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Van Vleuten overcomes non-cooperative Vollering to seal Omloop Het Nieuwsblad victory

NINOVE BELGIUM FEBRUARY 26 Annemiek Van Vleuten of Netherlands and Movistar Team Women poses at podium with race trophy as winner after the 17th Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2022 Womens Race a 128km race from Ghent to Ninove OHN22 FlandersClassic WorldTour on February 26 2022 in Ninove Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Annemiek van Vleuten (Image credit: Getty Images)

From the steep cobbled inclines of the Muur van Geraardsbergen to the finish line of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Dutchwoman Annemiek van Vleuten and Demi Vollering were inseparable at the front of the race.

Van Vleuten, who ended up triumphing in the two-up sprint in Ninove to claim her second career Omloop title, had gone on the attack on the hallowed climb, bridging up to a strong lead group in the process.

With her went the SD Worx rider, the pair again accelerating away on the second of the famous one-two punch, the Bosberg, where Wout van Aert had launched his own race-winning attack earlier in the day. There, it was the Movistar leader who instigated the move, while Vollering stuck with her.

That situation persisted to the finish, with Vollering sticking to Van Vleuten's wheel inside the final kilometres, to the visible frustration of the 39-year-old. Speaking after the race, which ended with the pair slugging it out in a tense sprint finish, Van Vleuten said that she had to accept the state of affairs, even if it lessened her chances of victory.

"I said it before — when I crash, I accept this situation and I continue. It's the same with Demi Vollering in my wheel — I accept the situation. I asked her if she want to ride? 'No, I don't want to ride.'

"I also can understand it because she had two [teammates] behind her, so I just accept the situation and still try to make out of the it something that's good for me. If I let the group come back with two more SD Worx from behind, that's for sure not a good situation for me.

"So, if maybe I just continued riding in front at 95 per cent, I felt like I still wanted to go for it and I still think after hard race I could have a chance when I make it into a really long sprint. Yeah, that was also the result.

"I don't get frustrated with things that I can't control. I tried to let her drive it by saying that [Movistar teammate] Emma Norsgaard Bjerg was behind us, but she didn't go along with it.

Despite her bulging palmarès and countless list of successes, Van Vleuten would not normally be favoured in a two-up sprint against Vollering, who herself won Liège-Bastogne-Liège, La Course, and The Women's Tour last season.

However, she said that her sprint relatively improved after the previous three and a half hours of tough racing, while a move heading into the final turn before the finish also helped.

"I wanted to fly through the final bend like a kamikaze," Van Vleuten joked. "It makes me happy to beat somebody who is intrinsically faster than me. But I also get quicker after a hard race. I saw her come next to me in the sprint, but I was able to add another gear.

"It's 'lekker'," she said of her win — number 88 in a career stretching back 15 years. "That's nice. I think one is nice because it was very unexpected, it was a team effort and it's super nice to stay to start the season in a good momentum and with the team, and I think we can continue from that.

"I think is a good flow with the team, and for the next one will be for someone else maybe. But yeah, it's a dream start."

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Daniel Ostanek
Daniel Ostanek

Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Prior to joining the team, he had written for most major publications in the cycling world, including CyclingWeekly, Rouleur, and CyclingTips.

 

Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France and the spring Classics, and has interviewed many of the sport's biggest stars, including Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, Demi Vollering, and Anna van der Breggen.

 

As well as original reporting, news and feature writing, and production work, Daniel also runs The Leadout newsletter and oversees How to Watch guides throughout the season. His favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Volta a Portugal, and he rides a Colnago C40.