peloton / Yuzuru Sunada
The first Classics race of the 2014 season saw Ian Stannard (Sky) edge out Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), with Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) finishing in third. Of the pre-race favorites, Van Avermaet was perhaps the most disappointed after coming within inches of victory.
With 16 kilometers to go in the 198-km race, Stannard and Van Avermaet separated themselves from a select group that had been whittled down by the toll of the rain, cold, several crashes and 10 climbs that distinguish the opening Belgian classic. The pair shared the workload to hold off two pursuers Niki Terpstra, (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) and Stannard’s teammate, Edvald Boasson Hagen. Stannard went to his sprint with 300 meters to go and overcame Avermaet’s late charge to the line.
“During the final, I was really cold, but I thought I could be my best in the sprint,” Van Avermaet said. “But he (Stannard) surprised me and took two meters. My body didn’t react anymore as I thought it would react. It is a disappointment because I thought I would be the strongest in the sprint.”
Van Avermaet, fifth place the past two years and fourth in 2009, called his best result in the race a missed opportunity from a perfect situation.
“You know if you are in the break with Stannard he always keeps going until the finish,” he said. “And normally I should be able to beat him in the sprint. But I think the weather conditions fit him better.”
Another favorite that left Omloop Het Nieuwsblad disappointed was Van Avermaet’s teammate, Norwegian national road champion Thor Hushovd, who suffered a crash with about 92 km to go. The race winner in 2009 said he had no time to react on the rain-slickened pavement.
“There was braking in the front and one CCC Polsat guy didn’t have time to brake and went straight into me,” Hushovd said. “I don’t think anything is broken; that’s a good thing.”
Along with the BMC duo, riders from the Omega Pharma – Quick Step squad also left Omloop Het Nieuwsblad wanting more. Niki Terpstra finished fifth, but was not satisfied.
“Today I felt well, I had good legs,” Terpstra said. “When I attacked I went with Boom and Boasson Hagen, but when I remained with Boasson Hagen I preferred to wait for the group behind. I was pretty sure that a few of my teammates were there but only Stijn was there. I didn’t know that Tom, Styby and the other guys had a few troubles because of the cold. It’s a pity because I think that Boasson Hagen and I could have gone until the finish, and at that time I could have taken the podium or maybe try to win, even if Boasson Hagen is a faster sprinter than me. But that’s cycling. Tomorrow is another day and we will see what we can get.”
Terpstra’s teammate Tom Boonen again failed to win one of the few Classics not on his palmarès.
“It was a terrible day with rain and low temperatures,” Boonen said. “I constantly suffered in this kind of weather. In the final I had also cramps everywhere. All my muscles were frozen and I couldn’t eat. I wasn’t the only one to suffer in these conditions — also Stybar, Trentin and Van Keirsbulck had some troubles. Probably it was the coldest day of my career, even more then last year at Milano-Sanremo. Tomorrow I will take the start at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. As usual it will be a completely different race than today. Normally we will see a sprint and as usual we will try to do our best to be there and fight for the victory.”