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Stannard sees off Quickstep to win incredible Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

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) FDJ.fr
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) FDJ.fr
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) FDJ.fr
88Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team
89Anthony Geslin (Fra) FDJ.fr
90William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ.fr
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) FDJ.fr
DNFMatthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ.fr
DNFJohan Le Bon (Fra) FDJ.fr
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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