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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, February 26, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly. - R. Buckminster Fuller

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Van Avermaet goes back-to-back at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

BMC sent me this report:

25 February, 2017, Gent (BEL): Greg Van Avermaet claimed his second consecutive win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with a stunning sprint to the line ahead of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgohe) and Seb Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team).

The opening Classic of the season proved as tough as they come with a strong field vying for the UCI WorldTour win. It took over an hour for a breakaway of six riders to go clear, with the group eventually gaining eight minutes on the peloton.

A huge crash took out half the bunch with 62km to go, side-lining Daniel Oss and Floris Gerts, and many of the pre-race favorites. With BMC Racing Team up the front, Greg Van Avermaet avoided any trouble and was in the perfect position on the next cobbled section where the race opened up.

Just 7km later, Van Avermaet was in a group of just eleven riders closing in on the breakaway and with 40km to go, the catch was made.

Van Avermaet, Sagan and Vanmarcke were in the lead 20km before the finish line, and it was this trio that would hold off the reduced peloton and battle it out for the win. The three riders were eyeing each other in the final 2km but it was Van Avermaet who was positioned well on the inside approaching the line and sprinted to claim his first win of the season.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet makes it two in a row

Interview with Greg Van Avermaet:

Greg, congratulations! How hard was the race today?

"The race was really hard. It was a beautiful race and we made it hard together with Peter Sagan. We opened up the race at the right time at Eikenberg. It was really nice to come with three guys to the finish and wonderful that I could finish it off. I had confidence from last year that I could win in a sprint on this finish and in the end, it was a good sprint and I am really happy with what I did today."

How does it feel to be Olympic Champion and to win here at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad twice in a row?

"It's an amazing feeling. Last year, my season started here with a big victory and now it's the same this year. It's nice to come home and to win the first race on home ground. It's just such a nice feeling with so many fans out on the road and for me, it is the perfect start to the season."

Does this give you confidence for the rest of the Classics season?

"Flanders is my biggest goal. It's a hard race but if everything goes well I have a big chance. I've had a good start to the year already and this win gives me even more confidence."

How do you feel about this victory after a complicated winter with an injury?

"It was nice to win here because you always come to this race with a lot of expectations. I was a little bit behind on the schedule so you still have to see where you are at the big races and the races that suit me. This is a really good start and I am happy. Just like last year, this gives me confidence and takes some of the pressure off the other races. My big goal is Tour of Flanders and it is there that I have to be in top form and it's there I want to make a good result."

Valerio Piva, Sports Director: "I am very happy about this result. Greg Van Avermaet was our leader and we knew he was super motivated for the win and so was the whole team. We had some bad luck as a team with the crash when we lost Daniel Oss and also Floris Gerts and then a mechanical issue with Stefan Küng. But we had a super Greg and he did a great job like last year and he deserved this win. The team was strong and I am happy with the race.

"In cycling, one day you have luck and one day you have less but we won and Greg was really strong. When we start any race, we want to do the maximum and try to win. Greg will be able to enjoy the race after today but but we also have others on the team like Jempy Drucker and Stefan Küng who are really strong and I think everyone will have the chance to do something tomorrow at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne."

Crash prevents Lotto-Soudal from achieving good result at Omloop

The team sent me this news:

The Belgian cycling season began today with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The chances of the Lotto Soudal riders were gone after a big crash just before entering the finale. Jürgen Roelandts was the top finisher of Lotto Soudal, he got fifteenth.

It took more than one hour of racing before a break of six was formed. On the cobbles of the Donderij, 65 kilometres from the end, a part of the peloton hit the ground and another big part got held up. Jens Debusschere incurred a minor concussion and a thigh contusion in the crash. The Belgian won’t be racing in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne tomorrow. Tiesj Benoot, who got caught up in the back due to the crash and couldn’t play a role in the finale, will replace Jens tomorrow.

Two Lotto Soudal riders succeeded in making their way back to the front: Jasper De Buyst and Jürgen Roelandts. Roelandts became part of a chase group of twelve behind Sagan, Van Avermaet and Vanmarcke. They didn’t come closer than 25 seconds on the leading trio. In the last kilometres the gap became even bigger. Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet won the Omloop for the second year in a row. Just like in 2016, he beat Peter Sagan. Vermarcke completed the top three. 57 seconds after Van Avermaet, Roelandts crossed the finish line as fifteenth.

Jürgen Roelandts: “I had a puncture at about 75 kilometres from the finish. By the time that I had almost taken back my position on the first rows of the bunch several riders crashed. Together with Jasper De Buyst I fought my way back to the front of the race. Eventually, I got in a chase group of twelve behind the three leaders. We were riding at a high pace, but remained 25 seconds behind the front group. After the cobbles of the Lange Munte I knew it would be impossible to still close the gap. At the end, Van Avermaet and co even extended their lead. I had no energy left anymore. I was sick last night and that had its consequences. The team and I weren’t lucky today, but tomorrow we have another chance at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.”

Here's Quick Step Floors' Omloop Het Nieuwsblad update:

Tom Boonen and Niki Terpstra crashed in the first classic of the year, which saw Matteo Trentin finish in 9th place.

The opening week-end was a tough one for Quick-Step Floors, who rolled out from Ghent with the hope of getting a top result, but saw its plans crumble due to numerous crashes and mechanicals. Tom Boonen, who was racing Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (198.3 kilometers) for the 15th time in his career, was the first to have problems on Saturday, crashing just ahead of the Haaghoek cobbled sector, but soon returned to the peloton, flanked by his teammates, despite hitting his right elbow and knee in the incident.

Unfortunately, another clash blocked Tom, this time not long before tackling the Taaienberg, a climb on which he left a deep mark at the previous editions; even though he confronted with pain following the first incident in which he was involved, Boonen remounted and continued the race, as the other teams put the hammer down to distance him, but eventually had to stop in the last 50 kilometers. Tom was one of the two Quick-Step Floors riders to crash on Saturday, first to go to the ground being Niki Terpstra, in the run in to the legendary Muur-Kapelmuur, who resumed the race despite hitting his knee.

Several riders took off following the incident which occurred before the Taaienberg, and despite a spirited chase led by Quick-Step Floors' Philippe Gilbert, Zdenek Stybar and Matteo Trentin together with Trek-Segafredo, they made it to the line, where Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) beat Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac). First chasers arrived around a minute later, and Trentin was our team's highest finisher, in 9th place, for his maiden top 10 at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

For 36-year-old Tom Boonen, the outcome wasn't the one he had hoped for at the start of the day, but nevertheless, the seven-time Monument winner kept his optimism after this demanding race: "I was close to the front of the peloton on the Haaghoek, but crashed when another rider moved from the right to the left without paying attention. He touched my front wheel and in the blink of an eye I was on the ground. At the 62km to-go mark, I was involved in another crash, but fortunately I didn't went down this time. My derailleur and rear wheel got stucked in another guy's bike, and at that point the race was lost."

Next up for Tom Boonen is the 200.7km-long Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, a race in which he holds the record for the most wins, three: "I have some bruises on my right side and a bit of pain, but I'm in a good spirit, because I could continue riding after the crash. Hopefully, it's nothing serious. I'm more disappointed by the fact that I couldn't be in the thick of the action on the Taaienberg. Tomorrow is another day and another race, and we'll just see how I feel and how things work out."

Belgian champion and two-time winner of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Philippe Gilbert was part of the chasing group in the final part of the race, doing some long stints at the front and even cutting the leaders' advantage before Lange Munte. In the end, he finished 13th, a result which shows that he's on the right track ahead of his big goals of this spring: "I got stuck behind that crash prior to the Taaienberg, and from that moment on, I chased until the very end. It was a strange race, but I'm satisfied for giving everything that I had. I didn't race a lot before Omloop, so I was expecting not to be at 100%, but the important thing is that the sensations were there today, which is encouraging for the future."

Lucinda Brand wins Women's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Team Sunweb sent me this report:

Team Sunweb's Lucinda Brand (NED) finished off an impressive display of team tactics and cooperation at the first women's classic of the season at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad today in Flanders taking the win ahead of Team Sunweb teammate Ellen van Dijk (NED) in fourth.

Lucinda Brand

Lucinda Brand has good reason to celebrate

In her first outing for Team Sunweb, Brand made her way into the main selection of the day over the Molenberg climb, and with teammate van Dijk already up the road in the main breakaway of the day, she was in a perfect position to launch her solo attack late in the stage to take an impressive solo victory.

After her victory Brand said: "It was a really good day. The team were great and supporting me really well by keeping me out of the headwind. The girls kept me in a great position, and we were in a perfect situation with Ellen up the road and good support behind. They helped me to maintain a good position ahead of the cobbles and climbs, so I didn’t have to do anything which was great.

"I started the Molenberg first and when the attacks went we got away in a small group. Ellen's gap held well in front which was good for me then I bridged across on the cobblestones when the gap came down. Then we were six with a few strong sprinters so we wanted to get away. With about 10km to go we started attacking. I had my final attack with about 5km to go - this was really hard but Ellen did a great job behind reacting to everything."

Team Sunweb coach Hans Timmermans (NED) said: "It was a great victory by Lucinda and for the whole team - it's a really good feeling. The plan was to have Lucinda as the leader and use Ellen van Dijk and Leah Kirchmann in the breaks from Paterberg onwards. This worked perfectly as Ellen was away with one other and they stayed clear for a long time.

"Then Lucinda was in the chase over the Molenberg which is where we expected the split to go. When she was in the chase she didn’t have to ride with Ellen up the road and Ellen could wait for her to bridge. They both were great in the final and were always in control. The rest did a strong ride too. Their positioning was always good and the teamwork was fantastic so we can be very happy all round."

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