Before the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, a lot was expected from Lars Boom (Blanco-Giant). The 27-year-old Dutchman led his team at the traditional opener of the Spring Classics season together with last year's winner Sep Vanmarcke. In the end, it was Maarten Wynants who saved the team's day by featuring in the lead group on Saturday. Wynants finished ninth in Ghent, Belgium, more than a minute behind winner Luca Paolini (Katusha).
In the races leading to the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, it was clear that Boom was doing well. He led the Tour Méditerranéen for two days after winning the time trial and won a stage in the Tour du Haut Var.
"That was a bit overrated. We just raced well in France. The build-up went well," Boom said.
On the race day, Boom was the first rider to sign the participation list at a well-crowded St-Peter's square in Ghent. Boom was ready for a good race and tackling the cold elements. In the end, Boom was a no-show.
"This is the first of the Classics, and it's always nervous. I wasn't riding like I wanted to and Sep also I think. I joined the moves a couple of times but I didn't feel that I had the legs I wanted to have. I could follow up to a certain level but not further. I wasn't very good today and then it ended. You know it happens between the Taaienberg and Molenberg and so it did today. There were a lot of attacks. Each time one of us was in it, and eventually Maarten was the man in front. All the big teams had a man up front. Some teams were still riding but there was no organization and you don't ride behind your own man," Boom said.
For Wynants, it was an uncomfortable situation to be in. He was in the front group but ended up riding behind stronger riders. "I was willing to chase them down, but the rest of the group was focusing on third place. Maybe I spent too much energy in that chase which cost me a good result. They were the two best riders. I was riding behind the Cofidis rider when they rode away on the cobbles. It was clear they were the strongest because nobody could close it down," Wynants said.
Meanwhile Boom was locked in the peloton at long distance from the leaders. "Once in a while it's annoying to be there where you are. You can only hope it concludes well. There's more races left. It's not a disaster and next year there's another Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The weather was no excuse as it was cold in the past few days too," Boom said.
"The result is not what we hoped for and what we expected, but that's top sport," director sportif Nico Verhoeven said. "The riders did what they could. If there's not more in it, then you have to accept that. A man like Moreno Hofland experienced that he was good until 150km but then suddenly it was over. Young riders need more energy to fuel their stove," Verhoeven analyzed.
Having Wynants up front wasn't part of the Blanco plan. "He wasn't the wrong man up front, but Boom and Vanmarcke weren't good enough, otherwise they would've been in the breakaway, too. Then again, the breakaway didn't go on the hills but in between the Eikenberg and the Varent. Wynants isn't the fastest man, too, so if you're up the road with nine others you have less chance to win than if you would have Vanmarcke or Boom up front. Wynants did what he had to do, going along with men from his calibre. Maybe he made one mistake, and that was riding too much in front of the group on the Paddestraat cobbles. One kilometre later, they rode away from him," Verhoeven said.
On Sunday, the Blanco team leaders didn't get a chance to make up for their lesser performance as Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne was cancelled as the snow-covered roads didn't allow for safe racing.
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