Until the previous week, when he won a stage of the Volta ao Algarve, Deceuninck-QuickStep's Zdenek Stybar hadn't won a race since he took the national title at the Czech road race championships in June 2017. Winning the 2019 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was the second of a run of three wins in early 2019 for the 33-year-old, culminating with victory at the E3 BinckBank Classic at the end of March.
His Omloop win came from a five-man breakaway group, with Stybar jumping away with just under 3km to go, with CCC Team's Greg Van Avermaet – who would have been the favourite had things come down to a five-rider sprint – either unwilling or unable to be the rider to give immediate chase having only just closed down an attack by Lotto Soudal's Tim Wellens.
Stybar's cunning move was timed to perfection, and neither Astana's Alexey Lutsenko, Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), Wellens nor Van Avermaet were able to get back on terms in time, and it was indeed Van Avermaet who brought home the best of the rest, nine seconds down on Stybar, who could savour his solo victory.
Patrick Lefevere's Deceuninck-QuickStep team can rightfully expect to figure throughout the spring Classics season, but had previously been unable to recapture the Het Nieuwsblad title since Nick Nuyens' win for them – as QuickStep-Innergetic – back in 2005.
It's a race that heralds the start of the more specialist cobbled Classics season, and is known as 'opening weekend', not only in reference to the Classics, but in the more old-fashioned belief that the Omloop Het Nieywsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, which comes the next day, are the start of the season proper, ignoring the fact that many one-day specialists will have these days got their season under way at the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Australia.
Whatever it represents, there's no argument that the European racing season soon gets into full swing after this, with the race paving the way for the spring's two biggest Classics, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Winning the Omloop doesn't guarantee that you're going to do well at those April races, but it's always a good indication as to which riders have put in the effort over the winter months and are raring to go.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite Men 202029 February 2020 | Gent | WorldTour
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