Van Avermaet wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) claimed his first win of the season at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with a consummate performance that was capped by a sprint finish that saw off world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal).

The trio had been part of an elite group that had initially formed Taaienberg along with Luke Rowe (Team Sky). Despite a late charge from the peloton the break stayed clear.

In the sprint, Van Avermaet hit out first with Sagan and Benoot fighting for his wheel. The BMC Racing rider created a small gap and it was enough to seal victory with Sagan unable to respond in the closing metres.

Rowe held on for fourth place while fifth went to Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale), who had been in the first break of the day. Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal ) led the peloton home just nine seconds later. There was disappointment for Etixx-QuickStep who saw Tony Martin crash and no riders finish inside the top ten.

However the day belonged to Van Avermaet, who laid down the perfect marker ahead of the spring Monuments. The Belgian finished second in this race two years ago and has perennially finished on the podium in several major spring races without claiming a win.

“I’m never really winning that much and it’s the first race in Belgium so far, so I’m pretty happy with this victory. If I could choose one, I would have picked, definitely, this one,” he said.

How it unfolded

At the start in Gent the sun and large crowds were welcoming of the 199 riders. Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep), world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and home rider Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) were clearly the favourites.

Twelve riders were well aware that their only chance to shine in the first race on the Belgian race calendar was to get in the breakaway, with Alexis Gougeard (AG2R), Kristian House (One Pro Cycling), Julien Morice (Direct Energie), Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty – Groupe Gobert), Maxime Farazijn (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Brian van Goethem (Roompot-Oranje Peloton), Zakkari Dempster (Bora-Argon 18), Benoit Jarrier (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits ), Brecht Dhaene, Stef Van Zummeren and Kai Reus (Veranda’s Willems) going clear.

The leaders collected a maximal lead of 5:30 over the peloton that was led by Etixx-QuickStep and Katusha.

Tiesj Benoot stated before the race that he needed to be ‘attentive once they reached the Kruisberg’. The racing certainly was more nervous. When approaching the Kruisberg there was a crash in the peloton that took down Tosh Van Der Sande (Lotto-Soudal), Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-GreenEdge) and Dennis van Winden (LottoNL-Jumbo). The latter was hospitalized.

Watch the video race highlighs

The winning move

The lead group was less than two minutes ahead and starting to lose numbers as the rest of the climbs came into view. Benoot was certainly attentive because one climb later he was there when Luke Rowe (Team Sky) set a blistering pace on the Taaienberg with only Benoot, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) swiftly marking his move.

World champion Peter Sagan impressed a little later as he bridged up alone, with Daniel Oss (BMC) blowing up his engine when trying to keep up.

In front, Dhaene, Gougeard, Reus and Morice were the remaining leaders after the Taaienberg. At 20 seconds from the leaders Van Avermaet set a fierce pace on the Eikenberg, putting Rowe briefly in trouble. On the cobbles of the Karel Martelstraat the four strong men bridged up with dropped riders Dhaene and Morice.

Etixx crash and crack

Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) was riding in third position in the peloton when he slipped away when coming off the cobbles. He was able to continue his race although the chase lost valuable seconds as they were forced to reform.

Just before the cobbles of the Haaghoek the remaining two leaders were brought back, creating a new lead group of eight riders. They were Benoot, Van Avermaet, Rowe, Sagan and the survivors of the long breakaway move Reus, Gougeard, Morice and Dhaene.

Nearly a minute further back there was a crash at the back of the peloton that took out BMC riders Philippe Gilbert, Floris Gerts and Manuel Quinziato.

After the asphalted Boembeke, the final climb of the day at 32 kilometres from the finish the eight leaders were still nearly a minute ahead of the peloton led by Etixx-QuickStep’s Nikolas Maes, Lukasz Wisniowski and Stijn Vandenbergh. When they sat up Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) and Tosh Van Der Sande rode away from the peloton.

The final run in

The remaining obstacles on the roads to Gent were the long pavé sections of the Paddestraat, Lippenhovestraat and the Lange Munte. In front, Reus flatted and lost contact with the leaders. Behind, 23-year-old Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) rode away from the peloton on the Lippenhovestraat, blasting by Theuns and Van Der Sande. Stuyven quickly passed Reus, too, but the leaders were still 40 seconds ahead.

When heading to the Lange Munte, Stuyven was battling the headwind in no man’s land, riding at 35 seconds from the seven leaders and 15 seconds ahead of the small Etixx-QuickStep-led peloton. Stuyven’s efforts were ruined when he slipped on one of the multiple corners ahead of the Lange Munte. The riders leading the way in the peloton were Wisniowski, Martin, Vandenbergh, Nikki Terpstra and Tom Boonen.

Sagan upped the pace on the cobbles of the Lange Munte, quickly dropping Reus, Dhaene and Morice. A little later 22-year-old Gougeard was dropped too but he returned when Sagan came off the front. Coming off the cobbles the gap for the five leaders on the peloton was still more than 50 seconds. From there, there were no more small twisting farm roads but 17 wide national roads to the finish town Gent.

The peloton had one last roll of the dice, with several teams complimenting Etixx’s work on the front. With 10 kilometres remaining the gap to the leaders began to drop and with 5 kilometres remaining the peloton could sense blood. However, one long turn Sagan, followed by an important turn from Gougeard ensured that the break would stay away.

Van Avermaet started the sprint in fourth wheel but took an aggressive line into the final corners. It meant he was on the front coming around the last bend, with Sagan and Benoot desperately trying to respond. However, they couldn’t catch the BMC rider and the Belgian hung on for a deserved milestone victory.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team4:54:12
2Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff TeamRow 1 - Cell 2
3Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 2 - Cell 2
4Luke Rowe (GBr) Team SkyRow 3 - Cell 2
5Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:00:05
6Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:00:09
7Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 6 - Cell 2
8Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-SegafredoRow 7 - Cell 2
9Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-SegafredoRow 8 - Cell 2
10Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJRow 9 - Cell 2
11Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 10 - Cell 2
12Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 11 - Cell 2
13Oliver Naesen (Bel) IAM CyclingRow 12 - Cell 2
14Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 13 - Cell 2
15Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team SkyRow 14 - Cell 2
16Scott Thwaites (GBr) Bora-Argon 18Row 15 - Cell 2
17Florian Senechal (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 16 - Cell 2
18Oscar Gatto (Ita) Tinkoff TeamRow 17 - Cell 2
19Marco Marcato (Ita) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 18 - Cell 2
20Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 19 - Cell 2
21Maarten Wynants (Bel) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 20 - Cell 2
22Sébastien Turgot (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 21 - Cell 2
23Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team SkyRow 22 - Cell 2
24Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 23 - Cell 2
25Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:00:13
26Brecht Dhaene (Bel) Veranda's Willems Cycling TeamRow 25 - Cell 2
27Florian Vachon (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital ConceptRow 26 - Cell 2
28Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 27 - Cell 2
29Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) IAM CyclingRow 28 - Cell 2
30Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx - Quick-Step0:00:15
31Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 30 - Cell 2
32Stig Broeckx (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:00:17
33Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 32 - Cell 2
34Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 33 - Cell 2
35Dries Devenyns (Bel) IAM CyclingRow 34 - Cell 2
36Julien Morice (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 35 - Cell 2
37Antoine Duchesne (Can) Direct Energie0:00:24
38Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step0:00:39
39Mads Pedersen (Den) Stölting Service Group0:04:41
40Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto SoudalRow 39 - Cell 2
41Timothy Dupont (Bel) Veranda's Willems Cycling TeamRow 40 - Cell 2
42Rick Zabel (Ger) BMC Racing TeamRow 41 - Cell 2
43Tim Declercq (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 42 - Cell 2
44Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Stölting Service GroupRow 43 - Cell 2
45Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 44 - Cell 2
46Aleksei Tcatevich (Rus) Team KatushaRow 45 - Cell 2
47Sjoerd Van Ginneken (Ned) Roompot - Oranje PelotonRow 46 - Cell 2
48Stef Van Zummeren (Bel) Veranda's Willems Cycling TeamRow 47 - Cell 2
49Floris De Tier (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 48 - Cell 2
50Sander Cordeel (Bel) Veranda's Willems Cycling TeamRow 49 - Cell 2
51Martin Elmiger (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 50 - Cell 2
52Alex Kirsch (Lux) Stölting Service GroupRow 51 - Cell 2
53Jay Mccarthy (Aus) Tinkoff TeamRow 52 - Cell 2
54Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat) IAM CyclingRow 53 - Cell 2
55Manuel Belletti (Ita) Southeast - VenezuelaRow 54 - Cell 2
56Christian Knees (Ger) Team SkyRow 55 - Cell 2
57Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Southeast - VenezuelaRow 56 - Cell 2
58Amaury Capiot (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 57 - Cell 2
59Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff TeamRow 58 - Cell 2
60Reto Hollenstein (Swi) IAM CyclingRow 59 - Cell 2
61Robert Wagner (Ger) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 60 - Cell 2
62Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Trek-SegafredoRow 61 - Cell 2
63Jesse Sergent (NZl) AG2R La MondialeRow 62 - Cell 2
64Grégory Rast (Swi) Trek-SegafredoRow 63 - Cell 2
65Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 64 - Cell 2
66Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM CyclingRow 65 - Cell 2
67Andrew Fenn (GBr) Team SkyRow 66 - Cell 2
68Adam Blythe (GBr) Tinkoff TeamRow 67 - Cell 2
69Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-GreenEdgeRow 68 - Cell 2
70Bram Tankink (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 69 - Cell 2
71Kai Reus (Ned) Veranda's Willems Cycling TeamRow 70 - Cell 2
72Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 71 - Cell 2
73Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 72 - Cell 2
74Nikolas Maes (Bel) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 73 - Cell 2
75Julien Vermote (Bel) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 74 - Cell 2
76Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 75 - Cell 2
77Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 76 - Cell 2
78Marco Haller (Aut) Team KatushaRow 77 - Cell 2
79Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdgeRow 78 - Cell 2
80Boy Van Poppel (Ned) Trek-SegafredoRow 79 - Cell 2
81Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital ConceptRow 80 - Cell 2
82Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJRow 81 - Cell 2
83Mickael Delage (Fra) FDJRow 82 - Cell 2
84Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJRow 83 - Cell 2
85Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 84 - Cell 2
86Johan Le Bon (Fra) FDJRow 85 - Cell 2
87Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 86 - Cell 2
88Brian Van Goethem (Ned) Roompot - Oranje Peloton0:05:13
89Bartlomiej Matysiak (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice0:09:21
90Ryan Anderson (Can) Direct EnergieRow 89 - Cell 2