Valgren wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Astana might be in trouble behind the scenes, but on the road they have been pitch perfect this month. Michael Valgren added to their February success with victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad after a late solo attack.

Łukasz Wiśniowski (Team Sky) had been distanced on the Muur van Gerardsbergen but fought back to take second place ahead of Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac).

"After the Muur we got away in a big group," Valgren said. "We had three guys and we needed to do something because we had some fast riders. We had Oscar there and Lutsenko who is also fast, so it was up to me to attack. I counter attacked Sep Vanmarcke and they were looking at each other for just five seconds and I was away.

"It was bloody hard and I am super happy. I would like to be up there in the big ones like the Tour of Flanders. It's the only the second time that I've done these races, last year was the first time and I was 11th in the Tour of Flanders. You also need to be lucky about the crashes and these races are stressful and full-gas, but they are a lot of fun."

The finale of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad had been tinkered with to something that mirrored the old finish of the Tour of Flanders, but with plenty of youth in the bunch there were many that hadn't raced on that parcours.

Most had expected the race to detonate as early as the Mollenberg, but a headwind out on course made it nigh on impossible. It wouldn't be until the Muur van Gaardsbergen that it really began to take shape.

A group of 13 riders emerged the other side following a stinging attack from Vanmarcke, with Astana holding the cards with three riders in the move. They played their advantage by sending Valgren up the road on several occasions, leaving Oscar Gatto and Alexey Lutsenko to sit in the wheels behind.

Each dig was brought back but Valgren went again with just over two kilometres to go and this time it stuck. The chasers looked at each other, none wanting to be the one to blink first. Vanmarcke finally cracked but it was too late and Valgren already had his first Belgian Classic wrapped up.

How it happened

The temperature in Gent on Saturday morning was just above freezing point but the skies were clear, making for a perfect crisp winter's morning to usher in the 2018 Classics and the traditional 'start of the season'. The crowds steadily built in Gent's Citadel park and the 't Kuipke velodrome, home of the Gent Six, where the men's and women's teams were presented together ahead of a joint start.

It was a fast start but it didn't take long for the day's early breakaway to form. At first it was made up of Marco Mathis (Katusha-Alpecin), Michael Van Staeyen (Cofidis), Kenneth Van Bilsen (Cofidis), Brian van Goethem (Roompot), Edward Planckaert (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Michael Svendgaard (Fortuneo-Samsic), Dries De Bondt (Veranda's Willems Crelan) and Ludwig De Winter (WB Aqua Project Veranclassic) and they were soon joined by Aleksejs Saramotins (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Tim Ariesen (Roompot) to make a group of 10.

After 41 kilometres and an hour of racing, the gap stood at five minutes, but it would soon start to deminish. The Haaghoek sector of cobblestones, shortly followed by the first ascent Leberg climb, represented the opening difficulties of the day. On the tarmacked, and largely flat, roads of the subsequent 30 kilometres, the gap came down to the 2:45 mark, with each of the big teams sending a rider towards the front to help police the situation.

As the first proper string of cobbles and climbs unfolded, the tension increased and we saw the first crashes of the day, Michael Matthews (Sunweb) coming down round a tight corner before Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) was forced to abandon after a collision with a Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider.

The pace really ramped up on the approach to the second helping of the Haaghoek-Leberg combination, this ascent being the fourth of the 13 hills on the parcours. Near the top of the Leberg, Gilbert put in a big acceleration. It wasn't enough to create a selection but it certainly signalled that things were getting serious. Up ahead, the break was fragmenting, and Mathis, Ariesen, and Van Staeyen were all left behind.

On the undulating approach to the Kokkerelle, Gilbert tested his rivals with another brief acceleration, while his teammate Stybar put in a more serious attack, only to be chased down by BMC and Lotto Soudal.

The first exchanges

After the Wolvenberg, it was time for the Molenberg, a key danger point highlighted by Gilbert ahead of the race. The climb itself didn't do too much damage but the subsequent narrow lanes did. The peloton split before groups clipped off the front. Stybar, Silvan Dillier (AG2R), Stefan Kung (BMC), Boy Van Poppel (Trek-Segafredo), Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha-Alpecin), and Chris Juul Jensen (MItchelton-Scott) found themselves in a group and they were soon joined by a second small group containing Oliver Naesen (AG2R), Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Armund Jansen (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Dries Van Gestel (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise).

Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana) bridged across alone but the main bunch remained close and onto the Haaghoek-Leberg for the third and final time, the race came back together. Alexis Gougeard attacked and joined the final remnant of the breakaway, Saramontins.

They didn't last long as Wellens attacked on the Berendries, the ninth climb of the day. Van Avermaet was quick to close him down and then accelerated away himself, which triggered big splits in the bunch. Up front, Van Avermaet and Wellens found themselves with Stybar, Theuns, Colbrelli, Benoot, Vanmarcke, and Thwaites. The strung out bunch soon reformed and came back, but Benoot went again and, after being briefly tracked by Theuns and Thwaites, used the Valkenberg climb to go solo.

Benoot built a lead of 30 seconds but the peloton bunched back up on the wider roads and Quick-Step and BMC were able to put domestiques on the front to chase. Benoot's lead fell up the short Tenbosse climb and he was caught with 26 kilometres remaining, leaving a sizeable peloton of just under 100 riders intact for the approach the all-important Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg.

With a lengthy run from the Tenbosse to the Muur, there was a brief cease-fire in the bunch. After non-stop action over the preceding kilometres, the run towards the Muur was taken at a slightly more leisurely pace as the peloton collectively caught their breath. Winding through Geraardsbergen, Jempy Drucker went off the front for BMC but it was Vanmarcke's move ahead of the rise to the chapel that did the real damage. Zdenek Stybar and Greg Van Avermaet tried to follow, but the EF Education First rider had the pace on the toughest part of the climb.

Vanmarcke crested the climb on his own, with a severely diminished group chasing hard behind. A group of 10 riders, including Van Avermaet, Matteo Trentin, Stybar and Wout van Aert, joined up with the Belgian before Lukas Wisniowski and Yves Lampaert joined them on the run towards the Bosberg. Lampaert would eventually drop back, when Naesen started attacking off the front. With three riders, Astana sought to put the hurt on and they did with several attacks from Valgren.

Each move was reeled back in until Valgren shot off the front with around 2.5 kilometres to go. Behind him, the other riders glanced at each other, urging them to make the move, but nobody did. Vanmarcke finally went with a kilometre remaining but Valgren was too far ahead.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Michael Valgren (Den) Astana Pro Team4:50:14
2Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Sky0:00:12
3Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 2 - Cell 2
4Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-SegafredoRow 3 - Cell 2
5Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 4 - Cell 2
6Edward Theuns (Bel) Team SunwebRow 5 - Cell 2
7Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 6 - Cell 2
8Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 7 - Cell 2
9Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJRow 8 - Cell 2
10Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 9 - Cell 2
11Owain Doull (GBr) Team SkyRow 10 - Cell 2
12Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Katusha-AlpecinRow 11 - Cell 2
13Scott Thwaites (GBr) Dimension DataRow 12 - Cell 2
14Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 13 - Cell 2
15Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-BaloiseRow 14 - Cell 2
16Timo Roosen (Ned) LottoNL-JumboRow 15 - Cell 2
17Amaury Capiot (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-BaloiseRow 16 - Cell 2
18Silvan Dillier (Swi) AG2R La MondialeRow 17 - Cell 2
19Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) LottoNL-JumboRow 18 - Cell 2
20Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step FloorsRow 19 - Cell 2
21Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 20 - Cell 2
22Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 21 - Cell 2
23Magnus Cort (Den) Astana Pro TeamRow 22 - Cell 2
24Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 23 - Cell 2
25Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 24 - Cell 2
26Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Katusha-AlpecinRow 25 - Cell 2
27Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 26 - Cell 2
28Yoann Offredo (Fra) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 27 - Cell 2
29Pierre Luc Perichon (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 28 - Cell 2
30Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing TeamRow 29 - Cell 2
31Maarten Wynants (Bel) LottoNL-JumboRow 30 - Cell 2
32Wout Van Aert (Bel) Veranda's Willems CrelanRow 31 - Cell 2
33Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 32 - Cell 2
34Anthony Turgis (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 33 - Cell 2
35Alex Kirsch (Lux) WB Aqua Protect VeranclassicRow 34 - Cell 2
36Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 35 - Cell 2
37Patrick Müller (Swi) Vital Concept ClubRow 36 - Cell 2
38Oscar Gatto (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 37 - Cell 2
39Sean De Bie (Bel) Veranda's Willems CrelanRow 38 - Cell 2
40Julien Vermote (Bel) Dimension DataRow 39 - Cell 2
41Maxime Vantomme (Bel) WB Aqua Protect VeranclassicRow 40 - Cell 2
42Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 41 - Cell 2
43Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 42 - Cell 2
44Kristijan Koren (Slo) Bahrain-MeridaRow 43 - Cell 2
45Luke Durbridge (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 44 - Cell 2
46Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-ScottRow 45 - Cell 2
47Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team SunwebRow 46 - Cell 2
48Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 47 - Cell 2
49Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-BaloiseRow 48 - Cell 2
50Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 49 - Cell 2
51Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team SkyRow 50 - Cell 2
52Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step FloorsRow 51 - Cell 2
53Michael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 52 - Cell 2
54Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-HansgroheRow 53 - Cell 2
55Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-ScottRow 54 - Cell 2
56Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) FDJRow 55 - Cell 2
57Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:00:32
58Aime De Gendt (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise0:00:41
59Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:01:29
60Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:01:48
61Nico Denz (Ger) AG2R La Mondiale0:02:42
62Gediminas Bagdonas (Ltu) AG2R La MondialeRow 61 - Cell 2
63Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Katusha-AlpecinRow 62 - Cell 2
64Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 63 - Cell 2
65Floris Gerts (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse LoterijRow 64 - Cell 2
66Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 65 - Cell 2
67Grega Bole (Slo) Bahrain-MeridaRow 66 - Cell 2
68Thomas Leezer (Ned) LottoNL-JumboRow 67 - Cell 2
69Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 68 - Cell 2
70Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro TeamRow 69 - Cell 2
71Ben Swift (GBr) UAE Team EmiratesRow 70 - Cell 2
72Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Katusha-AlpecinRow 71 - Cell 2
73Luka Pibernik (Slo) Bahrain-MeridaRow 72 - Cell 2
74Stijn Devolder (Bel) Veranda's Willems CrelanRow 73 - Cell 2
75Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 74 - Cell 2
76Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha-AlpecinRow 75 - Cell 2
77Bert De Backer (Bel) Vital Concept ClubRow 76 - Cell 2
78Bryan Coquard (Fra) Vital Concept ClubRow 77 - Cell 2
79Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 78 - Cell 2
80Johan Le Bon (Fra) Vital Concept ClubRow 79 - Cell 2
81Olivier Le Gac (Fra) FDJ0:06:14
82Alex Edmondson (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 81 - Cell 2
83Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin0:09:12
84Ivan Garcia (Spa) Bahrain-MeridaRow 83 - Cell 2
85Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-SegafredoRow 84 - Cell 2
86Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step FloorsRow 85 - Cell 2
87Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 86 - Cell 2
88Mitchell Docker (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 87 - Cell 2
89Matti Breschel (Den) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 88 - Cell 2
90Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 89 - Cell 2
91Lars Bak (Den) Lotto Soudal0:12:16
92Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-SegafredoRow 91 - Cell 2
93Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat) Bora-HansgroheRow 92 - Cell 2
94Truls Korsaeth (Nor) Astana Pro TeamRow 93 - Cell 2
95Ludwig De Winter (Bel) WB Aqua Protect VeranclassicRow 94 - Cell 2
96Boy van Poppel (Ned) Trek-SegafredoRow 95 - Cell 2
97Bram Tankink (Ned) LottoNL-JumboRow 96 - Cell 2
98Edward Planckaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-BaloiseRow 97 - Cell 2
DNFFrancisco Ventoso (Spa) BMC Racing TeamRow 98 - Cell 2
DNFJurgen Roelandts (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 99 - Cell 2
DNFJulien Duval (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 100 - Cell 2
DNFAlexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 101 - Cell 2
DNFBorut Bozic (Slo) Bahrain-MeridaRow 102 - Cell 2
DNFDavid Per (Slo) Bahrain-MeridaRow 103 - Cell 2
DNFChristoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 104 - Cell 2
DNFLukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-HansgroheRow 105 - Cell 2
DNFMichael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 106 - Cell 2
DNFSebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 107 - Cell 2
DNFTom Scully (NZl) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 108 - Cell 2
DNFLogan Owen (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 109 - Cell 2
DNFAntoine Duchesne (Can) FDJRow 110 - Cell 2
DNFMickael Delage (Fra) FDJRow 111 - Cell 2
DNFDaniel Hoelgaard (Nor) FDJRow 112 - Cell 2
DNFIgnatas Konovalovas (Ltu) FDJRow 113 - Cell 2
DNFLawrence Naesen (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 114 - Cell 2
DNFLucas Hamilton (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 115 - Cell 2
DNFMathew Hayman (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 116 - Cell 2
DNFDries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 117 - Cell 2
DNFIljo Keisse (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 118 - Cell 2
DNFEdvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension DataRow 119 - Cell 2
DNFNicolas Dougall (RSA) Dimension DataRow 120 - Cell 2
DNFBernhard Eisel (Aut) Dimension DataRow 121 - Cell 2
DNFRyan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension DataRow 122 - Cell 2
DNFJay Thomson (RSA) Dimension DataRow 123 - Cell 2
DNFMarco Mathis (Ger) Katusha-AlpecinRow 124 - Cell 2
DNFKoen Bouwmam (Ned) LottoNL-JumboRow 125 - Cell 2
DNFJonathan Dibben (GBr) Team SkyRow 126 - Cell 2
DNFMichal Golas (Pol) Team SkyRow 127 - Cell 2
DNFChristian Knees (Ger) Team SkyRow 128 - Cell 2
DNFChristopher Lawless (GBr) Team SkyRow 129 - Cell 2
DNFRoy Curvers (Ned) Team SunwebRow 130 - Cell 2
DNFLaurens ten Dam (Ned) Team SunwebRow 131 - Cell 2
DNFMichael Matthews (Aus) Team SunwebRow 132 - Cell 2
DNFTom Stamsnijder (Ned) Team SunwebRow 133 - Cell 2
DNFMartijn Tusveld (Ned) Team SunwebRow 134 - Cell 2
DNFRyan Mullen (Irl) Trek-SegafredoRow 135 - Cell 2
DNFGiacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-SegafredoRow 136 - Cell 2
DNFGregory Rast (Swi) Trek-SegafredoRow 137 - Cell 2
DNFMatteo Bono (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 138 - Cell 2
DNFSimone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 139 - Cell 2
DNFFilippo Ganna (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 140 - Cell 2
DNFAleksandr Riabushenko (Blr) UAE Team EmiratesRow 141 - Cell 2
DNFOliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 142 - Cell 2
DNFHugo Hofstetter (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 143 - Cell 2
DNFMichaël Van Staeyen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 144 - Cell 2
DNFKenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 145 - Cell 2
DNFTim Ariesen (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse LoterijRow 146 - Cell 2
DNFPim Ligthart (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse LoterijRow 147 - Cell 2
DNFPieter Weening (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse LoterijRow 148 - Cell 2
DNFSjoerd van Ginneken (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse LoterijRow 149 - Cell 2
DNFBrian van Goethem (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse LoterijRow 150 - Cell 2
DNFCoen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse LoterijRow 151 - Cell 2
DNFBenjamin Declercq (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-BaloiseRow 152 - Cell 2
DNFPreben Van Hecke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-BaloiseRow 153 - Cell 2
DNFMichael Carbel (Den) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 154 - Cell 2
DNFMaxime Daniel (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 155 - Cell 2
DNFArnaud Gerard (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 156 - Cell 2
DNFBenoit Jarrier (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 157 - Cell 2
DNFFlorian Vachon (Fra) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 158 - Cell 2
DNFBram Welten (Ned) Fortuneo-SamsicRow 159 - Cell 2
DNFDries De Bondt (Bel) Veranda's Willems CrelanRow 160 - Cell 2
DNFHuub Duijn (Ned) Veranda's Willems CrelanRow 161 - Cell 2
DNFStijn Steels (Bel) Veranda's Willems CrelanRow 162 - Cell 2
DNFSenne Leysen (Bel) Veranda's Willems CrelanRow 163 - Cell 2
DNFKris Boeckmans (Bel) Vital Concept ClubRow 164 - Cell 2
DNFJulien Morice (Fra) Vital Concept ClubRow 165 - Cell 2
DNFJonas Van Genechten (Bel) Vital Concept ClubRow 166 - Cell 2
DNFTom Devriendt (Bel) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 167 - Cell 2
DNFWesley Kreder (Ned) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 168 - Cell 2
DNFGuillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 169 - Cell 2
DNFPieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Wanty-Groupe GobertRow 170 - Cell 2
DNFKevyn Ista (Bel) WB Aqua Protect VeranclassicRow 171 - Cell 2
DNFJustin Jules (Fra) WB Aqua Protect VeranclassicRow 172 - Cell 2
DNFJulien Stassen (Bel) WB Aqua Protect VeranclassicRow 173 - Cell 2
DNFLukas Spengler (Swi) WB Aqua Protect VeranclassicRow 174 - Cell 2

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