Stannard sees off Quickstep to win incredible Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Sky rider overcomes Etixx-QuickStep trio

Ian Stannard (Team Sky) retained his title in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with an incredible solo ride against the might and numbers of Etixx-QuickStep. The British rider beat Niki Terpstra in a two-up sprint in a gripping race after taking apart a three-pronged attack from the Belgian team that also included Tom Boonen and Stijn Vandenbergh. However, while credit will go to Stannard for his faultless ride, the race was marked by an utter capitulation from Etixx-QuickStep, who let victory slip from their grasp.

The race-deciding break of four had jumped clear of the reduced peloton with 40 kilometres to go and it looked as though Etixx-Quickstep – with their two Classics leaders both present and accounted for – would determine the final result. However, Stannard clearly had other ideas – allowing the Belgian team to use up vital energy as they sought to hold off a brave chase from Sep Vanmarcke (Lotto-JumboNL) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), before responding and then countering to several attacks in the closing stages of the race.

The first attack strangely came from Boonen - arguably the strongest sprinter in the group - inside the final five kilometres. Stannard allowed the former world champion to create a gap but then reeled the Belgian in with a measured, yet effective chase. The audacity of Stannard's response and his reluctance to see Etixx run away with the race, seemed to catch Etixx off guard and affect their game-plan.

Terpstra predictably attacked as soon as Boonen’s move had been neutralised but inexplicably he was caught by his own teammate, Vandenbergh.

Seizing weakness and possibly dissention in the ranks, Stannard responded with his own attack inside the final three kilometres. The move was too much for Vandenbergh and Boonen, with only Terpstra able to respond.

Etiix still had another error up their sleeve and duly played their final card with the finishline in site, as Terpstra unnecessarily moved to the front and opened up the sprint. Stannard slipped back, allowing the Dutch rider to set the tempo before edging him out in the final sprint.

How it unfolded

The early break consisted of Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Matt Brammeier (MTN-Qhubeka), Christophe Laborie (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Michael Reihs (Cult Energy), Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Louis Verhelst (Cofidis), Jaroslaw Marycz (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal) and Albert Timmer (Team Giant-Alpecin), who escaped inside the opening ten kilometres and built up a lead of six minutes over the peloton inside the first hour of racing.

They maintained that advantage as they rattled through the first sector of cobbles at Haaghoek after 59 kilometres and over the first climbs, the Leberg and Berendries, shortly afterwards. The first murmurings of a response from the main peloton didn’t arrive until after it crested the summit of the Muur after 83 kilometres, when Etixx-QuickStep, Sky and Lotto-JumboNL began to organise the chase.

On the next passage over the cobbles at Haaghoek, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) took up the pace-making at the head of the bunch, and his efforts, along with those of teammate Bernhard Eisel, promptly shaved another minute off the break’s lead, reducing it to three minutes by the time they hit the day’s fifth climb, the Kaperij.

Brammeier was particularly active at the head of the break, and his forcing on the next obstacle, the Kruisberg helped to whittle the front group down to just six riders – Timmer, Gougeard, Van Melsen, Verhelst and Laborie joined the Irishman – while Wiggins continued his lengthy cameo at the head of the peloton, leading the reduced group over the summit 2:07 down on the escapees.

Sky were still marshalling the bunch as the speed picked up on the approach to what is traditionally the formal beginning of hostilities, the Taaienberg, but once on the climb itself, Tom Boonen took up the reins on his traditional early season test site. The familiar acceleration up the smooth gutter on the right-hand side of the road suggested that Boonen remains the force of old, as a number of contenders, including Sep Vanmarcke (Lotto-JumboNL) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), were distanced.

Indeed, just five riders – Luke Rowe, Stannard (Sky), Van Avermaet (BMC), Edvald Boason Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) and Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) – could track Boonen’s move, though their group swelled to 20 or so riders over the summit, with Arnaud Démare (FDJ) among those scrambling across. Only Timmer and Brammeier remained in front from the early break at that juncture, but their margin was down to 45 seconds as the race had begun in earnest behind, and it was clear their time out front was drawing inexorably to a close.

A brief lull over the Eikenberg allowed the a more general regrouping, with Kristoff and Vanmarcke fighting their way back on, but the bunch was now stretched in a long line and there would be no quarter asked or given from there to Ghent. Once onto the Wolvenberg, Luke Rowe struck out alone and his determined effort brought him across to the Brammeier and Timmer with 47 kilometres remaining, but a long, long stint of chasing from Vandenbergh (Etixx-QuickStep) brought them back and meant that the gruppo was about as compatto as circumstances could allow as they entered the final hour of racing.

Etixx detonate the race

That unity was fractured abruptly on the final haul over the cobbles at Haaghoek, when first Vandenbergh and then Boonen accelerated fiercely, bringning Niki Terpstra, Vanmarcke and Steve Chainel (Cofidis) clear with them. Vanmarcke issued a statement of intent when he took over the lead shortly afterwards and his surge propelled them further clear, but his progress was rudely interrupted by a rear wheel puncture as they exited the sector.

It would prove to be a key moment of the race. Boonen didn’t stand on ceremony and he continued with his forcing. When he turned around ahead of the Leberg, he had only black jerseys for company – those of his teammates, Terpstra and Vandenbergh, and that of Sky’s Stannard. Advantage Etixx-QuickStep.

Wisely, Stannard allowed the Etixx trio take up the running over the Leberg, and they quickly established a lead of 30 seconds over a reduced peloton where Lotto-Soudal, Lotto-JumboNL and BMC were scrambling to bring some order to the chase. On the final climb, the Molenberg, Vanmarcke desperately tried to breathe some life into the pursuit with a fierce acceleration, and he brought Van Avermaet and Stybar with him, but there was little to be done against the Etixx-QuickStep express in front.

On the cobbles at Paddestraat with 30 kilometres remaining, Terpstra allowed a gap to open to Boonen, forcing Stannard to come around and shut it down once again, while behind, Stybar and Van Avermaet sat like a dead weight on the eager Vanmarcke’s wheel, though that didn’t prevent the Lotto-Jumbo man from closing the gap to 15 seconds at one point. His efforts were recorded on the chalk board before the leading quartet, which compelled Stannard to help out the QuickStep trio and take a token turn on the front.

By the final sector of pavé, the Lange Munte, the gap was back out to 25 seconds as Vanmarcke began to tire and Van Avermaet – belatedly – offered his help. Terpstra, meanwhile, led the QuickStep flotilla across that 2,500-metre sea of uneven cobbles. The stowaway Stannard was pedalling comfortably in their slipstream, but locked, it seemed, in an impossible situation.

But QuickStep, whether through their own hubris or naivety created the opening for Stannard to exploit. Boonen’s first acceleration was nullified but from there the Belgian team’s strategy and hold on the race quickly began to unravel at an alarming pace.
When Vandenbergh pulled in a move from Terpstra and Boonen was unable to respond to Stannard’s main attack the writing was quickly on the wall but the inquest and post-mortem into Etixx capitulation will take much.

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky4:58:41 
2Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx - Quick-Step  
3Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step0:00:08 
4Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step0:00:15 
5Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo0:01:24 
6Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
7Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step0:01:29 
8Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:04:36 
9Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky0:04:55 
10Arnaud Demare (Fra)  
11Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha  
12Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
13Wesley Kreder (Ned) Team Roompot  
14Edward Theuns (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
15Marco Marcato (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
16Jesper Asselman (Ned) Team Roompot  
17Angelo Tulik (Fra) Team Europcar  
18Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team  
19Nikolas Maes (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step  
20Pier Paolo De Negri (Ita) Nippo - Vini Fantini  
21Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale  
22Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
23Aleksei Tcatevich (Rus) Team Katusha  
24Florian Senechal (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
25Jérôme Pineau (Fra) IAM Cycling  
26Yoann Offredo (Fra)  
27Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN - Qhubeka  
28Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling  
29Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
30Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto Soudal  
31Oliver Naesen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
32Björn Leukemans (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
33Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling  
34Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Team Roompot  
35Florian Vachon (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement  
36Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
37Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
38Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
39Steve Chainel (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
40Oscar Gatto (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
41Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Soudal  
42Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky  
43Marco Haller (Aut) Team Katusha0:05:06 
44Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky0:05:09 
45Johan Van Summeren (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale0:05:18 
46Damien Gaudin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
47Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step0:05:45 
48Stig Broeckx (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:07:23 
49Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team  
50Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
51Tyler Farrar (USA) MTN - Qhubeka0:09:50 
52Zico Waeytens (Bel) Team Giant-Alpecin0:10:19 
53Koen De Kort (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin  
54Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin  
55Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin  
56Iljo Keisse (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step  
57Russell Downing (GBr) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
58Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
59Huub Duyn (Ned) Team Roompot  
60Tim Kerkhof (Ned) Team Roompot  
61Rick Zabel (Ger) BMC Racing Team  
62Mike Terpstra (Ned) Team Roompot  
63Mauro Finetto (Ita) Yellow Fluo  
64Sander Helven (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
65Christian Knees (Ger) Team Sky  
66Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) IAM Cycling  
67Adrian Kurek (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
68Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling  
69Alex Kirsch (Lux) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
70Frédéric Brun (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement  
71Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky  
72Tim Declercq (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
73Rudiger Selig (Ger) Team Katusha  
74Antoine Duchesne (Can) Team Europcar  
75Yannick Martinez (Fra) Team Europcar  
76Gatis Smukulis (Lat) Team Katusha  
77Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) Team Katusha  
78Giovanni Bernaudeau (Fra) Team Europcar  
79Berden De Vries (Ned) Team Roompot  
80Louis Verhelst (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
81Brian Van Goethem (Ned) Team Roompot  
82Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
83Daniele Colli (Ita) Nippo - Vini Fantini  
84Maarten Wynants (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
85Matt Brammeier (Irl) MTN - Qhubeka  
86Jaco Venter (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
87Mickael Delage (Fra)  
88Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
89Anthony Geslin (Fra)  
90William Bonnet (Fra)  
91Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
92Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
93Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
94Paul Voss (Ger) Bora-Argon 18  
95Scott Thwaites (GBr) Bora-Argon 18  
96Robert Wagner (Ger) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
97Christoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-Argon 18  
98Jos Van Emden (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
99Bram Tankink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
100Gert Joeaar (Est) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
101Manuel Belletti (Ita) Yellow Fluo  
102Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Bora-Argon 18  
103Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN - Qhubeka  
104Marco Bandiera (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
105Dries Devenyns (Bel) IAM Cycling  
DNSSébastien Turgot (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFElia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky  
DNFChristopher Sutton (Aus) Team Sky  
DNFGediminas Bagdonas (Ltu) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFAlexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFLloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFGuillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step  
DNFDavid Boucher (Fra)  
DNFMatthieu Ladagnous (Fra)  
DNFJohan Le Bon (Fra)  
DNFMarcel Aregger (Swi) IAM Cycling  
DNFMartin Elmiger (Swi) IAM Cycling  
DNFGert Dockx (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFSean De Bie (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFKenny De Haes (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFNikias Arndt (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFBert De Backer (Bel) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFTom Stamsnijder (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFAlbert Timmer (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFVladimir Isaychev (Rus) Team Katusha  
DNFViacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Team Katusha  
DNFThomas Leezer (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFMaarten Tjallingii (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFTom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFTiziano Dall'antonia (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
DNFMarco Frapporti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
DNFFrancesco Chicchi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
DNFShane Archbold (NZl) Bora-Argon 18  
DNFZakkari Dempster (Aus) Bora-Argon 18  
DNFMichael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Argon 18  
DNFDaniel Schorn (Aut) Bora-Argon 18  
DNFBenoit Jarrier (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement  
DNFMaxime Cam (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement  
DNFRomain Feillu (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement  
DNFChristophe Laborie (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement  
DNFDaniel Mclay (GBr) Bretagne-Séché Environnement  
DNFPierre-Luc Perichon (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement  
DNFTomasz Kiendys (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
DNFJaroslaw Marycz (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
DNFNikolay Mihaylov (Bul) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
DNFMarek Rutkiewicz (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
DNFGrzegorz Stepniak (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
DNFMateusz Taciak (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
DNFChristophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFCyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFAnthony Turgis (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFMartin Mortensen (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
DNFMads Pedersen (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
DNFMichael Reihs (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
DNFMichael Carbel Svendgaard (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
DNFTroels Ronning Vinther (Den) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
DNFJoel Zangerle (Lux) Cult Energy Pro Cycling  
DNFTheo Bos (Ned) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFJay Robert Thomson (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFEduard Michael Grosu (Rom) Nippo - Vini Fantini  
DNFAlessandro Malaguti (Ita) Nippo - Vini Fantini  
DNFNicolas Marini (Ita) Nippo - Vini Fantini  
DNFMattia Pozzo (Ita) Nippo - Vini Fantini  
DNFRiccardo Stacchiotti (Ita) Nippo - Vini Fantini  
DNFAntonio Viola (Ita) Nippo - Vini Fantini  
DNFGiorgio Cecchinel (Ita) Yellow Fluo  
DNFAndrea Dal Col (Ita) Yellow Fluo  
DNFRafael Andriato (Bra) Yellow Fluo  
DNFJakub Mareczko (Ita) Yellow Fluo  
DNFEugert Zhupa (Alb) Yellow Fluo  
DNFYohann Gene (Fra) Team Europcar  
DNFVincent Jerome (Fra) Team Europcar  
DNFJulien Morice (Fra) Team Europcar  
DNFJimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Team Europcar  
DNFFrederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFJérôme Baugnies (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFKevin Van Melsen (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFTim De Troyer (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFFrederik Veuchelen (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  

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