peloton / Sky / Yuzuru Sunada
Cold and wet conditions marked the start of the Classics campaign as 198.4km greeted the riders in Belgium’s cycling heartland. After a flurry of early attacks leaving Gent it didn’t take long for a break to stick. Eight riders, largely representing Pro-Continental teams, headed up the road as Omega Pharma – Quick-Step took up the gauntlet back in the pack.
The break stretched out its advantage to over four minutes after tackling the famous climb of the Muur. Team Sky began to move up ahead of the Kruisberg, Bernhard Eisel helping to position his team-mate as the rain began to fall harder. Wet roads and a battle for position resulted in a spate of crashes.
Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) launched the first big attack on the Taaienberg, shut down quickly by Stannard. Omega Pharma-Quick-Step sent Niki Terpstra up the road ahead of the Wolvenberg to form another dangerous move, but with the race becoming stretched Team Sky again stepped up to bring things back together with 50km to go.
The penultimate climb of the Leberg saw a dangerous group of seven form, but quickly split as a crash from Yoann Offredo (FDJ), turning left onto the final climb of the Molenberg, meant Boasson Hagen was forced to check up. That allowed Lars Boom (Belkin) and Terpstra a slight gap, while the Norwegian set about shutting down the gap, dragging along Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Kenneth Vanbilsen (Topsport Vlaanderen) in the process.
With BMC Racing and Garmin-Sharp chasing behind, the front five became three on the Lippehovestraat – Boasson Hagen sitting on the wheel as Terpstra accelerated along with Boom. With 23km to go the complexion changed as a puncture for Boom removed him from the equation. With Terpstra less willing to ride, Boasson Hagen tried to distance his rival with attacks as a 14-man chasing group clawed back time. The inevitable regroup with 16km to go was the chance Stannard needed and he attacked immediately with Van Avermaet on his wheel, a move which would prove to be a winning one.
“I knew the guys behind us had dropped off a bit so it was just about playing it right,” said Stannard. “I felt strong on the lead-in and I was confident for the sprint. I knew 300 meters [was a good distance]. I needed to wind it up a little bit and not have it be super fast. It worked out well. I knew I had to try and hit him as hard as I could and I was able to get a gap.”
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
1. Ian Stannard (GBr/Sky)
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel/BMC)
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor/Sky)
4. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel/Belkin)
5. Niki Terpstra (Ned/Omega Pharma Quick Step)
6. Jempy Drucker (Lux/Wanty – Groupe Gobert)
7. Taylor Phinney (USA/BMC)
8. Dries Devenyns (Bel/Team Giant – Shimano)
9. Egoitz Garcia Echeguibel (Spa/Cofidis)
10. Arnaud Demare (Fra/FDJ.fr)