February 27, 2018
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite (1.UWT)
Gent to Meerbeke (196.2 km)
Astana's Michael Valgren wins the men's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad while Christina Siggaard of Team Virtu Cycling Women takes the women's race.
Valgren made it a solo win in Meerbeke, arriving 12 seconds ahead of Sky's Łukasz Wiśniowski and Sep Vanmarcke (Team EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale).
A flurry of attacks ahead of the first significant climb, the Kapelmuur, had culled the peloton to a select group of favourites. With Sep Vanmarcke up the road a group of nine riders had made the decisive final move to haul him in, including our Oscar Gatto, Alexey Lutsenko and Michael Valgren.
After Vanmarcke was caught, the leading group expanded to twelve riders, still including the three Astana Pro Team riders. Going into the final 10 kilometers this group would be the one battling for the win. After an initial unsuccessful attack with eight kilometers to go, Michael Valgren tried again as a counter attack to one by Sep Vanmarcke. At that point, nobody could follow and it was Valgren riding solo to the finish line.
The Dane completed the 196km course in 4'50.14. Speaking later, Valgren said, put his success down to preparation and a does of good luck:
"Lutsenko and Gatto are really fast, so I needed to try something during the race.I countered the attack from Vanmarcke. The others looked at each other, being the perfect moment for me to escape. It was a really tough race, but I'm super happy.
"I have been dreaming of these races for a long time. Last year I got my chance in the spring classics and I did well in E3 and the Ronde. I think these kind of races suit me, but you need a portion of luck. These races are extremely stressful, but super fun to ride.
"This year I really focused on this. Fantastic that is works out on the first attempt. My teammates did an excellent job as well. I tried not to look behind too much, especially when a saw the gap was reasonablly big. The last few hectometers hurt, also because of the head wind."
"The day before I watched the Ronde van Vlaanderen of 2010 to take a look at the route. I saw how Cancellara won and by accident I saw him two days before Omloop in Monaco. Maybe that wasn't a coincidence".
Valgren wins Omloop Het : Photo credit: Bettiniphoto
Women's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
The women's edition of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad came down to who survived the terrain and road conditions as the steep climbs and cobbles created a war of attrition.
At first the peloton held the upper hand, with the cobbles of the Haaghoek, the climbs of the Leberg, the Berendries and the Molenberg, seeing no successful moves. This all changed at Valkenberg. Exhausted by the race so far, the bunch could only watch as nine women got away: Mackaij, Canuel, Majerus, Spratt, Hosking, Cecchini, Rowe, Longo- Borghini and Batageljc.
By the time they reached the bottom of Tenbosse there lead was 50 seconds. Any optimism that this was enough was soon disabused. The lead was clawed back to 30 seconds with 25 kilometres remaining.
With the Muur van Geraardsbergen looming, the breakaway started to lose confidence and strength and the peloton's long game began to pay off and in Geraardsbergen the front group was finally caught.
The Muur was like a death by a thousand cuts for the peloton and riders were shed with each passing metre until just 30 riders remained in contention. The Bosberg had little effect on the group and it was soon clear that a bunch sprint woudk be needed to decide affairs.
Finally, Malling Siggaard was the fastest. She out-sprinted Alexis Ryan with Maria Confalonieri completed the top 3.
Results - Mens' Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Results - Women's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad