Women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

World champion Annemiek van Vleuten solo’d to a emphatic victory in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, her first race in the rainbow jersey whilst Lizzy Banks was sixth – reactions from both.

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Women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

World champion Annemiek van Vleuten started the 2020 season off with a bang today, claiming an emphatic solo victory in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, her first race in the rainbow jersey. In her signature style, Van Vleuten injected a fierce pace at the base of the Muur-Kapelmuur and rode away from her rivals, reaching the top of the climb with a large advantage.

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With the rainbow stripes on her back, the Dutch star fought all the way to the line to take her first ever victory in the one-day Belgium Classic. As the first race of the season for many, the race began with a nervous feel throughout the peloton. The 126km day began with a trio of riders jumping away and dangling 50seconds ahead of the bunch for the fairly flat opening 30kilometres.

With wind and cold rain adding to the day’s difficulty, the escapees didn’t last long out front and were swallowed up ahead of the first main cobble section.  Van Vleuten suffered a mechanical problem with 70 kilometres remaining which caused her to chase back hard to get herself back into contention. Overcoming the small set-back, the world champion re-joined the action just ahead of a decisive split and with the adrenaline pumping through her blood, the cold temperatures were out of mind.

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After the iconic Molenberg and the tough Paddestraat cobbles, the front of the race whittled down to around 14 riders. Mitchelton-SCOTT were present with both Van Vleuten and Gracie Elvin in the group, before the race settled down again as the road surface returned to smooth concrete.

With this, a small group were successfully able to bridge across and increase the front group out to 21riders which played to Mitchelton-SCOTT’s advantage, with Van Vleuten’s teammate Sarah Roy making the junction to give the team extra strength in numbers.

On the much-anticipated climb of the day, the Muur-Kapelmuur, both Elvin and Roy worked to set a hard tempo into the base of the climb allowing the world champion to unleash. Like a flash back to the world championships, Van Vleuten put the hammer down with a hard pace from the bottom of the brutally steep cobbled climb, which demolished the peloton.

Her injection of speed saw her rivals continuously lose distance with each pedal stroke and the time gap continuously increase. Van Vleuten was able to hold on to cross the line in Ninove for a very special victory.

Annemiek van Vleuten: “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. If you win solo you can really enjoy the last kilometres and I really enjoyed those moments today, it is my first win here and in the rainbow jersey is an incredible feeling.”

“It was one of those races were the team did everything perfectly, we were always in position, we were there when we needed to be in front and I didn’t have to spend any energy and they first put me in an awesome position for the climb. I didn’t have any expectations, but my goal was to go hard from the bottom of the climb then check to see who was following me. Only then could I make a decision on what to do, just see what the situation was and then deal with it”.

“At one point when I was solo coming into the final my director Martin (Vestby) said the time gap was 30seconds but then I started to doubt if he said 30 or 13seconds, so that made me a little bit insecure in the final kilometres. I felt like maybe I was losing time and they were chasing really hard behind me, but then I just looked a little bit to my watts on my Garmin and could see I had a lot of power, so I knew they need to chase really hard to catch me.”

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Lizzy Banks fights to sixth place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
In tough conditions, it was always going to be difficult for riders to keep up, and eventually when the selection fell, Lizzy Banks made it into a group of 21 riders. With riders dropping off the field as the chase behind the World Champion got underway, Lizzy managed to stay up there as part of the chase, only dropping back as the leaders hit the final climb.

Photo: Bilga Katusha Website  

After the race, Lizzy recounted: “It was a tough day, but we wanted it to be like that, and we prepared for that type of race as well. The weather didn’t make things any easier. Although it started pretty mildly, we knew it could turn, and with our KATUSHA kit, we were prepared for the wet weather. Hats off to Emma, who was climbing well today, as well as Marlen, who rode with me for much of the day in the pre-selection group.”

“I was well-positioned heading into the crucial climbs, and made it into the small group that took chase after Annemiek when she went solo. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have that final kick over the Bosberg, and I was dropped. However, I maintained my position to finish sixth in Ninove. I’m really pleased with my performance, as I felt strong and confident with my positioning, the weather and the cobbles. I’m also proud of the team and I know that there’s even more that we can do. We’ve come together well as a group, and I think people can expect fireworks from us this Spring.”

Team Manager Thomas Campana reported: Lizzy rode a particularly exceptional race, and unfortunately just lost contact on the last climb. However, she was able to bring it home for sixth position in the end, and it’s really exciting to see her sportive development over the past 12 months.”

Het Nieuwsblad Women

1. Annemiek van Vleuten
2. Marta Bastianelli
3. Flootje Mackaij
4. Chantal van den Broek-Blaak
5. Ellen van Dijk
6. Lizzy Banks

16. Hannah Barnes
20. Abby Mae Parkinson
37. Dani Christmas
57. Alice Barnes


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