Unusually for Het Niuwsblad, the race came down to a bunch sprint, despite the usual attacks and drama throughout the race.
A dangerous group had broken clear earlier in the race including Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r Citroen), Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), but everything came back together again before the climb of the Muur.
Apart from an attack from Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers) over that climb, no other riders managed to break clear after that point, leading to the novel experience of a large bunch sprint deciding Het Nieuwsblad.
Ballerini had also been a part of the group that broke clear earlier, but still had enough left in the tank to comfortably win the sprint at the finish.
"It’s one dream come true”, said the Italian at the finish. “This is the start of the classics, a really big classic. I love it, I like it, I love this team. It was a dream since I was a baby when I saw this race on TV."
"I’m really happy for the team...I know it’s not easy for everybody, with the Covid situation. I say congratulations to the organisation for this beautiful race, and to keep going like this."
How it unfolded
As well as being the first cobbled classics of the season, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad marks, for many cycling fans, the proper start of the season — and this was a typically exciting edition of a race that always brings thrills, spill and action.
As is so often the case in this race, the weather was cold, with the riders having to wrap up warm, although the wind was relatively gentle, and they were spared any rainfall.
Yevgeniy Federov (Astana Premier-Tech), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny De Ketele (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Bert De Backer (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) and Matis Louvel (Arkea Samsic) formed a breakaway group of five at the start of the day, and opened up a lead that gained a maximum advantage of over eight minutes.
However, on what was a very fast day where the riders did not hang about, that gap quickly began tumbling down. At 80km to go it was at four minutes, and at 65km to go it had dipped to little over two minutes.
Inevitably, there were crashes, and major contenders Greg Van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke — both riding their first cobbled classic for their new teams — both involved in one incident early on. Later, at 53km, several riders hit the deck together, including Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Victorious).
Aside from Jonas Rutsch (EF Education-Nippo) — who escaped up the rode alone 67km from the finish in pursuit of the break — there were no attacks out of the peloton, as the favourites kept their power dry ahead of the dense flurry of late cobbled climbs.
On the first of these, the Wolvenberg, Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) set a fierce pace, with teammate Julian Alaphilippe on his wheel, but fell going around a corner on the next cobbled section. His upping of the pace did bring back Rutsch, however, and caused the gap to the main breakaway to decrease to below one minute for the first time.
The first significant attacks came on the next climb, the Molenberg, courtesy of Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates). His acceleration caused a small group of favourites to go clear, including Van Avermaet, Vanmarcke, Chirstophe Laporte (Cofidis), Arjen Livyns (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles), Michael Gogl (Qhubeka Assos), plus the Deceuninck-QuickStep trio of Alaphilippe, Zdenek Stybar and Davide Ballerini.
They soon caught the day’s break, as well as the duo of Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) and Johan Jacobs (Movistar) who had attacked the peloton earlier, forming a new leading group of around a dozen riders, who were also joined by Tom Pidcock (Ines Grenadiers) and Luxembourg champion Kevin Geniets (Groupama-FDJ) after they accelerated out of the peloton with an impressive burst of speed.
Alaphilippe attacked on the next climb, Berendries, and opened up a significant gap over the others of over 20 seconds. Despite committed efforts from the others, most notably from a very strong looking Pidcock, Alaphilippe had the advantage of two Deceuninck-QuickStep teammates to disrupt the chase — that is, until Stybar crashed at 27km from the finish.
Behind, the peloton had got organised with teams that had missed the move, like Lotto-Soudal and Trek-Segafredo, setting a strong pace.
A pursuit between Alaphilippe and the chasers and the chasers and the peloton followed, and all three came back together just in time for the crucial climb of the Muur, with 18km left to ride.
Gianni Moscon set the pace on the Muur, and reached the top with a small gap over the rest of the strung out peloton. Despite having no company to share the workload with, the Italian retained his lead after the Muur and on the approach to the day’s final climb, the Bosberg.
He began to tire on the climb itself, however, and was caught over the summit by a peloton that, unusually for this race, still remained together in a very large size.
Deceuninck-QuickStep took control of the peloton, with Kasper Asgreen, Alaphilippe and Lampaert setting a fast pace at the front to set Ballerini up for a sprint. Their pace was enough to deter any attacks, as the other teams also gambled on waiting for the bunch sprint.
A few riders went down in a crash with just 2500 metres left to ride, including Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers), while Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) — who will have fancied his chances of winning the sprint — suffered a mechanical.
Other teams attempted to wrestle control from Deceuninck-QuickStep as the finishing straight approached, but the Belgian team reasserted themselves around the final few corners, and set up Ballerini perfectly for a victory of several bike-lengths.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Davide Ballerini (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep||4:43:03|
|2||Jake Stewart (GBr) Groupama-FDJ|
|3||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation|
|4||Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious|
|5||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|6||Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech|
|7||Florian Senechal (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|8||Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|9||Kévin Geniets (Lux) Groupama-FDJ|
|10||Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|11||Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar Team|
|12||Amaury Capiot (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|13||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis|
|14||Silvan Dillier (Swi) Alpecin-Fenix|
|15||Anthony Turgis (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|16||Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|17||Cedric Beullens (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|18||Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation|
|19||Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|20||Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|21||Gonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Movistar Team|
|22||Owain Doull (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|23||Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team DSM|
|24||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|25||Jordi Warlop (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|26||Lawrence Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|27||Marco Haller (Aut) Bahrain Victorious|
|28||Aime De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|29||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team DSM|
|30||Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|31||Cyril Barthe (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|32||Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|33||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|34||Damien Touze (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|35||Jonas Rutsch (Ger) EF Education-Nippo|
|36||Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) Team BikeExchange|
|37||Michael Gogl (Aut) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|38||Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|39||Jhonatan Narvaez Prado (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers|
|40||Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious|
|41||Timo Roosen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|42||Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech|
|43||Arjen Livyns (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|44||Luke Durbridge (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|45||Gianni Moscon (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers|
|46||Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) Jumbo-Visma||0:00:07|
|47||Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|48||Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|49||Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:00:15|
|50||Joel Suter (Swi) Bingoal WB||0:00:17|
|51||Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|52||Loïc Vliegen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|53||Johan Jacobs (Swi) Movistar Team||0:00:22|
|54||Piet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis|
|55||Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|56||Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:00:40|
|57||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|58||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates||0:01:33|
|59||Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:02:44|
|60||Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|61||Miles Scotson (Aus) Groupama-FDJ|
|62||Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM|
|63||Alex Kirsch (Lux) Trek-Segafredo|
|64||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||0:02:45|
|65||Jonas Koch (Ger) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||0:03:00|
|66||Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:03:07|
|67||Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|68||Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|69||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Total Direct Energie|
|70||Oscar Riesebeek (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix|
|71||Stefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto Soudal|
|72||Milan Menten (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|73||Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Israel Start-up Nation|
|74||Frederik Backaert (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|75||Carlos Barbero (Spa) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|76||Juri Hollmann (Ger) Movistar Team|
|77||André Carvalho (Por) Cofidis|
|78||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Team DSM|
|79||Andreas Kron (Den) Lotto Soudal|
|80||Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ|
|81||Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education-Nippo|
|82||Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Cofidis|
|83||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|84||Dion Smith (NZl) Team BikeExchange|
|85||Thimo Willems (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||0:04:26|
|86||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|87||Tom Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal WB|
|88||Tom Bohli (Swi) Cofidis|
|89||Olav Kooij (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|90||Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Total Direct Energie|
|91||Ryan Mullen (Irl) Trek-Segafredo|
|92||Maarten Wynants (Bel) Jumbo-Visma|
|93||Senne Leysen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|94||Mathias Norsgaard (Den) Movistar Team|
|95||Benjamin Declercq (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|96||Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|97||Daniel McLay (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|98||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Total Direct Energie|
|99||Benjamin Perry (Can) Astana-Premier Tech|
|100||Christophe Noppe (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|101||Robert Stannard (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|102||Aaron Van Poucke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|103||Antoine Duchesne (Can) Groupama-FDJ|
|104||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) EF Education-Nippo|
|105||Connor Swift (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|106||Fabio Felline (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech|
|107||Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|108||Alexander Edmondson (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|109||Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|110||Sebastian Mora Vedri (Spa) Movistar Team|
|111||Norman Vahtra (Est) Israel Start-up Nation|
|112||Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo|
|113||Michal Golas (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers|
|114||Leonardo Basso (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers|
|115||Adrien Petit (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|116||Cyril Lemoine (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|117||Jens Debusschere (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|118||Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|119||Alex Colman (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|120||Patrick Gamper (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|121||Sander Armee (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|122||Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|123||Yevgeniy Fedorov (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|124||Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|125||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|126||Julius van den Berg (Ned) EF Education-Nippo|
|127||Ide Schelling (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|128||Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|129||Bert De Backer (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|130||Mitch Docker (Aus) EF Education-Nippo||0:09:15|
|131||Davide Martinelli (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech|
|132||Jérémy Lecroq (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|133||Ludovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|134||Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education-Nippo|
|135||Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team|
|136||Ryan Gibbons (RSA) UAE Team Emirates|
|137||Callum Scotson (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|138||Damien Gaudin (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|139||Szymon Sajnok (Pol) Cofidis|
|140||Matis Louvel (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Edoardo Affini (Ita) Jumbo-Visma|
|DNF||Frederik Frison (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Donavan Vincent Grondin (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Paul Martens (Ger) Jumbo-Visma|
|DNF||Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|DNF||Emil Vinjebo (Den) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|DNF||Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den) Team BikeExchange|
|DNF||Casper Pedersen (Den) Team DSM|
|DNF||Charlie Quarterman (GBr) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Niklas Märkl (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Jakob Egholm (Den) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|DNF||Mark Padun (Ukr) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Stephen Williams (GBr) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Kenny De Ketele (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNF||Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|DNF||Dimitri Peyskens (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|DNF||Christopher Lawless (GBr) Total Direct Energie|
|DNF||Sean De Bie (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|DNF||Boy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Otto Vergaerde (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Moreno Hofland (Ned) EF Education-Nippo|
|DNF||Emmanuel Morin (Fra) Cofidis|
|DNS||Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNS||Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Start-up Nation|
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