Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite
Belgium 27 February 2021 1 stages ( 200.5 km )
Davide Ballerini wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Davide Ballerini netted Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s fourth Omloop Het Nieuwsblad win after the race came down to a bunch sprint, something that had last happened more than two decades ago. This unusual scenario was possible due to the strong headwind and a strong effort of the entire Wolfpack, who flawlessly controlled the race in the last 15 kilometers, drilling the pace and preventing any late attacks that were still possible considering the sizable peloton.
This is a dream! I can’t believe it, words aren’t enough to describe what his means for him and how I’m feeling after this victory.
“It’s my second time in Omloop, and to win it after crashing at my debut two years ago is some incredible”, an elated Ballerini said after capping a dominant day from the Wolfpack and becoming just the fifth Italian in history to win the prestigious one-day race.
Comprising 13 hills and nine cobblestone sectors, the race was properly kicked into action once again by our team, who posted Tim Declercq at the head of the bunch for over 100 kilometers, “El Tractor” keeping in check the five escapees and chewing into their advantage. Then Yves Lampaert took over and brought Julian Alaphilippe to the fore, and it didn’t take too long for the World Champion to open up the race with a powerful attack that drew a dozen or so riders with him.
Davide Ballerini and Zdenek Stybar were also there and contributed to the group’s gap, which hit a maximum of 30 seconds ahead of Berendries. It was on this climb that Alaphilippe took off, building a 25-second gap over his former companions, a margin which he kept until the first slopes of the mythical Muur-Kapelmuur, where the strong headwind led to him being reeled in by the chasers, who in turn got caught by the large peloton.
Despite a couple of accelerations on the Muur, the race came back together in the run-in to Bosberg, with the status quo continuing all the way to the finish in Ninove, thanks to Alaphilippe, Lampaert and Kasper Asgreen, who worked tirelessly on the front and set a fast pace, stretching out the group and preventing any late attacks. Under the flamme rouge, Florian Sénéchal came through and delivered an out of this world lead-out that left Ballerini in a perfect position from where the 26-year-old Italian dashed to victory, winning by several bike lengths.
“It wasn’t an easy race, but we kept going and believing in ourselves even when the break was eight minutes clear. Tim was huge again, and then Julian tried his chance and showed his panache, but the headwind worked against him. When he got caught, he told me that it would be my day and the entire team will work for me, and when the World Champion tells you this, it gives you extra strength. Everybody was so committed and believed in me, that the only thing you can do is take your hat off and say a big thank you!”
“I remember watching this team crushing the cobbles when I was a kid, so to win now one of these races while wearing this jersey gives me huge pride, it’s a big dream that came true today. The Opening Weekend is a big deal for Deceuninck – Quick-Step and I’m glad we made a lot of people happy with this win”, continued an emotional Davide. “Today was important also from a technical standpoint, because we raced for the first time with our Hell of the North clincher tires from Specialized and it proved to be the right choice.”
Photo credit: ©Luc Claessen/Getty Images