- In general, I’m satisfied with my race and my fourth place. Of course, a win or a podium would’ve been better, but it was a good race for me. Honestly, I started this race thinking about the victory. Yesterday my first coach Vladimir Remyga passed away and today I wanted to win to dedicate the victory to him. Today's race finished in Ninove, in this city we trained with our national team under the conduction of Vladimir Remyga. It was important for me to do a good race today. I think it was a great classic race, my team worked very well for me, I was always in a good position in every moment of the race.
In the last 40 kilometers, I felt very strong, I worked hard in the breakaway. I knew Van Avermaet and Wellens were always watching me, but that was the situation. When Stybar attacked nobody wanted to chase him. At the end of the day, I have a fourth place, a good result anyway. It was not easy to adapt to these narrow roads, a lot of corners and the road up and down after Oman, where we had absolutely different conditions, but I managed to do a nice race. It was a bit dangerous because of the rain and slippery roads, a few times I almost crashed but everything ended up good. It was our first classic race, we could be happy with our performance, -said Alexey Lutsenko.
- I think we came in as underdogs today. We knew Alexey Lutsenko had a good form and he finished fourth, after all, so overall, we’re happy with the race. We were not sure about him this morning, so we spread our strategy to multiple riders. Too bad that Davide Ballerini crashed when he was in a select group, so that spoiled his possibility to do a good result. In the end, Alexey stepped up and was amongst the strongest riders, so that was very good. I think today we showed that we’re ready for the classics season, with the whole team, - said sports director Lars Michaelsen.
- It was a nice race today. The first classic of the season started easy, normally everyone’s pumped, but today was more relaxed. But from kilometer 120 it really started and I was switched on because we had to fight to stay in a good position. Alexey Lutsenko was amazing in the first group after we put him in the right position before the Molenberg. Unfortunately for me, on the Muur I had a mechanic and lost contact with the group. But I was there all the time and I think we did a good job with the team and Alexey performed really well finishing fourth here, - said Hugo Houle.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the first race of the traditional Opening Weekend in Belgium, created a new final with one new climb and the traditional Kapelmuur and Bosberg. Huge crowds at the side of the roads during the 200 kilometers, with a break of four riders taking off after 4 kilometers. The peloton slowed down for some time, but going into the final 90 kilometers, everything speeded up for a spectacular final.
First, a group of 21 riders got clear from the peloton to chase the day’s breakaway, including Davide Ballerini. The young Italian looked strong in this select group but unfortunately crashed on one of the cobble sections. He was able to get back in the peloton but quit the race shortly after to recover for tomorrow’s race, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Everything came back together for the decisive part of the race at the bottom of the Molenberg.
On the Molenberg, a strong group of 15 riders was able to create a gap with the pack. Alexey Lutsenko was there among all the other favorites for the victory. A crash of Tiesj Benoot split this group, and with just six riders remaining, including Lutsenko, this group reached the bottom of the Muur van Geraardsbergen. Daniel Oss got dropped on this climb, and the remaining five riders would battle for the win.
Alexey Lutsenko was able to follow and lead the other riders in the final kilometers, but after an attack of Tim Wellens, Zdenek Stybar made a counterattack and got space from the other escapees. He made it to the finish line, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. In the sprint for the podium, Greg Van Avermaet and Tim Wellens completed the podium, leaving Alexey Lutsenko for the fourth place. A strong performance of the Kazakh champion, who showed that he was able to compete with the best in the classics. He received great support from his teammates, of which Hugo Houle and Laurens de Vreese were able to finish in the second group.
Tomorrow, it’s time for the second classic of the Opening Weekend, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
Photo: ©Getty Images