Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite
Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) beat Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) in a two-up sprint to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, becoming the tenth rider in history to win both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) held on for third after being dropped in the final couple of kilometers, and Matteo Trentin (CCC Team) finished fourth after a long, solo chase just a handful of seconds behind the leaders.
Road season begins with Omloop, according to many cycling fans, and this year’s addition certainly did not disappoint. A strong group formed with around 70 km remaining, and despite the distance to go, this would prove to be the winning move on the day. Big names such as Wout Van Aert (Team Jumbo–Visma) and Tiesj Benoot (Team Sunweb) attempted to bridge across, but the gap continued to widen as the kilometers ticked down. The famous cobbles of the Geraardsbergen are where Stuyven and Lampaert decided to make their move, and the Belgian pair rode nearly side-by-side as they dropped their breakaway companions. Andersen was able to catch back on, but was then distanced by Lampaert’s attack inside two kilometers to go. Stuyven led out the sprint, and with a final powerful punch, knocked out Lampaert with plenty of time to celebrate as he crossed the finish line.
“It’s a great pleasure to show that I am back,” Stuyven said after the race. “Last season, I was constantly chasing after the fact. But we did end the year well with Mads Pedersen’s world title. We were motivated to continue in that line this season, and we’re succeeding very well. Omloop is the biggest victory of my career.”
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad-vrouwen Elite
Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) took a page out of her own play book (i.e. last year’s World Championships Road Race) by soloing to the win in the rainbow stripes to win the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad-vrouwen Elite. The Dutchwoman dropped everyone on the Muur-Kapelmuur with less than 20 km to go, with a chase group forming behind containing the likes of Marta Bastianelli (Ale’ Btc Ljubljana), Floortje Mackaij (Team Sunweb), Chantal Van Den Broek-Blaak (Boels Dolmans), and Ellen Van Dijk (Trek–Segafredo). But Van Vleuten was gone, cruising to the victory ahead of Bastinelli and Mackaij who took second and third, respectively.
“I can’t believe this has happened because I am always such a slow starter and I know I usually grow into the season. So to start like this, I really didn’t expect to be solo over the Muur, I thought more girls would follow me,” Van Vleuten said after the race. “If you win solo you can really enjoy the last kilometers and I really enjoyed those moments today, it is my first win here and in the rainbow jersey is an incredible feeling.”
Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) put on a scintillating display of individual strength to win Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne after a 15-kilometer solo break. In truth, Asgreen rode the last 30 kilometers alone as his breakaway companions hung on for dear life. But after a couple of hard surges from the Dane, Asgreen was alone at the front with less than 20 km to go. Team Sunweb, Ineos, and Lotto Soudal chased as hard as they could, but no one could do anything to stop the budding Classics superstar in Asgreen. Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT Pro Cycling) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) led home the peloton three seconds later – the Italian satisfied with his result, but disappointed at missing out on the win.
The sprinters got their chance at the end of Stage 1 which finished with a bunch sprint in the Dubai Silicon Oasis, and it was Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) who came out of top ahead of Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Rudy Barbier (Israel Start-Up Nation). Despite winning the Clasica del Almeria a week ago, Ackermann was doubtful of his condition, saying after the race, “I’m super happy with this victory because almost all the top sprinters are here and I wasn’t sure if my shape was good enough to beat them all. Now I know that my shape is good and we can take it easy the next few days and have a look at what goes on during the week.”
200 kilometers led the peloton to the base of Hatta Dam, a short but ultra-steep climb made more for sprinters rather than climbers. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) launched his sprint early, but was overcome by last year’s Hatta Dam winner, Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal). The Australian used experience to perfection, saying after the race, “I could have gone from the bottom too but I knew it was better to wait a few seconds, because those last 20-30 meters are where you can really win the race, and that’s what I did. If you blow there, you can lose so much time. I knew how long I could go for, I timed my sprint really well and was able to accelerate all the way to the line.”
On the first of two summit finishes at Jebel Hafeet, Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) dominated the steep slopes and took a commanding victory over Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana). The Brit had jumped away with still six kilometers to go, but quickly distanced his rivals as Pogačar waited in the wheels behind. The Slovenian launched away on his own soon after, but the gap to Yates kept growing and was over a minute by the time Pogačar hit the line. After such a performance, everyone but Yates will surely be fearing the second climb up Jebel Hafeet at the conclusion of Stage 5.
Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma) came out on top at the end of Stage 4, another bunch sprint that finished in Dubai. After missing out in the first few stages, the Dutchman was determined to make his mark on the race with the help of his Team Jumbo-Visma teammates. Groenewegen was in good position when Sam Bennett launched his sprint, and the Dutchman sprinted to the victory with enough margin to celebrate. “This one is really nice, all the sprinters are here, including myself,” Groenewegen said after the stage.
Pogačar came up with the goods on the second time of asking up Jebel Hafeet. The Slovenian should count himself lucky, however, as Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko looked to have crossed the line first, but upon further inspection had raised his arm in celebration prematurely. Pogačar was the aggressor on the decisive final climb, but Yates defended his lead admirably, even countering with one of his own to form the final group of five that would sprint for the stage win. Pogačar came out on top of Lutsenko and Yates who would comfortably keep his overall lead.
In a turn of events more important to global health than the world of cycling, the UAE Tour was abruptly cancelled before the start of the sixth stage after it was discovered that two Italian team staff members tested positive for coronavirus SARS-CoV-19. The race hotel – the Crowne Royal Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island – was put on lockdown, with all riders and staff on quarantine until they can receive the proper health checks.
UCI Track Cycling World Championships
Denmark smashed the Men’s Team Pursuit world record twice on their way to winning the World Championship, ultimately lowering the record to 3:44:672. New Zealand finished second in the final ride, and Italy beat Australia in the bronze medal ride to finish on the podium.
Team USA won the Women’s Team Pursuit for the fourth time in five years, led by Chloe Dygert, Lily Williams, Emma White and Jen Valente. The Americans beat Great Britain in the final, with Germany beating Canada in the bronze medal ride.
Yauheni Karaliok of Belarus won the Scratch Race world title, with Italy’s Simone Consonni finishing second and Spain’s Sebastian Mora rounding out the podium in third. Kirsten Wild won the women’s Scratch Race in a sprint ahead of American Jen Valente and Portugal’s Maria Martin.
Harrie Levreysen of the Netherlands won the men’s Keirin world championship ahead of Yuta Wakimoto (Japan) and Azizulhasni Awang (Malaysia). The host country closed out the games with another gold medal as Emma Hinze took the win in the women’s Keirin – Hyejin Lee (Republic of Korea) was second and Stephanie Morton (Australia) finished third.
Germany won their first gold medal of their home games when Pauline Sophie Grabosch, Emma Hinze and Lea Friedrich topped Australia in the women’s Team Sprint. In the men’s event, the Netherlands beat the previous world record by nearly six-tenths of a second with Jeffrey Hoogland, Harrie Lavreysen, and Roy van den Berg. Great Britain earned the silver medal, while Australia topped France to win bronze.
Filippo Ganna (Italy) bested his own world record in the qualifying rounds of the Individual Pursuit in Berlin. He finished the 4000 meters in an incredible time of 04:01.934. This put him into the final round where he faced American Ashton Lambie, but the Italian was able to defend his rainbow stripes while Lambie earned the silver medal.
Chloe Dygert (USA) beat her own world record in the women’s individual pursuit, riding the three kilometers in 3:16.937 in the final. Germany secured the second, third, and fourth spots in the event, with Lisa Brennauer, Franziska Brausse, and Lisa Klein, respectively.
Japanese rider Yumi Kajihara won the women’s Omnium, topping Letizia Paternoster (Italy) and Daria Pikulik (Poland) after the four events. Benjamin Thomas (France) took the men’s Omnium by a healthy margin over Jan Willem van Schip (Netherlands) and Matthew Walls (Great Britain).
The women’s Sprint was won by Emma Hinze (Germany) who didn’t need a third ride to dispatch of Anastasiia Voinova (Russia) in the final. Wai Sze Lee (China) beat Canada’s Kelsey Mitchell for the bronze medal. Dutch duo Harrie Lavreysen and Jeffrey Hoogland battled for the men’s Sprint title, with Lavreysen coming out on top. Mohd Azizulhasni Awang of Malaysia finished third.
Sam Ligtlee (Netherlands) won the men’s 1 km Time Trial in a time of 59.495 ahead of French teammates Quentin Lafargue and Michael de Almeida. Germany earned another gold medal when Lea Sophie Friedrich won the women’s 500 meter Time Trial ahead of Jessica Salazar Valles (Mexico) and Miriam Vece (Italy).
New Zealand’s Corbin Strong winning the men’s Points Race ahead of Sebastian Mora Vedri (Spain) and Roy Eefting (Netherlands). Elinor Barker of Great Britain won the women’s Points Race, with American Jennifer Valente earning the silver medal, and Anita Yvonne Stenberg (Norway) finishing in third.
The Netherlands won the women’s Madison with Kirsten Wild and Amy Pieters, beating Clara Copponi and Marie le Net (France), and Letizia Paternoster and Elisa Balsamo (Italy). Denmark took the men’s Madison title with Lasse Norman Hansen and Michael Mørkøv – the former having just returned from the recently-cancelled UAE Tour – ahead of New Zealand and Germany.
Upcoming Race Schedule
The Classics continue this week with the men’s and women’s editions of Le Samyn in Belgium on Tuesday, March 3rd. Strade Bianche – known for its white gravel roads and ultra-steep finishing climb – takes place on Saturday, March 7th, with both men’s and women’s World Tour races.