermaet, Sagan and Benoot but unfortunately I did not." Van Goethem ultimately finished 88th.

 

Sjoerd van Ginniken was a 47th, the best rider from the selection of Michel Cornelisse. The team manager regretted the adversity."Jesper Asselman crashed hard when Gilbert went down on the cobblestones of the Haaghoek. Michel Kreder got a plastic bag in his disc and Berden de Vries and Sjoerd van Ginneken had mechanical problems. Bad luck in bad moments, and then you pay quickly in these races.”

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