Just as in the women’s race hours before, the men’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was defined by its passage over the Muur van Geraardsbergen. Jasper Stuyven led over the cobbled climb, and led across the finish line 17 kilometers later.
It wasn’t a solo move à la Annemiek van Vleuten, though.
“I told the team that we needed to be in the front all day, and I think the focus from start to finish was excellent; we were always there,” said Stuyven. “And I got to finish off today. It’s the best victory I’ve had.
“Last year was a disaster, but this year is a good start. Today we showed as a team that last year was a mishap. We have a good group, and we finished the season well last year with Mads winning Worlds, and we were really motivated to keep this vibe going this year, We proved today that it worked out really well.”
Stuyven and Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-Quick Step) used the Muur’s steep slopes to split up a seven-strong front group, dropping names like Matteo Trentin (CCC) and Mike Teunissen (Jumbo Visma). Sunweb’s Soren Kragh Andersen slipped off the back near the top but regained contact on the descent, and the finale was set up as a fight between three riders – Stuyven, Lampaert, and Kragh Andersen.
“Steven (de Jongh, director) encouraged me to try on the Muur. I wasn’t feeling the strongest, but I also knew everyone was tired. Once we started the Muur and no one accelerated, I thought I would try to accelerate myself, and we would see what happens at the top – I only looked back at the top, and I think I made a good split.”
The leading trio pushed through to the Bosberg, where Trentin made a bridging effort but never gained contact.
“After [the Muur] Soren was not really committed, and I was not sure if he was dying or playing a little bit, so it was hard – I didn’t want to do most of the work; I was not sure of the win, that’s for sure,” Stuyven said.
“Steven told me, ‘it’s your day, you’re the fastest, ’ and Yves was also telling me, ‘you’re the fastest,’ but I didn’t want to get overconfident. I was not 100 percent sure I would beat Yves in the sprint, but I managed it really well.
Lampaert opened the finale with an attack at 2.1km to go, sending Kragh Anderson off the back. Stuyven made a small counter, but Lampaert stuck to him like a limpet. And at 1.5km to go, it was down to two.
Stuyven led into the final corner and led Lampaert toward the barriers as the sprint opened up. Lampaert knew it wasn’t to be at 50 meters to go, shaking his head as Stuyven put his hands in the air.
“When we started the sprint, Yves was on the left of my wheel, so I went a little more to the left and held my position, and I managed to close the door on him well.”
1. Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo)
2. Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-Quick Step)
3. Søren Kragh Anderson (Sunweb)