The Italian was again in the mix, two years after taking the biggest victory of his career here.
The Opening Weekend got underway with the 78th edition of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 207.3km between Gent and Ninove, comprising 11 hills and nine cobblestone stretches. The race followed the usual scenario, with a breakaway animating the day for a couple of hours, before things exploded with 80 kilometers to go, when fourteen riders countered from the bunch and ended up carving out a one-minute gap.
That forced the peloton to change its approach, the Soudal Quick-Step boys being among those who shared the workload at the front of the group. Our team received a blow when Tim Declercq crashed in a corner, his absence at the head of the field being reflected in the margin which refused to come down in the next couple of kilometers.
Eventually, the attackers were caught, but soon after another group went clear and this turned out to be the big move of the day, as from there Dylan Van Baarle (Jumbo-Visma) accelerated and took a solo victory. Twenty seconds later, what was left of the bunch came home, and 2021 winner Davide Ballerini sprinted to a solid sixth place for his first top 10 of the season.
“We missed something from a tactical point of view today when that dangerous group rode away, it forced us to chase and that’s what we ended up doing the entire day. We can’t be happy with this, we have a lot of work to do in order to return at the best level, but at least we got a nice result in what was a tough race, and that is encouraging”, said Soudal Quick-Step sports director Tom Steels.
Photo credit: ©Dario Belingheri / Getty Images