Greg Van Avermaet wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) successfully defended his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad crown when he saw off world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac) with a powerful sprint in Ghent.

The winning move was formed in installments, beginning with Sagan’s fierce accelerations on the climb of the Wolvenberg and the cobbles that followed at Haaghoek, efforts that helped peg back the early leaders and whittle down an already reduced group of favourites.

Only Sagan and Van Avermaet could then respond when Vanmarcke attacked on the final climb of the Molenberg, and the trio quickly established a lead of 30 seconds over the chasers. They would scarcely hand back an inch of that advantage thereafter, despite the efforts of Sky and Quick-Step in the group of twelve riders that formed behind them.

In truth, the three leaders looked a rung or two above everyone else in the opening race of the Belgian season, though it must be noted that a number of contenders, including Tom Boonen (Quick-Step) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), were eliminated by a crash ahead of the Taaienberg, traditionally the true starting point of hostilities among the favourites.

Sagan was forced to lead the break into the final kilometre, though it was Vanmarcke, winner of Omloop in 2012, who opened the sprint from distance. Van Avermaet was quick to respond. He swiftly moved past Vanmarcke and put a length into Sagan, and the world champion was never able to get back on terms.

Van Avermaet once had the reputation as a nearly man, but he began to shake off that tag following his victory in similar circumstances at Omloop a year ago. After winning Olympic gold in Rio last summer, Van Avermaet clearly no longer has any inhibitions in the biggest races, and he will be encouraged, too, by his fine head-to-head record against Sagan.

“It’s an amazing feeling. Last year I started my year with a big victory. It’s always nice to come back and win your first race on home ground. For me it’s the perfect start of the season," Van Avermaet said. Asked if it was a good omen for the Tour of Flanders, he added: “Hopefully, it’s my biggest goal, but it will be a hard race.”

Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) clipped off the front of the chase group to finish fourth, 44 seconds down, while just behind him, Oscar Gatto (Astana) won the sprint for fifth ahead of Luke Rowe (Sky).

Felline’s directeur sportif Dirk Demol complained afterwards that the three leaders had ignored a directive that threatened riders with exclusion if they rode along the pavements at the side of the road instead of along the course proper. He was joined in his protest by Lotto Soudal manager Marc Sergeant, but the commissaires quickly confirmed that the result of the race stood. Van Avermat was the winner.

There was no celebration for Tom Boonen, meanwhile, in his final tilt at Omloop, the one major cobbled race that has eluded him during his illustrious career. The Belgian crashed twice, and his race was effectively ended by the second incident on the cobbles at Donderij. Although he gamely gave chase, Boonen eventually abandoned inside the final 50 kilometres, but is expected to start Sunday's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

Race video highlights

How it unfolded

After a fast first hour of racing, Justin Jules (Veranclassic) and Gediminas Bagdonas (AG2R La Mondiale) managed to get away. The pace in the peloton picked up when approaching the first passage over the cobbles of the Haaghoek. A first crash occurred soon afterwards, with Tom Boonen being one of the casualties, though the Belgian star was quickly able to bridge back up to the peloton. Lukas Spengler (Veranclassic) had less luck and was transferred to the hospital.

Brian van Goethem (Roompot), Mike Teunissen (Team Sunweb), former Belgian champion Preben Van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Leigh Howard (Aqua Blue Sport) caught the two leaders right after tackling the Eikenmolen climb, with 127 kilometres still to race. The pace in the peloton slackened, meanwhile, and by the Muur van Geraardsbergen, the six leaders suddenly had a lead of eight minutes.

Katusha-Alpecin accelerated in the peloton when approaching the Haaghoek for the second time, and on the cobbles there was a crash that took out Sam Bewley (Orica-Scott). A few moments later Zakk Dempster (Israel Cycling Academy) crashed out of the race after riding against the sidewalk.

On returning into the province of East Flanders, the battle for positions started in earnest in the peloton. The ascent of the cobbled Kruisberg and the cobbles of the Donderij preceded the always important climb of the Taaienberg, and this was where the race really took shape. Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale), Andrei Grivko (Astana) and track specialist Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) anticipated the big moves with a counter-attack, while the bunch trailed the break by four minutes.

On the cobbles at Donderij, there was a massive crash in the first rows of the peloton, and the biggest names involved in the incident were Alexander Kristoff, Tony Martin (Katusha), Jens Debusschere, Tiesj Benoot, (Lotto-Soudal), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott) and Tom Boonen. Although Boonen changed bikes and gave chase, it was a doomed effort, and he abandoned soon afterwards, meaning that the Omloop will remain a rare gap on his palmarès. The Belgian will retire after Paris-Roubaix on April 9.

At the Taaienberg, usually the scene of Boonen’s first major effort, Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) unleashed an acceleration. Greg Van Avermaet marked his wheel, with Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Sep Vanmarcke and Peter Sagan coming up soon afterwards. The group later swelled as Matti Breschel, Oscar Gatto (Astana), Stefan Küng (BMC), Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) closed the gap, while Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard (Team Sky) joined them on the following ascent of the Eikenberg, where the main group also picked up Gougeard, Grivko and Boudat.

At 50 kilometres from the finish, on the Wolvenberg, Sagan accelerated again, and this time only Vanmarcke, Van Avermaet, Grivko, Gougeard and Boudat were able to keep up. At that point, they were one minute behind the five remaining leaders, as Howard had been dropped. In the main chase group Sky kept the pace high with Gianni Moscon but they quickly lost half a minute on the Sagan-Van Avermaet group.

When tackling the cobbles of the Haaghoek for the third and final time, Sagan’s powerful effort saw him link up with the five survivors from the early break, with only Vanmarcke, Van Avermaet and Gougeard left on his wheel. This group of nine riders had forty seconds on the Moscon-led peloton.

At 35 kilometres from the finish, the cobbled Molenberg was the final climb of the day, and Vanmarcke, Sagan and Van Avermaet showed their class by forging clear at the head of the race and forming an elite group of three. Further back, Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) attacked on the Molenberg, an effort that eventually saw a twelve-man group form and give chase to Sagan, Vanmarcke and Van Avermaet.

Through the cobbles of Lippenhovestraat and the Lange Munte, Van Avermaet, Sagan and Vanmarcke continued to collaborate smoothly, and they maintained a lead of 30 seconds over the chasing group, where Quick-Step had Stybar, Matteo Trentin and Philippe Gilbert forcing the pace. Try as they might, they barely clawed back so much as a second of the leaders’ advantage, which then stretched out towards a minute on the fast run-in to Ghent.

In the final 10 kilometres, it was clear that the winner would come from the three leaders, but despite some tactical manoeuvring from Vanmarcke, no attack was forthcoming and they fought out a keenly-contested sprint.

As in 2016, Van Avermaet had Sagan’s number in the slightly uphill sprint, but on this evidence, it won’t be the last time the Olympic and world champions lock horns on the cobbles this spring.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team4:55:06
2Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-HansgroheRow 1 - Cell 2
3Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Cannondale-DrapacRow 2 - Cell 2
4Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo0:00:45
5Oscar Gatto (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:00:52
6Luke Rowe (GBr) Team SkyRow 5 - Cell 2
7Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 6 - Cell 2
8Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-SegafredoRow 7 - Cell 2
9Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors0:00:56
10Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie0:00:58
11Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 10 - Cell 2
12Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team SunwebRow 11 - Cell 2
13Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 12 - Cell 2
14Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step FloorsRow 13 - Cell 2
15Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:01:02
16Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-Scott0:02:41
17Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 16 - Cell 2
18Timo Roosen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo0:02:44
19Matti Breschel (Den) Astana Pro TeamRow 18 - Cell 2
20Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJRow 19 - Cell 2
21Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 20 - Cell 2
22Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 21 - Cell 2
23Justin Jules (Fra) WB Veranclassic Aqua ProtectRow 22 - Cell 2
24Gediminas Bagdonas (Ltu) AG2R La MondialeRow 23 - Cell 2
25Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 24 - Cell 2
26Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team SunwebRow 25 - Cell 2
27Yoann Offredo (Fra) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 26 - Cell 2
28Kristijan Koren (Slo) Cannondale-DrapacRow 27 - Cell 2
29Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:02:59
30Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Astana Pro TeamRow 29 - Cell 2
31Benoit Jarrier (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital ConceptRow 30 - Cell 2
32Kevin Ista (Bel)WB Veranclassic Aqua ProtectRow 31 - Cell 2
33Taco Van Der Hoorn (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse LoterijRow 32 - Cell 2
34Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing TeamRow 33 - Cell 2
35Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 34 - Cell 2
36Florian Senechal (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 35 - Cell 2
37Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 36 - Cell 2
38Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Cannondale-DrapacRow 37 - Cell 2
39Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 38 - Cell 2
40Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-ScottRow 39 - Cell 2
41Jesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse LoterijRow 40 - Cell 2
42Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) FDJRow 41 - Cell 2
43Brian Van Goethem (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse LoterijRow 42 - Cell 2
44Jos Van Emden (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 43 - Cell 2
45Francisco Ventoso (Spa) BMC Racing TeamRow 44 - Cell 2
46Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team SkyRow 45 - Cell 2
47Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-SegafredoRow 46 - Cell 2
48Andrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro TeamRow 47 - Cell 2
49Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Orica-ScottRow 48 - Cell 2
50Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica-ScottRow 49 - Cell 2
51Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step FloorsRow 50 - Cell 2
52Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise0:03:07
53Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 52 - Cell 2
54Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale0:04:36
55Maarten Wynants (Bel) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 54 - Cell 2
56Quentin Jauregui (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 55 - Cell 2
57Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Katusha-Alpecin0:04:37
58Peter Koning (Ned) Aqua Blue Sport0:04:42
59Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:05:26
60Stijn Devolder (Bel) Veranda's Willems CrelanRow 59 - Cell 2
61Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC Racing Team0:07:45
62Jimmy Turgis (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 61 - Cell 2
63Christoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 62 - Cell 2
64Maxime Farazijn (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 63 - Cell 2
65Bert De Backer (Bel) Team SunwebRow 64 - Cell 2
66Stijn Steels (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 65 - Cell 2
67Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 66 - Cell 2
68Huub Duyn (Ned) Veranda's Willems-CrelanRow 67 - Cell 2
69Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team0:07:49
70Christian Knees (Ger) Team SkyRow 69 - Cell 2
71Pim Ligthart (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse LoterijRow 70 - Cell 2
72Martin Elmiger (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 71 - Cell 2
73Gregory Rast (Swi) Trek-SegafredoRow 72 - Cell 2
74Olivier Pardini (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua ProtectRow 73 - Cell 2
75Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-HansgroheRow 74 - Cell 2
76Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La MondialeRow 75 - Cell 2
77Frederik Frison (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 76 - Cell 2
78Ian Stannard (GBr) Team SkyRow 77 - Cell 2
79Thomas Boudat (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 78 - Cell 2
80Franck Bonnamour (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital ConceptRow 79 - Cell 2
81Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-DrapacRow 80 - Cell 2
82Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac0:09:09
83Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team SunwebRow 82 - Cell 2
84Marco Coledan (Ita) Trek-SegafredoRow 83 - Cell 2
85Dennis Van Winden (Ned) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 84 - Cell 2
86Iljo Keisse (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 85 - Cell 2
87Roy Curvers (Ned) Team SunwebRow 86 - Cell 2
88Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 87 - Cell 2
89Lawrence Naesen (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua ProtectRow 88 - Cell 2
90Sander Cordeel (Bel) Veranda's Willems CrelanRow 89 - Cell 2
91Ivan Garcia (Spa) Bahrain-MeridaRow 90 - Cell 2
92Ryan Mullen (Irl) Cannondale-DrapacRow 91 - Cell 2
93Julien Morice (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 92 - Cell 2
94Olivier Le Gac (Fra) FDJRow 93 - Cell 2
95Maxime Vantomme (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua ProtectRow 94 - Cell 2
96Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Team LottNl-JumboRow 95 - Cell 2
97Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors0:09:16
98Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert0:09:17
99Bram Tankink (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 98 - Cell 2
100Florian Vachon (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital ConceptRow 99 - Cell 2
101Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Sky0:11:37
102Tony Martin (Ger) Katusha-AlpecinRow 101 - Cell 2
103Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) Katusha-AlpecinRow 102 - Cell 2
104Boris Vallee (Bel) Fortuneo - Vital ConceptRow 103 - Cell 2
105Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Team SkyRow 104 - Cell 2
106Arman Kamyshev (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 105 - Cell 2
107Lasse Norman Hansen (Den) Aqua Blue SportRow 106 - Cell 2
108Daniel Hoelgaard (Nor) FDJRow 107 - Cell 2
109Adam Blythe (GBr) Aqua Blue SportRow 108 - Cell 2
110Maxime Daniel (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital ConceptRow 109 - Cell 2
111Julien Vermote (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 110 - Cell 2
112Svein Tuft (Can) Orica-ScottRow 111 - Cell 2
113Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 112 - Cell 2
114Wesley Kreder (Ned) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 113 - Cell 2
115Tom Scully (NZl) Cannondale-DrapacRow 114 - Cell 2
116Pierre Luc Perichon (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept0:13:01
DNFMatthew Brammeier (Irl) Aqua Blue SportRow 116 - Cell 2
DNFConor Dunne (Irl) Aqua Blue SportRow 117 - Cell 2
DNFPatrick Bevin (NZl) Cannondale-DrapacRow 118 - Cell 2
DNFAndrew Fenn (GBr) Aqua Blue SportRow 119 - Cell 2
DNFDaniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 120 - Cell 2
DNFZakkari Dempster (Aus) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 121 - Cell 2
DNFBryan Coquard (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 122 - Cell 2
DNFChristophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 123 - Cell 2
DNFRomain Cardis (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 124 - Cell 2
DNFRyan Anderson (Can) Direct EnergieRow 125 - Cell 2
DNFAaron Gate (NZl) Aqua Blue SportRow 126 - Cell 2
DNFFloris Gerts (Ned) BMC RacingRow 127 - Cell 2
DNFLeigh Howard (Aus) Aqua Blue SportRow 128 - Cell 2
DNFTruls Korsaeth (Nor) Astana Pro TeamRow 129 - Cell 2
DNFRuslan Tleubayev (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 130 - Cell 2
DNFAntoine Duchesne (Can) Direct EnergieRow 131 - Cell 2
DNFAviv Yechzkel (Isr) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 132 - Cell 2
DNFTom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 133 - Cell 2
DNFAleksejs Saramotins (Lat) Bora-HansgroheRow 134 - Cell 2
DNFMihkel Räim (Est) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 135 - Cell 2
DNFBenjamin Perry (Can) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 136 - Cell 2
DNFMarc Fournier (Fra) FDJRow 137 - Cell 2
DNFLukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-HansgroheRow 138 - Cell 2
DNFTyler Williams (USA) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 139 - Cell 2
DNFDimitri Claeys (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 140 - Cell 2
DNFTiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 141 - Cell 2
DNFHugo Hofstetter (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 142 - Cell 2
DNFJens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 143 - Cell 2
DNFKenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 144 - Cell 2
DNFNikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 145 - Cell 2
DNFAnthony Turgis (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 146 - Cell 2
DNFJames Shaw (GBr) Lotto SoudalRow 147 - Cell 2
DNFCyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 148 - Cell 2
DNFHamish Schreurs (NZl) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 149 - Cell 2
DNFMichal Kolár (Svk) Bora-HansgroheRow 150 - Cell 2
DNFPieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 151 - Cell 2
DNFLuka Pibernik (Slo) Bahrain-MeridaRow 152 - Cell 2
DNFChristophe Prémont (Bel) Veranda's Willems CrelanRow 153 - Cell 2
DNFDries De Bondt (Bel) Veranda's Willems CrelanRow 154 - Cell 2
DNFGaetan Bille (Bel) Veranda's Willems CrelanRow 155 - Cell 2
DNFTom Stamsnijder (Ned) Team SunwebRow 156 - Cell 2
DNFLukas Spengler (Swi) WB Veranclassic Aqua ProtectRow 157 - Cell 2
DNFZico Waeytens (Bel) Team SunwebRow 158 - Cell 2
DNFMax Walscheid (Ger) Team SunwebRow 159 - Cell 2
DNFAlex Kirsch (Lux) WB Veranclassic Aqua ProtectRow 160 - Cell 2
DNFStef Van Zummeren (Bel) Veranda's Willems CrelanRow 161 - Cell 2
DNFJens Mouris (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse LoterijRow 162 - Cell 2
DNFLars Boom (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 163 - Cell 2
DNFKevin Van Melsen (Bel) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 164 - Cell 2
DNFMatthias Brändle (Aut) Trek-SegafredoRow 165 - Cell 2
DNFMads Pedersen (Den) Trek-SegafredoRow 166 - Cell 2
DNFMichal Golas (Pol) Team SkyRow 167 - Cell 2
DNFSimone Antonini (Ita) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 168 - Cell 2
DNFSalvatore Puccio (Ita) Team SkyRow 169 - Cell 2
DNFKevin Deltombe (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 170 - Cell 2
DNFEdward Planckaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 171 - Cell 2
DNFAime De Gendt (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 172 - Cell 2
DNFNico Denz (Ger) AG2R La MondialeRow 173 - Cell 2
DNFJulien Stassen (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua ProtectRow 174 - Cell 2
DNFErwann Corbel (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital ConceptRow 175 - Cell 2
DNFBorut Bozic (Slo) Bahrain-MeridaRow 176 - Cell 2
DNFDomen Novak (Slo) Bahrain-MeridaRow 177 - Cell 2
DNFIon Insausti (Spa) Bahrain-MeridaRow 178 - Cell 2
DNFDavid Per (Slo) Bahrain-MeridaRow 179 - Cell 2
DNFMarkel Irizar (Spa) Trek-SegafredoRow 180 - Cell 2
DNFDaniel Mclay (GBr) Fortuneo - Vital ConceptRow 181 - Cell 2
DNFJulien Duval (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 182 - Cell 2
DNFJacopo Guarnieri (Ita) FDJRow 183 - Cell 2
DNFMatthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJRow 184 - Cell 2
DNFThomas Leezer (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 185 - Cell 2
DNFJens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-ScottRow 186 - Cell 2
DNFAntonio Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 187 - Cell 2
DNFCoen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse LoterijRow 188 - Cell 2

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