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The day has finally arrived. After a long winter, the Belgian road season gets underway in Ghent this morning with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the first instalment in Opening Weekend. With the Tour of Flanders still five weeks away, the spring is still long, but this is the first opportunity for men like Wout van Aert, Kasper Asgreen et al to reacquaint themselves with the cobbles and hills of the Flemish Ardennes - and a chance to lay down a marker for the races to come. 

The roll out in Ghent is at 11am local time, with the peloton due to reach kilometre zero at 11.15. The thirteen hellingen on the agenda are as follows:

1. Leberg 46km

2. Kattenberg 104km

3. Leberg 113km

4. Hostellerie 130km

5. Valkenberg 138km

6. Wolvenberg 149km

7. Marlboroughstraat 164km

8. Biesestraat 165km

9. Leberg 169km

10. Berendries 173km

11. Elverenberg-Vossenhol 175km

12. Muur-Kapelmuur 188km

13. Bosberg 191km

Patrick Fletcher is at the start in ’t Kuipke in Ghent, and he reports that BikeExchange-Jayo are starting with just five riders due to illness. Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) is also a non-starter with stomach problems. 

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Peter Sagan

(Image credit: Daniel Ostanek)

Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) before the start: "It feels good. Everybody is asking me the same thing. I’m feeling good. On the first of January I got covid and it changed all my preparation because I was supposed to go to altitude but I cancelled and that’s also why I’m here, because I prefer to start racing earlier normally. I already did the first race last week in France. It’s good. We have good weather, that's important. It’s also important to remember the crucial pieces for all the races in Belgium coming up."

Last year, and despite Julian Alaphilippe's long-range offensive, a larger than anticipated group contested the finish in Ninove, where Davide Ballerini won the sprint. Neither Alaphilippe nor Ballerini are in the QuickStep-AlpaVinyl line-up today, but Soren Kragh Andersen (DSM) believes a similarly large group could dispute the honours at the finish today. "I think because of the weather it will be a bit more controlled and a big group can come to the finish and we could have a sprint at the finish, it's possible," Andersen said. "I’m okay, you never really know how it is before the first race, but I got better at the tour of Oman. We race aggressive but we also have a really strong card if it comes down to a sprint."

Wout van Aert begins his road season this morning and the Belgian champion will be favoured to hit the ground running at the head of a Jumbo-Visma line-up bolstered by the arrival of Tiesj Benoot. "I think the guys who already have two short stage races in their legs will have a little advantage in the opening weekend. The effect of my altitude camp will come a little later and should give us that little bit extra in March-April," Van Aert told Wielerflits this week. "Omloop is more of a test for us to see how we can race together as a team. Of course, we want to achieve a result. We’ll start Omloop with ambition but absolutely not with a knife to our throat." 

Wout van Aert

(Image credit: Getty)

The peloton has been flagged away from 't Kuipke for the start and the riders are navigating the neutralised zone as they make their way out of Ghent towards the official start in Merelbeke. 

-204km

The peloton has reached kilometre zero and the 2022 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is officially underway.

Oliver Naesen

(Image credit: Daniel Ostanek)

Oliver Naesen (AG2R-Citroën) is among the riders who suspect a group finish could be in the offing this afternoon, but it's by no means a certainty. The Belgian spoke to Patrick Fletcher at the start about his winter after he took an extended break due to overtraining at the end of last season. "Actually everything went really well: no crashes, no covid, no health issues. Taining was really good and I just feel that the spark is reignited for these races," he said. "The chances of a sprint only got higher with the Molenberg being out of the parcours but the riders make the race and it can go in any direction."

Patrick Fletcher and Daniel Ostanek are in Belgium this weekend for Cyclingnews, providing all the news and reaction from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, while Josh Croxton is on hand to run his eye over any Classics tech developments in what is the most important dress rehearsal in pro cycling.

Tom Pidcock

(Image credit: Daniel Ostanek)

Tom Pidcock is at the head of an Ineos team that includes Ethan Hayter and Magnus Sheffield, who each showed form on the Iberian Peninsula last week. Hayter's pre-season preparations were interrupted by COVID-19, but he looked like he was getting up to speed with 4th overall at the Volta ao Algarve, while Magnus Sheffield won a stage of Ruta del Sol. Pidcock, the cyclo-cross world champion, looked comfortable in his first road race of the season in the Algarve, though he told reporters in Portugal that next week's Strade Bianche was his first goal of the year. Although it would be foolish indeed to rule him out this afternoon.

“The cobbles are still bumpy,” Pidcock deadpanned when asked about his reconnaissance of the route, before picking his favourite for victory. “Probably Wout [van Aert] will be in good shape, he’s been on a big training camp, so I think Wout’s the favourite.”

As for Ineos, Pidcock said: “We have a really good team. A good team that can race, I think. And young guys as well, so it will good to see how they race. I think we’ve got a lot of cards today. Ethan’s probably not in his best shape, he had a few setbacks in the winter. But he’s certainly going alright.”

-194km

After a brisk start to proceedings, a break of seven riders has opened a small gap, and it looks as though they will be given the freedom to establish themselves early on. Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Quentin Jauregui (B&B Hotels), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic) and Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X) are the escapees.

Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) missed the initial move, but he is gradually bludgeoning his way across to the break, which is already almost a minute clear of the bunch.

Meanwhile, Lawrence Naesen (AG2R-Citroen) has crashed in the peloton and the Belgian has been forced to abandon the race in the opening kilometres.

-188km

Break:

Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Quentin Jauregui (B&B Hotels-KTM), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X)

Chaser at 0:30

Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB)

Peloton at 3:00

The break's lead is edging out towards four minutes, with the peloton more than happy to grant them some early leeway. Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) remains stuck in no-man's land, and he doesn't appear to be drawing any closer to the riders out in front.

-178km

Mathijs Paasschens realises the impossibility of his effort and he relents. The seven escapees, meanwhile, are now more than four minutes clear of the bunch.

-172km

Edoardo Affini sets the tempo in the peloton on behalf of Jumbo-Visma, 4:39 down on the escapees. The race is 10km or so from the first sector of cobbles at Haaghoek.  

Philippe Gilbert

(Image credit: Daniel Ostanek)

Philippe Gilbert is in his final season as a professional and has decided to focus his attention on the Ardennes rather than the cobbled Classics this year, but he couldn’t resist making his 16th Omloop appearance today. He won the race twice, in 2006 and 2008, back when it used to be called Het Volk. During his time at BMC, Gilbert largely left the cobbles to Greg Van Avermaet as he focused on Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. And even in his first stint at Lotto from 2009 to 2011, the Ardennes were the centrepiece of his spring. His switch to QuickStep in 2017 saw him win that year’s Tour of Flanders and the 2019 Paris-Roubaix, but he gently dismissed the idea that he should have been targeting the cobbled Classics all along.

“It’s easy to say but people today quickly forget that there were two exceptional points of reference for a decade or so in Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara,” Gilbert said. “When you look the roll of honour for the Flemish Classics, they split it between them in that period. Very few other riders got a look in, it was very difficult to beat them. On the other hand in the Ardennes, I was often present, with six or seven victories there, so I did well.”

As for today’s race, Gilbert isn’t here simply to say goodbye. “I want to play a role, I don’t want to be a spectator,” he said.

-162km

Breakaways Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Quentin Jauregui (B&B Hotels-KTM), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic) and Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X) have made it over the Haaghoek cobbles and they are heading for the first of the day's 13 hellingen with a lead of 7:21 over the peloton.

 

The Groupama-FDJ squad of Stefan Küng have joined the organising effort at the head of the peloton. The Swiss rider was disappointed to lose out to Remco Evenepoel by a minute in the 32.2km time trial at the Volta ao Algarve last week, but he showcased his early season form with a notable show of pace-making on behalf of David Gaudu at Alto da Fóia. Küng has never quite shown his full potential on the cobbles, but in Portugal last week, he told Cyclingnews why he hopes this year will be different. "Last year, honestly, my preparation was not ideal, I was maybe too motivated and by the time I got to the classics, I was already a bit tired," Küng said. "This year we tried a different approach, and we have a better team now, the younger guys have also a bit of experience in the classics. And yeah, then I know also myself: I have my strengths and some weaknesses, that’s for sure. I’m not the punchiest rider. But on the endurance side, I’m one of the best, so I have to go from far. I will try my best and I really want to do good this year in the classics."

NMES FRANCE JULY 08 Stefan Kng of Switzerland and Team Groupama FDJ during the 108th Tour de France 2021 Stage 12 a 1594km stage from SaintPaulTroisChateaux to Nimes LeTour TDF2021 on July 08 2021 in Nmes France Photo by Michael SteeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

-154km

Break:

Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Quentin Jauregui (B&B Hotels-KTM), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X)

Peloton at 7:21 

Bahrain Victorious line up today with a squad that includes Matej Mohoric, Sonny Colbrelli, Phil Bauhaus, Fred Wright and Heinrich Haussler. In other words, they are not short on options on the road to Ninove. "The Muur is the most critical part of the race. We will see who is strong enough to win the race there," Mohoric said at the start in Ghent. "We have cards to play, we have myself, Sonny, Heinrich Haussler, Fred Wright. We’ll be active, and if it comes down to a sprint we have Sonny who is fast. I actually expect it to be different because there’s no Molenberg, but I think it’s going to be an open race. The big favourite is Wout van Aert but collectively QuickStep are strongest."

-146km

Break:

Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Quentin Jauregui (B&B Hotels-KTM), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X)

Peloton at 8:00

 

21-year-old Ben Healy is in his first season at WorldTour level having joined EF Education-EasyPost from Trinity Racing. The Irishman’s first races with his new team came in Spain earlier this month and his in the break today. “One of the reasons that I signed for them is because they’re really keen on developing me as a rider and sticking me into some big races as well,” Healy told Cyclingnews this winter. “Hopefully, if I perform in them then I’ll get further opportunities. They’ve really got a good plan for me.” Read more here.

Ben Healy

(Image credit: Ben Healy)

-136km

Ghent's Iljo Keisse (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) comes to the front of the peloton to help Edoardo Affini's chasing effort. The break's lead stands at 8:25, and one suspects this is as wide as their advantage is going to get.

The day's second hill, the Kattenberg, is still 30 or so kilometres away, but the race's passage over that climb marks the beginning of a new phase, as the succession of climbs will start to whittle down the peloton and wear down the break's resistance to boot. 

Ben Healy and the break at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Ben Healy and Donovan Grondin lead the break at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. (Image credit: Getty)

Gianni Moscon and Peter Sagan at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Gianni Moscon and Peter Sagan at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. (Image credit: Getty)

-125km

As the break continues towards the Kattenberg with a lead just shy of 8 minutes, the UAE Tour has entered its final 3km. On the climb to Jebel Hafeet, Adam Yates has attacked and he has been joined immediately by race leader Tadej Pogacar.

On Jebel Hafeet, Yates and Pogacar have been joined by Joao Almeida and Pello Bilbao ahead of the final kilometre. In Belgium, the escapees are 7:50 clear of the bunch.

Tadej Pogacar wins atop Jebel Hafeet to seal his second successive UAE Tour victory. A full report, results and pictures to follow on Cyclingnews.

More details on the final stage of the UAE Tour are available here.

Tadej Pogacar wins the UAE Tour at Jebel Hafeet.

(Image credit: Getty)

-115km

At Omloop, meanwhile, the break's lead is 7:30 over the peloton. And, remarkably, Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) has only now just been caught by the peloton after spending 80km alone in a vain pursuit of the escapees.

-114km

Break:

Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Quentin Jauregui (B&B Hotels-KTM), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X)

 

Peloton at 7:05

 

 

The average speed thus far is a brisk 42kph, and we can expect the intensity to ratchet up considerably as the race hits the hills in earnest. 

-103km

The break's lead continues to deflate slowly. The gap is now 6:55.

-98km

Into the final 100km for Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Quentin Jauregui (B&B Hotels-KTM), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise) and Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic) and Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X). Back in the peloton, delegations from QuickStep-AlphaVinyl and Jumbo-Visma are placed near the front.

 

 

 

The break is over the Kattenberg, the second of the day's climbs, still with a lead just shy of 7 minutes on the peloton.

A reminder of the climbs still ahead this afternoon on the 204km road to Ninove. 

3. Leberg 113km

4. Hostellerie 130km

5. Valkenberg 138km

6. Wolvenberg 149km

7. Marlboroughstraat 164km

8. Biesestraat 165km

9. Leberg 169km

10. Berendries 173km

11. Elverenberg-Vossenhol 175km

12. Muur-Kapelmuur 188km

13. Bosberg 191km

-91km

The escapees are continuing to spill seconds from their advantage as they clatter across the cobbles of Haaghoek for the second time. Their lead is down to 5:10 and next up is the second ascent of the Leberg. 

-85km

After the Leberg, Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Quentin Jauregui (B&B Hotels-KTM), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic) and Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X) make it across the Paddestraat, still with a little over 5 minutes in hand on the bunch.

-82km

The escapees have achieved their initial objective of surviving out in front until live television pictures start. Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Quentin Jauregui (B&B Hotels-KTM), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic) and Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X) have 4:17 in hand on the peloton with 82km and 10 climbs to go. Next up is Hostellerie, with 74km to go.

The peloton is on the Paddestraart, where Brent Van Moer (Lotto Soudal) is setting the pace with Kasper Asgreen behind him. Van Moer's teammate Victor Campenaerts, meanwhile, is off the back, perhaps with a mechanical issue. 

Tom Scully (EF-EasyPost) attacks from the bunch after they come off the Paddestraat. There's still a sizeable peloton there, but the winnowing process is only beginning.

Scully is brought to heel by the peloton. Jumbo-Visma have been prominent at the front of the bunch thus far, and now we can see Peter Sagan moving up in the company of some TotalEnergies teammates.

-75km

The escapees hit the smooth climb of Hostellerie with a lead of 3:52 over the peloton. 

There are a few accelerations at the head of the peloton, with Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ) eager to jump on any move going clear. Zdenek Stybar is up there for QuickStep. The bunch lines out, but so far, no counter-attack has managed to force its way clear.

Victor Campenaerts has worked his way back up to the bunch after his mechanical issue. The peloton is now on the climb of Hostellerie. Kasper Asgreen appears to have bumped and forced to put a foot down, but the Dane unhurriedly makes his way through the cars and chases his way back up to the bunch.

Asgreen is back in contact with the peloton. Ethan Hayter (Ineos) is occupying the final position in the bunch, seemingly by choice rather than by necessity. 

-72km

Brent Van Moer accelerates at the head of the peloton over the top of Hostellerie, and there is an immediate response. The bunch strings out into a long line, but it remains intact for the time being.

-71k

Break:

Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Quentin Jauregui (B&B Hotels-KTM), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X)

Peloton at 3:02

Those accelerations haven't split the bunch, but they have shaved some more seconds off the break's advantage. The next climb of the Valkenberg is 4km away.

Magnus Sheffield (Ineos) attacks from the peloton. Again, the reaction is immediate and the bunch lines out all over again. 

Magnus Sheffield's strength is such that he goes clear of the peloton alone. He looks over his shoulder, perhaps wishing for some company, but he opts to press on in thisn solo effort for now.

-68k

The teenager Sheffield has a handful of seconds in hand on the bunch as he approaches the ascent of the Valkenberg. The American is 2:27 down on the seven leaders.

Quentin Jauregui (B&B Hotels-KTM) has been distanced from the break, leaving six riders at the head of the race. Sheffield continues in lone pursuit, 2:30 down, with a sizeable bunch not far behind him.

-66km

Break:

Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X)

Chaser at 2:20

Magnus Sheffield (Ineos)

Peloton at 2:30

Jumbo-Visma lead the bunch onto the Valkenberg, 2:26 down on the break and 26 seconds behind the enterprising Magnus Sheffield.

Philippe Gilbert accelerates at the head of the peloton on the Valkenberg in an attempt to bring a group clear. 

Gilbert doesn't manage to get any separation from the bunch, but he continues piling on the pressure over the other side to see if he can get something going. 

-62km

Magnus Sheffield's solo rally looks like it's coming to an end as an increasingly urgent peloton bears down upon him. The gap to the break, meanwhile, has come down to 1:49.

-61km

The remaining climbs are:

6. Wolvenberg 149km

7. Marlboroughstraat 164km

8. Biesestraat 165km

9. Leberg 169km

10. Berendries 173km

11. Elverenberg-Vossenhol 175km

12. Muur-Kapelmuur 188km

13. Bosberg 191km

Situation

Break:

Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X)

Peloton at 1:52

-60km

Jumbo-Visma are present in numbers towards the head of the peloton. Wout van Aert has been well hidden for much of the day, but the Belgian champion's jersey is now visible near the front. 

-58km

The urgency in the peloton rises visibly on the wide road that leads towards the Hollweg cobbles. The scramble for position will be crucial here and we could well see the peloton severly dimished in size afterwards as Jumbo-Visma take the reins. 

A bad time for a mechanical problem for Michael Valgren as Edoardo Affini leads a Jumbo-Visma delegation on the approach to the Holleweg...

Ben Turner leads his Ineos teammate Tom Pidock through the right hand turn onto the Holleweg, and they are at the front as the cobbles begin.

A crash in the peloton sees a number of fallers, including Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange), Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal) and Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates). 

-55km

That crash took place on the Holleweg cobbles. The head of the bunch is through the other side of that sector, and they are 1:08 down on the break as they approach the Wolvenberg.

John Degenkolb (DSM) attacks in the peloton on the Wolvenberg. Ben Turner (Ineos) and Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal) track the move...

Florian Vermeersch comes over the top of Degenkolb and pushes on with Loic Vliegen (Intermarche-Wanty) for company. This duo crests the top of the Wolvenberg with a slender lead over the peloton, which is being led by Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma).

-54km

Break:

Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X)

Chasers at 0:37:

Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal) and Loic Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)

Peloton at 0:52

The bunch has been whittled down notably by the Holleweg-Wolvenberg combination and one of the men distanced is Kasper Asgreen. It's not clear if the Dane had a mechanical issue or if he is still shy of condition after his bout of COVID-19 earlier in the month.

QuickStep-AlphaVinyl have been notable by their absence at the front since the climbs began, but they still have bodies in this peloton, include Yves Lampaert and 2019 winner Zdenek Stybar. 

Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) has attacked from the peloton and he sets out in lone pursuit of Vermeersch and Vliegen. 

-50km

Teunissen is brought back and then Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) accelerates from the bunch on the cobbles at Jagerij. The Swiss rider eats up the terrain and he is cruising across to Vermeersch and Vliegen.

It's a striking show of force from Kung, who joins forces with Vermeersch and Vliegen. They are in the process of making it across to the break, which has begun to fragment...

-49km

Kung, Vermeersch and Vliegen have picked off Konyshev from the break, and they are 12 seconds down on the leaders Healy, Hollmann, Apers and Hulgaard.

-47km

Break:

Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise)

Chasers:

Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco) Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic)

Peloton at 0:24

Next up is the climb of Marlboroughstraat. The Küng-Vermeersch group is almost upon the leaders, which will make it an nine-man break at the front.

-44km

Break:

Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic)

Peloton at 0:27

The remaining climbs are as follows:

7. Marlboroughstraat 164km

8. Biesestraat 165km

9. Leberg 169km

10. Berendries 173km

11. Elverenberg-Vossenhol 175km

12. Muur-Kapelmuur 188km

13. Bosberg 191km

Jumbo-Visma lead the chasing peloton ahead of Marlboroughstraat. Campenaerts, a faller on the cobbles ealier, has successfully chased his way back on. 

QuickStep-AlphaVinyl have joined Jumbo-Visma in the organising effort at the head of the peloton. The Küng group has a lead of 37 seconds as they approach the Marlboroughstraat.

This is not Victor Campenaerts' day. Another bike problem for the Belgian, who calmly lays his machine on the roadside and then mounts his replacement, ready to give chase all over again.

Peter Sagan is well placed in the main peloton alongside teammate Daniel Oss, but does the Slovakian have the legs to be a factor in the finale?

-41km

Trek-Segafredo and Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates) are among the front runners in the peloton at the base of the Marlboroughstraat. They hit the climb half a minute down on the leading group, which is still being powered by Küng.

A crash in the peloton and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) looks to be the worst afflicted. The Colombian sits on the road clutching his collarbone.

Tom Scully was also caught up in that crash, though he stayed upright at least, and he is back on the road and giving chase. 

-40km

Break:

Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Ruben Apers (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic)

Peloton at 0:32

 

Jumbo-Visma lead the bunch over the top of the Marlboroughstraat. Peter Sagan sits at the very rear of the peloton as he crests the summit. After a quick descent, they tackle the Biesestraat in quick succession.

-38km

Küng, Vermeersch et al have 39 seconds on the peloton on the Biesestraat. Konyshev and Apers have been dropped from the break, leaving 7 riders in front. 

-37km

Break:

Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Donovan Grondin (Arkea-Samsic), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X)

Peloton at 0:51

Küng leads the break onto the cobbles of Haaghoek and the break's lead is out to 51 seconds over the peloton. There are still almost 100 riders or so in the bunch, but surely the next ascent of the Leberg will force a greater selection...

Ben Turner has impressed today for Ineos, and he is back at the head of the peloton riding on behalf of Pidcock. Fast finishers in this peloton include Van Aert, Sagan, Pidcock and Sonny Colbrelli

-35km

Stefan Küng leads the break onto the Lenberg with 51 seconds in hand on this very sizeable peloton, which is being driven by Jumbo-Visma's Nathan Van Hooydonck.

Van Hooydonck sets a fearsome pace, with Greg Van Avermaet on his wheel. Yves Lampaert is also prominent, but that acceleration hasn't done much to whittle down the bunch just yet. Sonny Colbrelli is also climbing comfortably thus far.

-34km

Six riders remain in front over the top of the Leberg: Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X) and Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost). They have 52 seconds in hand on the peloton, where Yves Lampaert sits in front. The Belgian looks over his shoulder, perhaps checking to see what of his teammates are still in the mix after the Leberg.

Four climbs remain: 

10. Berendries 173km

11. Elverenberg-Vossenhol 175km

12. Muur-Kapelmuur 188km

13. Bosberg 191km

 

-32km

Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious) senses the lull in the bunch after the Lebeg and he jumps clear with Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates) among the riders on his wheel...

Trentin and Mohoric are in a group of four that has carved out a few seconds of a lead over the peloton ahead of the Berendries. Küng and company are 47 seconds clear. 

-31km

Mohoric, Trentin and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Alpecin-Fenix) are brought back on the Berendries, where Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma) accelerates with Tom Pidcock on his wheel....

Benoot's searing effort has brought three riders clear with him - the Ineos duo of Pidcock and Jhonathan Narvaez, and his team leader Wout van Aert...

Sonny Colbrelli realises the danger, and the European champion sets off in lone pursuit. He conjures up the strenght  to make this a five-man counter-attack over the top of the Berendries...

-30km

Break:

Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X)

Chasers at 0:26

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma), Tom Pidcock (Ineos), Jhonathan Narvaez (Ineos), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious)

Peloton at 0:34

Benoot leads this elite chasing group onto the Elverenberg-Vossenhol, the day's third last climb. Sagan, meanwhile, has been dropped from the back of the peloton. 

Benoot buries himself on behalf of Van Aert, who now comes through and looks to marshal some help from the others.

-28km

Benoot, Van Aert, Narvaez, Pidcock and Colbrelli are closing in gradually on the six leaders. The gap is inside 10 seconds. Van Aert looks eager to compel Colbrelli to work. For now, Jumbo-Visma and Ineos are using their numbers to power the counter-attack.

-27km

Kasper Agreen leads the peloton on behalf of QuickStep, but it seems like a tall order to bring back a group containing Van Aert, Pidcock, Küng, Versmeersch and Colbrelli...

-26km

The Van Aert agroup has caught the Küng group, leaving 11 riders at the head of the race. This group will be extremely difficult to bring back at this juncture of the race...

Break:

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma), Tom Pidcock (Ineos), Jhonathan Narvaez (Ineos), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X), Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost)

Peloton at 0:34

Two storied climbs remain on the agenda as the race tackles the old, beloved finale the Tour of Flanders. The Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg will be decisive.

-24km

Jhonatan Narvaez has been hugely impressive this afternoon and he is a very useful foil for Tom Pidcock in the finale. The same can be said of Benoot for Wout van Aert. Sonny Colbrelli is a dangerman in the event of a sprint, and Stefan Küng has the ability to go from distance. This is very delicately poised. And - strikingly - there is no QuickStep rider in the front group.

-22km

The eleven leaders power towards Geraardsbergen with a lead of 37 seconds over the peloton, which is being led by Yves Lampaert.

The survivors form the early break are, very understandably, struggling to contribute to the pace-making in front, but there is decent cohesion among Colbrelli, Van Aert, Benoot, Pidcock, Vermeersch et al, and it's hard to see this group being pegged back.

Kasper Asgreen piles on the pressure at the head of the peloton, which remains 35 seconds down on the 11 leaders. 

-21km

Break:

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma), Tom Pidcock (Ineos), Jhonathan Narvaez (Ineos), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X), Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost)

Pelootn at 0:33

-20km

Tiesj Benoot attacks ahead of the Muur, perhaps in a bid to keep the group honest. Nobody is taking up the chase and Benoot is opening a decent gap.

Narvaez takes a turn on the front but then peels off looking for help. None is forthcoming and Benoot's buffer grows. The loss of momentum in the group, however, could see Van Aert, Pidcock et al caught by the peloton if there isn't a change in tack.

-18km

Break:

Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma)

Chasers at 0:15:

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Tom Pidcock (Ineos), Jhonathan Narvaez (Ineos), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious), Juri Hollmann (Movistar), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Soudal), Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X), Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost)

Peloton at 0:31

Tiesj Benoot begins the Muur with 22 seconds in hand on the peloton, which has caught the Van Aert-Pidcock group...

Benoot is still pedalling smoothly as the gradient begins to bite, but what sparks will fly in the peloton behind?

Stefen Küng leads the bunch with Trentin and Van Aert on his wheel as they approach to meat of the Muur...

Van Aert, Colbrelli, Mohoric and Trentin are at Küng's shoulder in this lined out peloton. And now Van Aert comes through approaching the chapel at the summit...

-16km

Benoot leads over the summit, with a small gap over the peloton, which is led by Mohoric, with Van Aert on his wheel...

There are small gaps in the lined out bunch over the Muur. Van Aert, Mohoric, Trentin and Colbrelli have caught Benoot at the front, but it looks as though they will all be swept up by the chasing peloton...

-15km

Wout van Aert hasn't given up. He accelerates with Trentin, Mohoric and Rasmus Tiller on his wheel, but the chasers are upon them. It looks as though a group of 25 or so riders will rattle onto the Bosberg together. 

Victor Campenaerts, despite all of his problems, has made this front group, and now he tracks an attack from Oliver Naesen (AG2R Citroen)...

The front group is splintering and reforming, not unlike that breathless finale to the 2011 Tour of Flanders on this road... Pidcock and Van Aert are still up there in this front group and theuy will surely be very much in the mix...

-13km

Wout van Aert attacks viciously at the very base of the Bosberg and the Belgian champion is putting daylight between himself and the rest. Campenaerts was the first rider to respond but he couldn't get back on terms...

-12km

Van Aert leads over the Bosberg, with 5 seconds or so over a chasing group of 20 or so riders, which is being led by Stefan Küng...

A larger group of 30 riders is the third group on the road, but Van Aert extends his advantage over the other side of the Bosberg. His lead is 10 seconds and it's a tailwind from here to Ninove...

-11km

Wout van Aert is fully committed to his effort now, and he has 10 seconds in hand on a chasing group of 20 or so. Küng and Colbrelli are prominent in leading the chase. Tom Pidcock is also in this group.

-10km

Colbrelli has his teammates Mohoric and Fred Wright in this chasing group, which is 11 seconds down on the lone leader Van Aert.

Matej Mohoric tries to bring a group clear from the chasers, but Van Aert's advantage is growing. The Belgian is 12 seconds clear and showing no sign of relenting. 

Mohoric leads the chasing group of 20 riders with Mohoric tucked on his wheel. Pidcock, Trentin, Küng, Van Avermaet and Naesen are all in this group, but they're losing ground to Van Aert. 16 seconds the gap...

-8km

Wout van Aert enters the last five miles with a lead of 19 seconds over the chasers. The Belgian is, remarkably, in the first road race of his season, but he seems to be on another level to everybody else.

-7km

Mohoric puts in another mammoth turn. Colbrelli isn't sparing himself completely for the sprint but his efforts are doing nothing to turn the tide. Van Aert is strikingly reminiscent of Fabian Cancellara as he extends his lead to 20 seconds.

-6km

Barring mechanical mishap, Van Aert looks to be cruising to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad victory. 21 seconds the gap. The chasers are making no dent in his buffer. 

-5km

Van Aert continues to pad out his lead, which is now 24 seconds and this looks very much like a winning advantage.

-4km

Van Aert wears a grimace, but his pedalling is remarkably smooth. With each pedal stroke, he seems to be gaining on his chasers. His lead is at 28 seconds as Mohoric and Naesen bury themselves in pursuit at the head of the chasing group.

-3km

Bahrain's thoughts are perhaps turning to teeing up Colbrelli for the sprint for second place. Van Aert is relentless and his lead is above half a minute. 

-2km

Fred Wright and Naesen lead in the chasing group, but they aren't laying a glove on the unassailable Van Aert, who pedals metronomically on the road to Ninove.

Still Van Aert extends his lead. 33 seconds the gap. This is an exhibition. 

-1km

Into the final kilometre for Van Aert. It's all over bar the shouting, and there will be plenty from that on the roadside as the Belgian champion cruises into Ninove. 

Van Aert looks repeatedly over his shoulder but he must already know this race is in the bag...

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) wins the 2022 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with a remarkable solo exhibition.

Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) wins the sprint for second ahead of Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën), 22 seconds down on Van Aert.

Van Aert climbs off his bike and greets his wife and son at the finish line before he is led to the podium. Heinrich Haussler leads the main peloton home, 1:30 down on Van Aert.

NINOVE BELGIUM FEBRUARY 26 Wout Van Aert of Belgium and Team Jumbo Visma competes during the 77th Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2022 Mens Race a 2042km race from Ghent to Ninove OHN22 FlandersClassic WorldTour on February 26 2022 in Ninove Belgium Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Result

1 Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma) 04:50:28

2 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious 00:00:22

3 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën

4 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën

5 Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal

6 Rasmus Tiller (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling

That was a remarkable display from Campenaerts, who had to chase back at least twice, after a crash and a bike change. The Belgian was the man closest to the scene when Van Aert powered away just before the cobbles on the Bosberg, and he had the strength to sprint to 5th place.

Belgian Wout Van Aert of Team JumboVisma pictured in action during the mens elite race of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad oneday cycling race 2042km from Gent to Ninove Saturday 26 February 2022BELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

But the headlines will be all for Wout van Aert, the first reigning Belgian champion to win Omloop since Etienne De Wilde back in 1989. It was a chilling demonstration for the rest of the peloton, though some will console themselves with that great historical aberration - no rider has ever won Omloop and the Tour of Flanders in the same year. 

Wout van Aert

(Image credit: Getty)

That said, Greg Van Avermaet won Omloop and Paris-Roubaix in 2017, as Johan Museeuw did in 2000 and Franco Ballerini in 1995. More recently, in 2018, Michael Valgren won Omloop and Amstel Gold Race in the same spring. History be damned, it's safe to assume that Wout van Aert will be very competitive indeed this April. This was, after all, only his first road race of 2022.

Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma 4:50:48
2Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious 0:00:22
3Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team
4Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team
5Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6Rasmus Tiller (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
7Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
8Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarch�-Wanty-Gobert Mat�riaux
9Florian Senechal (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
10Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo

Belgiums Wout Van Aert of Team JumboVisma rides during the mens elite race of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad oneday cycling race 2042km from Gent to Ninove on February 26 2022 Belgium OUT Photo by DAVID STOCKMAN Belga AFP Belgium OUT Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBelgaAFP via Getty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Belgian Wout Van Aert of Team JumboVisma celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the mens elite race of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad oneday cycling race 2042km from Gent to Ninove Saturday 26 February 2022 BELGA PHOTO KRISTOF VAN ACCOM Photo by KRISTOF VAN ACCOMBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In his post-race interview, Wout van Aert expressed his solidarity with the people of Ukraine following the Russian invasion. "I want to say one more thing: bike racing is the most important side issue in the world, with the emphasis on side issue. It's just madness that war is still possible today, and so close. For what it's worth, I would like to express my support to everyone involved in Ukraine."

Thanks for following our live coverage of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Cyclingnews today. A full report, results and pictures are available here, while Patrick Fletcher and Daniel Ostanek will have all the news and reaction from Ninove, including from Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2022 77th Edition Gent Ninove 2042 km 26022022 Wout Van Aert BEL Team Jumbo Visma photo Nico VereeckenPNCVSprintCyclingAgency2022

(Image credit: Spring Cycling Agency)

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