The Moment The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Was Won

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Dylan van Baarle has gone clear on the Haaghoek pavé and is joined by Florian Vermeersch, Jonathan Milan and Mathis Le Berre. They’re about to tackle the climb of Berendries where Milan will crack, then Vermeersch will pop on the next climb. This left Van Baarle with only Le Berre for company and little to worry about since the Frenchman had been in the early breakaway from the start.

The race got off to an ordinary start with an early breakaway going clear without much of a fight. In the move were Jelle Wallays (Cofidis), Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), Mathis Le Berre (Arkéa-Samsic), Louis Blouwe (Bingoal-WB), Adam De Vos (Human Powered Health), plus team mates Alex Colman and Gilles De Wilde (Team Flanders-Baloise).

Things took a twist when the wind picked up all of a sudden and, aided by the gusts, a group of 14 riders got away with 96km to go. It had six of the seven Jumbo-Visma riders but also other topfavorieten like Arnaud De Lie, Magnus Sheffield and Fred Wright among them. They got 45 seconds on the peloton where several teams were forced into a chase. On the Holleweg pavé and this group shrunk to six but with hindsight it was a warning as to just how alert Jumbo-Visma were going to be. The move was shut down while the early breakaway of seven was still clear.

Moves were being made and Jumbo-Visma seemed to cover each one. De Lie crashed with 50km to go on the approach to Wolvenberg, wiping out on a corner. There are worse places to crash, but only just. Still he was up and riding soon although it looked like his chase, a large part of it solo, could be costly in a race where just being out of position for a climb can be ruinous. But no, soon after came the Molenberg and a select group got clear across the top and De Lie was keeping company with Tom Pidcock, Stefan Küng and Tim Wellens.

Onto the Haagehoek cobbles again and Dylan van Baarle made his move, and was joined by Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal), Jonathan Milan (Bahrain) and Mathis Le Berre, the latter still having something left after being in the early break. The quartet here didn’t have the feel of the winning move. Onto the Berendries and Milan, a hulk of a rider, was the first to be dropped on the slope. Next came the climb of Elvenberg and Vossenhol and it was Vermeersch’s turn. Van Baarle’s efforts meant the move was now looking more serious, he had Le Berre but the Frenchman was barely a passenger and Van Baarle could settle into the kind of long range effort he does best. Not for him searing attacks uphill or a sprint in town against others, much better a test of stamina while away solo and arguably the further away from the finish the better.

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Still Le Berre impressed. Having been in the early breakaway he jumped onto the counter-move. Sure, as a neo-pro who’d been up in front all day Van Baarle tolerated him sitting on much more than if Vermeersch had tried this. Bahrain led on the approach to Geraardsbergen and their work cut into Van Baarle’s advantage.

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Up the Kapelmuur and Tim Wellens launched with Matej Mohorič behind. Arnaud De Lie gave chase as well, his brute power visible as he charged up the cobbles in the big ring. Metres behind Christophe Laporte was marking him and the four linked up.

Van Baarle was well clear though, a cushion to manage. As ever the motos seemed to offer some help but this is in part the leader’s privilege, get yourself clear into a winning position and the media need to picture.

Three of the four kept chasing, the presence of Laporte must have weighed on their minds but it wasn’t stopping them. Better to reach Ninove with a shot at second place than get swamped by the group behind. Only this is just what happened in the final straight when the peloton, if we can call the group that, caught them in the final metres. Arnaud De Lie and Christophe Laporte were both overtaken by others but sprinted and pulled out a lead to secure the other podium spots.

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The Verdict
A good day’s sport because of the action happening from so far out, the final hour had plenty going on and which is why the cobbled classics are so rewarding, even when the winning move goes clear it only became obvious it would succeed later on.

The clear lesson from the day was the strength of Jumbo-Visma, they made the race; and they were so omnipresent they stopped others from racing too. At times it felt like they could have ridden in security guard uniforms rather than their yellow and black kit. And Wout van Aert is yet to join them.

Sure Soudal-Quickstep struggled but we’ll have to see if this is a bad day rather than a theme; it could be both mind you. Kasper Asgreen pulled out ill, there were crashes for Tim Declerq and Florian Sénéchal. But if the Belgian press wants to roast the team in tomorrow’s papers Patrick Lefevere will be ready with his reply should Fabio Jakobsen win in Kuurne. The team got a sixth place thanks to Ballerini; several other teams will be hoping for more too.

Dylan van Baarle won and did plenty solo and should be saluted for this. But if Jumbo-Visma won because of the strongest team, surely Arnaud De Lie was the strongest rider. Luckily bike races aren’t won just by being the strongest, it’d be boring if it was so simple. De Lie though brought entertainment with his busy style and willingness to get stuck in. A late entrant – the original plan was to spare him today so he could ride Kuurne – he seemed at ease on the course (crash apart) and in his own words, “I think I was in all the moves“. The sight of him launching up the Kapelmuur in the big ring, or sprinting in Ninove when caught by the chase group and not only staying away form them but also getting the better of Christophe Laporte who’d sat on, shows what he’s capable of.

35 thoughts on “The Moment The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Was Won”

  1. Wow, this is so quick that I wondered if ChatGPT wrote it for you. Can I ask it to write a race report in the style of Inner Ring?

    Jokes aside, good to have the season start rolling and reading Mr Ring’s how race was won report again.

    • Couldn’t resist seeing how our AI friends tackled this. While it superficially ‘sounded’ good, apparently Alaphilippe won the sprint from a small group including Ballerini & Mads P.

  2. Oh well. My predictions were incorrect on both counts. Lone winner from the super impressive Jumbo lads and De Lie ‘only’ second.
    Unpredictability is surely just one important ingredient that makes bike racing so compelling and attractive.

  3. Feels like spring is here, Inrng is writing “The moment when” posts and GCN are showing “proper” races (yes I know but the desert doesnt count!). Are Jumbo Visma the “new” Quickstep? though I see Julian Allaphilippe won somewhere or other but Patrick Lefevere needs wins in Belgium. Impressive ride from Arnaud De Lie, what chance of him winning a major one day race this year? Must say I was dubious about the pre race suggestions of him being a favourite, I thought he was “just” a sprinter, clearly not.

    • Alaphilippe won one of the French “Faun-Ardèche” spring classics and Merlier won the bunch sprint in UAE (beating Bennett, Groenewegen, Kooij & Gaviria, and with several other fast sprinters there), so it definitely wasn’t a bad day for Lefevere overall, and you can’t win everything, but I’m sure he’d have preferred to at least see a more visible team in the Omloop…

    • And about De Lie: you should check out what he did in Étoile de Bessèges earlier this month. If you can beat Pedersen, Cosnefroy, Teuns, etc. in an 700m at 8.2% climb finish, then win the sprint a couple days later in a pack where he was the only sprinter left, and even manage to finish 8th in the “queen stage” with a 4.6km finish climb at 9.1% average, you obviously aren’t “just” a sprinter…

      • My bet is that De Lie’s climbing ability will follow a similar course to that of Sagan: amazing in his very early 20s (i.e., climbing with climbers, esp. on repeated short sharp climbs), then impressive uphill sprint finishes and the ability to get over mountains when they’re mid-race, and then nothing special. De Lie still has a youngsters leanness to him. That’s unlikely to last.

        • Hmmm, my thought was exactly opposite. De Lie looks quite stocky, I think he could go down a few kgs, whereas Sagan was pretty skinny in his early career and bulked up around 2015.

          • I think it’s natural for athletes to go the way Sagan did (i.e., have their natural, most efficient weight gradually increase). It becomes harder to stay lean as we age, and my understanding is that most GC-oriented riders need to make ever greater efforts to keep their weight down as they mature, often regressing into eating disorders or using illegal means in the past. Sagan has said that one reason he had more success at age 26 then he did at 24 was that he stopped trying to keep his weight where it had been at age 20-21. He said he it robbed him of his power when he got down to his old weight. De Lie is all about power riding, and I doubt he has much body fat currently, so what’s to cut? I’m guessing he’d have a similar result as Sagan if he tried to drop a few kilos – that his power and explosiveness would drop.

      • If anything, he’s not really a sprinter, he just has a lot of power on tap which obviously helps in a sprint but he doesn’t have all the finishing skills, cornering, handling, or even a sprinting position that he’s worked on to be more aero etc. He’s only 20 years old though.

        He’s riding Milan-Sanremo but the plan is he won’t do the Ronde, the idea is to manage things gently. We’ll see for the E3, Wevelgem etc.

        • I agree, it’s very early for De Lie, and he really doesn’t look like a natural-born sprinter (and in fact he has few victories against bona fide sprinters, though he’s also avoided high-quality sprint finish races). That said, he’s been racing long enough to be able to make some extrapolations on where he’ll be in a few years. On that note, , I’ll add another prediction – he’ll hit his peak earlier than Boonen and Gilbert, and be done at a younger age. That’s not to say he’ll have fewer good years, just that the meat of his career will happen earlier.

  4. Impressive by De Lie, shame for Turner, Ineos must regret letting van Baarle go to Jumbo, and it seemed to be Jumbo versus the rest (and without van Aert).

    • With Hayter being out (not sure how long for) Ineos’s great classics group is looking much reduced. Perhaps we’ll get to see Thomas riding Paris-Roubaix after all.

      • I’m honestly hoping Thomas does not decide to retire at the end of this season so that he can devote next year to the classics. I’d love to see him ride Roubaix and Flanders.

  5. “Arnaud De Lie gave chase as well, his brute power visible as he charged up the cobbles in the big ring.”

    Do we know what sprocket? The reason for querying is more a comment on modern cycling equipment. With wide ration rear cassettes, going up on, say, 54*27 is the same gear ratio as a rider in the Kelly / Maertens / De Vlaeminck era on their bottom gear of 42*21. (And that is without considering the Campanaerts option of a single chain ring but a hub that allows the ratios to be changed – all bets are off about gear ratio there just from a photo). So in 1983 “the steepness of the cobbled climb reduced even the strongest riders to grinding away on their lowest gear” and 2023 “the strongest riders powered up on the big ring” could have had both of them riding the same ratio!

    Those thoughts are partly influenced by watching Van Baarle. Admittedly he is in any case a stylist, but he seemed to just float up the climbs, but that beauty of motion was no doubt prompted in part by having low ratios available such that he could spin away looking easy rather than grind with huge apparent effort.

    • Good point 12 speed means a lot of riders have 11-28 or 11-30 almost all season but still, habits have changed, riders try to spin up the climbs more. De Lie was wrestling his bike up there, pedalling with his back. But it seems he wasn’t the only one to try the big ring.

      Also for comparison, the cobbles were rougher back then (the pavé was relaid a decade or so ago), the edges of the stones really stuck out, the black and white photo in shows it well.

      • Indeed, and visually it is very apparent these days the fluidity with which many riders climb – not just on the cobbles, but in the big mountains as well; a factor of having a wider range of gears available.

        There was an interesting comment in an interview with Robert Millar after he won his first Pyreneen stage in the Tour de France in 1983. At the time he was away with Herrera; the Colombians only had 42 *21 bottom gear, whereas Millar had 42 *23. He commented that he was worried about Herrera dropping him on the climbs, so slowed down on the hairpins because it would reduce Herrera’s ability to jump on a higher gear while Millar could keep pedalling smoothly!

    • I think all of this is the reason that “gear inch” tabulations were developed. Metres of advance per crank revolution is probably more meaningful still.

  6. Thats the first time I’ve seen De Lie properly and he seems like a massive talent. He has a sort of air of Sagan and maybe a bit of Musseuw about him. Stocky and muscular.
    Although always impressive I always find any win by Van Baarle very anticlimactic. He’s so smooth he always just seems to ghost away with no visible effort at all. There’s no dramatic attack or sprint. Its a bit boring compared to what could occur if someone else won!
    I definitely can’t see Quick Step dominating to anywhere the extent that they have in the relatively recent past. Asgreen is their best bet by far, perhaps Lampaert at Roubaix. They have put all of their eggs in the Remco basket which could obviously pay off later in the year. It’s interesting that the two top young Belgian one day/cobble prospects, De Lie & Vermeersch, are both at Lotto.
    When Jumbo wheel out Van Aert they are going to take some beating. But then if it comes doen a WVA v MvdP mano a mano does it matter who the other 6 are? I suppose Van Aert can sit on and say he has a load of team mates waiting behind.

  7. It was hellishly windy out there the whole weekend. I was zone hopping for DSM on Saturday and rode the sportive Sunday and I think that was the strongest winds (with quite dangerous gusts at times) I´ve experienced in that part of Flanders since the 2017 (?) edition of GW when Thomas got blown off (rode the sportive that day as well and that was the only time it was worse, naturally being over there in the West). Was freezing cold as well. Great weekends racing.

  8. I was lucky enough to be at the roadside for this one – although lucky maybe wasn’t the first word to come to mind as I started to freeze solid. Sunday was even colder. It’s astonishing how little kit some of the riders were wearing, almost as if they saw the sun shining and thought it was summer rather than still a north European winter.
    Kudos to van Baarle, who made it all look much too easy.

  9. Jumbo have been buying up talent for so long they now seem like team sky but in the one day classics as well as the stage races. For a team that nearly disappeared a number of years back they have rebuilt and surely have a large budget. Van baarle of the front and 3 team mates floating near the front of the peloton.
    It seems almost impossible or at least very hard for MVdP or anybody else to win the big races having to mark so many. In previous years jumbo seemed to waste a lot of there power but this weekend they did it perfectly.
    A year ago De lie seemed that guy that dominated smaller french or low country races now he seems a power rider.

  10. Over the whole weekend only a few teams actually joining in the two races.
    Jumbo-Visma obviously.
    Wellens and Mohoric (and Wright and Milan) are on point.
    Lotto-Dstny was doing most of the chasing both days.
    Great outings from Van der Hoorn and Le Berre.
    The rest seemed to be just looking on with Senechal and some FdJ and Cofidis guys giving a hand when it was already too late…
    There are approximately seven or eight cobbled classics each year that really really matter. The last two are out of the league of most riders and in the first two you have just been extremely letargic and hesitant or just plain not on form… That’s 50% of your classics season down the drain.
    I wonder how Le Samyn will go today without Jumbo-Visma and De Lie…

      • Yeah, basically the same teams making the race as during the weekend (the ones invited obviously). And the worry for Quickstep only increased. Don’t think Asgreen has the form to compete with the big guns. And on a related note, fear that Van der Poel will still be isolated in the finales.

  11. Little note to TV commentators. The “loop” in Omloop is pronounced like the english word “lope” – as in a loping gait, or to elope – not like the english “loop”. Which is unsurprising, cause the dutch “loop” and the english “lope” are more or less the same word.

    Please stop pronouncing it as “loop”. 🙂

    • You mean they get the nieuws in Het Nieuwsblad right?! 🙂

      What we hear or how we think native speakers pronounce words can depend a lot on what language(s) we speak or learned as a child – and our attempts to mimic those pronounciations famously can vary a great deal (even when we may think we got it right…) – but what I hear is the same long sound that I hear in English “thought” or “fought”.

      • Nieuws is at least somewhat closer in pronunciation in the 2 languages. 😉

        “Cool” surname is pronounced pretty much the exact same as the English name “Cole” (as in Nat King Cole). Presumably same origin again.

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