Deceuninck – Quick-Step once again took the race by the scruff of its neck and the Belgian came close to nabbing the victory in Ninove.
Saturday marked the start of the Classics season, which will stretch until late April, when the climbers and puncheurs will be in the spotlight at Liège–Bastogne–Liège. For now, it’s all about the cobblestone specialists, of whom some of the finest in the peloton sport the colours of Deceuninck – Quick-Step, the most successful Classic-orientated team of the century.
The curtain was again raised at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, where 13 hills and poor weather awaited the riders, who remained at all times alert, even when things seemed quiet once a five-man breakaway snapped the elastic. Echelons properly ignited the race with over 100 kilometers to go, splitting the pack and briefly spreading confusion, before everything came back together. Crosswinds appeared again as the race entered the Paddestraat, spelling the end of the road for the escapees, and our team made sure of having two delegates in that group.
With 80 kilometers to go, things relented, but jut a couple of minutes later, eight men got clear from a bunch incapable of reacting. Tim Declercq and Yves Lampaert were there for Deceuninck – Quick-Step, “El Tractor” living up again to his name and burying himself at the front to ensure a decent gap as the kilometers ticked down. This staggering effort laid down by Declercq, who powered through the pain with every climb left behind, helped the group start the Muur-Kapelmuur with a comfortable buffer over the chasers.
“My finish line was the Muur. I gave everything to make sure the group with Lampy would have the biggest lead possible there. Knowing the bunch was split, I kept going once I dropped out and tried to get a good personal result. It’s my first top 10 in the Classics and it feels very nice. I’m also happy I managed to do my job for the team. We took matters in our own hands again and showed a lot of character”, said the incredible Tim, who on top of his selfless work, finished Omloop in fifth place, just ahead of the reduced bunch.
Muur-Kapelmuur delivered the much-expected attacks, Yves Lampaert and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) cresting it with a handful of seconds over Soren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb), who returned on the run-in to Bosberg, the last hill of the 200km race. The status quo was maintained until with two kilometers to go, when Yves attacked and dispatched the Dane, making it a two-man battle for victory. In the sprint, Lampaert was the first to kick out, but was passed 50 meters from the line and had to settle for second. Just like last year, the Wolfpack had three riders in the top 10, Declercq and Florian Sénéchal, who sprinted to tenth from the remnants of the peloton.
“I’m happy with my race, but I would have loved to win so I could repay the team’s effort, and especially Tim’s huge amount of work. He was phenomenally strong, raced with his nose in the wind and still finished fifth. In that sense I am disappointed, although I can be satisfied too, because finishing on the podium at the first Classic of the year isn’t that bad. Overall, it’s nice to get a good result in the Opening Weekend, and to see the team so committed and strong, physically and tactically”, Yves Lampaert said after his first podium at Omloop.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images