Dylan van Baarle has won the 78th edition of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in style. The 30-year-old Dutchman took his first victory for Team Jumbo-Visma after a tour de force in his season opener.
Team Jumbo-Visma started with a well-thought-out plan. This became clear to the riders of other teams about a hundred kilometres before the finish. Even though the steepest hills and most challenging cobblestone sections were yet to come, the Dutch formation caused a stir among the peloton. Fourteen riders were able to form a breakaway group as the pace picked up and the peloton began to show signs of cracks. Among them were Tiesj Benoot, Christophe Laporte, Tim van Dijke, Jan Tratnik, Nathan Van Hooydonck and Van Baarle.
Tratnik and Van Hooydonck held out for a long time, riding in a strong group between the peloton and a seven-man breakaway. This put the Jumbo-Visma team in control of the race and forced the competition to chase. Van Baarle made his move after Van Hooydonck and Laporte’s hard work in the front. He quickly moved up to the group in front.
On the Muur van Geraardsbergen, the winner of Paris-Roubaix, also left the last of his escape companions behind. The competition tried to catch Van Baarle, but their efforts were unsuccessful. With a clear advantage, he crossed the line in the streets of Ninove. A few dozen seconds later, Laporte crossed the line in third.
“I can hardly find the words to describe this beautiful victory”, Van Baarle stammered. “It was a great first race. We worked hard last winter. It’s all paid off. We planned to make the race hard from the start, and we all did that perfectly. With forty kilometers left, I rode away from the peloton entirely out of instinct. The team told me to follow my instincts. That is what I did.”
“Of course, winning Paris-Roubaix was fantastic, but I can promise you that this victory also ranks high on my list of honours.”
Van Baarle analysed the race from the moment he attacked. “We had some strong guys in front. I was hoping that they would stay in front longer so that we could work together. But soon, I noticed that I was the only one left with something in the tank. Then I thought it would be good to get rid of those guys. That put Christophe and Tiesj, among others, in an even better situation. After that, it was full speed ahead. I had no clue about any time differences. In the last kilometre, I looked back and knew it was OK. Then I could start to enjoy.”
Benoot also praised the strong teamwork. “We planned for the race to explode early on. I have never seen a plan executed so perfectly. After we got away with six riders, we didn’t want the race to stall. Jan and Nathan created an extraordinary situation that allowed us to get into the peloton. We showed today that we can win this kind of race with several riders. Maybe we were the favourites, but it is so hard to live up to expectations. We deserved it. I am very proud of the team. We are a close-knit team. That unity comes from working together towards the same goals for a long time. We have made an excellent start to the spring season, and we will do our best to make the most of it.”