The long anticipated race season has finally begun with a nail-biting weekend of action from the women’s pro peloton in Belgium.
The Spring Classics launch the European leg of the cycling season, beginning with the Omloop het Nieuwsblad, in Belgium. Famed for steep climbs, cobble sections and narrow roads, this 2 day event was going to test the athletes on all abilities. Fresh from winter training, it was exciting to see the women battle it out on the roads.
Omloop het Nieuwsblad – Saturday February 25th
Saturday’s race began in the north of Gent and headed towards Drongen. There were 9 gut busting climbs in total, of which 6 were cobbled, with the first climb ramping up after the 28 km mark: the Nokereberg climb.
The peloton held tight until individuals saw opportunity to make the attack. The first big break came from Demmy Druyts (Sport Vlaanderen-Etixx) who held a lead of 3:30, before the peloton swallowed her back in on the Kluisberg climb.
Ellen Van Dijk (Team Sunweb) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) made a break from the peloton, gaining a lead of over 1:00. Chantal Blaak (Boels Dolmans) and Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) chased the front riders with Annemiek Van Vleuten and Amanda Spratt (Orica-Scott) catching up also.
Brand made a bold break from the pack and opened up a gap of 10 seconds to the chasers, which increased as the kilometres ran down. Brand managed to hold out and crossed the line with plenty of time to celebrate her first victory of the season.
1 Lucinda Brand (Ned) Team Sunweb Women
2 Chantal Blaak (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cycling Team
3 Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Orica Scott Women
4 Ellen Van Dijk (Ned) Team Sunweb Women
5 Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Wiggle High5