2011 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – What I Think I Think

Photo Luc Claessen/ISPA Photo

Well, its Monday and I’m still not sure what I think about Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. But here’s what I think I think:

1. First, let’s address the obvious: Rabobank’s Sebastian Langeveld rode an incredibly aggressive and gutsy race to take the biggest victory of his career. At 26, the best is yet to come for the young Dutchman.

2. Second only to Langeveld was Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha, the defending champion and the only pre-race favorite who seemed willing to race today. That was the first time I’ve ever seen a spring classic turn into a match sprint—and it was fantastic.

3. And speaking of pre-race favorites willing to race Saturday, I have three theories as to why the majority of them weren’t:

a. They were caught napping. (I’m talking to you especially, Mr. Devolder.)

b. The weather left them all with wet matches. (They’re hard men, but they’re still human.)

c. They were subtly protesting the radio ban. Unfortunately, if this were indeed the case, in an effort to prove just how boring racing would be without radios, they failed miserably. (And by the way, next time you send out a pre-race memo about a mid-race protest, make sure Juan Antonio Flecha gets it.)

4. How long do you think it will be before we see micro-headsets tucked inside helmets, i.e. radio doping?

5. Quick-Step still thinks more of itself than the rest of the peloton does. Aside from Niki Terpstra, Quick-Step missed just about every move that mattered, as if they expected the race to just naturally come back together with about 40 kilometers to go. Shame on you, Quick-Step.

6. Now take that last paragraph, copy and paste it here, and replace Quick-Step with Omega Pharma-Lotto, and Niki Terpstra with Jurgen Roelandts.

7. Now take that last paragraph, copy and paste it here, and replace Omega Pharma-Lotto with Garmin-Cervélo, and Jurgen Roelandts with Maartijn Maaskant.

8. For those of you who keep track of such things, score Saturday 4-1 in favor of Holland for riders in the top-10. Quick-Step and Omega Pharma-Lotto were lucky there are no Sunday papers in Belgium.

9. For the second consecutive year, Flecha attacked on the pavé, and Lotto was unable to follow.

10. Thank you, World Cycling Channel. You have everything I could ever ask for.

11. It’s funny how things work out by the end of a race, but I had only 2-Star faith in Rabobank’s ability to score a good result without Matti Breschel, yet the team put both of its pre-race co-captains in the top-10. In the end, of the pairs I picked, the next closest was Sky’s Flecha and Edvald Boasson Hagen in second and…41st-place.

12. Manuel Quinziato made the second group for BMC, while Greg Van Avermaet and Marcus Burghardt were practically non-existent. Burghardt and Van Avermaet better make most these chances while they have them. Alessandro Ballan appears to have rediscovered his former self and George Hincapie’s always going to be Option #1—this weekend might have been the German and Belgian’s only chances to lead the team in the classics.

13. As for HTC, the team seems to have signed another young star with John Degenkolb. The Omloop’s distance and weather seemed to affect to the young German by the end of the day, but 12th-place is a terrific rookie result.

14. And thank you, Luca Paolini, for making me look like I still know a little bit about which riders perform well in which races.

What did you notice Saturday? Share your comments below and come back in a few hours for my thoughts on yesterday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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5 Responses to 2011 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – What I Think I Think

  1. Aaron Malys says:

    Nice recap and commentary, I am still chuckling over 3c!!!!

    Feel bad for Flecha but the kid did a fantastic job of marking the moves!

    I have a good feeling about some exciting racing to come after this classic opener.


  2. Scott M says:

    Great stuff Whit, and once again, cheers to the Pave team for the feedzone on Sat/Sun. I had a blast following although the sight of me in my cycling cap and jersey, glued to the laptop for hours made the wife chuckle and wonder what the hell I was doing. Some people will never learn!

    The only comments I can share that you have not already talked about are the following:

    Devolder and lime green gloves = epic fail

    End of story!

  3. Colorado Goat says:

    This race deserves more attention than it gets. Was there a single English speaking station covering this race? Yet they put on Tour of Oman from last week on Versus here in the States. Am I missing something here? Why are these two races left to rot in obscurity?

  4. Colorado Goat says:

    On somewhat of a tangent, I would be interested to know which teams, if any decided to use embrocation to battle the cold (Flecha?) versus wearing knee warmers. I only ask because it seems to be a cyclocross specific item, yet this race seemed to suit its use more than knee warmers due to the rain. At some point more modern knee warmers become heavy and cold once sopping wet.

    Maybe the length of the race would be a problem.

  5. Pingback: The Radio-Free Classics | Cyclocosm - Pro Cycling Blog

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