Italian Marta Bastianelli won Sunday’s Omloop van het Hageland in a sprint finish to take the first victory of her 2019 season.
Having finished third in yesterday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the 2007 world champion took first place from a reduced bunch in a gnarly, aggressive race on Sunday.
The 31 year-old, who joined Team Virtu over the winter, was one of two riders from the Danish registered team in a group of around 15 riders who emerged from a hectic closing 10km.
After a perfect lead out by Christina Sigaard, she executed her sprint cleverly, pushing Finnish champion Lotta Lepistö to the outside of the gently curved finish stretch, just edging the Trek-Segafredo rider on the line.
Team Sunweb’s Leah Kirchmann was third.
While Virtu will be delighted with the performance, Trek-Segafredo will be disappointed with the result after being one of the animators in chief throughout the 132.1km race.
Responding to a volley of attacks, their former world time trial champion and last year’s winner in Hageland, Ellen van Dijk took control of what remained of the bunch in the closing 10km. Lepistö was arguably the strongest sprinter left in the race, but Bastianelli’s canny tactic left her and her American team empty handed.
How it happened
With no Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the women’s ‘openingsweekend’ takes a different form to the men’s, and Sunday’s 132.6km race also serves as the opening race of the nine event Lotto Cycling Cup.
Though it has the same UCI 1.1 classification as yesterday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, not all the top teams were present, Canyon-SRAM and Boels-Dolmans two notable absentees. This did not impact the quality of the race, however, which was aggressive and entertaining throughout.
Shortly after the 132.6km race set off from Tienen heading for the closing circuits in Tielt-Winge, Barbara Guarischi (Virtu) Natalie van Gogh (Biehler Pro Cycling) and Grace Brown (Mitchelton-Scott) escaped, building a slim lead.
They were not allowed to establish themselves though, and were caught before the race entered the five 15km closing circuits. The moment they were back in the bunch a further break of five riders tried their luck.
Of them only Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) and Polish champion Małgozata Jasinska (Movistar) survived, though they too were not allowed the opportunity to establish themselves, leading by just 15 seconds when they crossed the line for the first time, 75km out.
Behind, the bunch was unhappy with two such strong riders being ahead, and with Mitchelton-Scott leading the charge, neutralised the leading duo while simultaneously splitting the peloton in the wind.
With the pair safely caught the race settled briefly, big name teams such as Sunweb and CCC-Liv assisting the Australian squad at the front.
A series of stinging attacks on the narrow, muddy, exposed roads on the back of the circuit failed to produce any lasting breakaway or shed any more riders, and the race settled as it approached the closing 50km.
Shortly after Trek-Segafredo’s Tayler Wiles brought the race back to life with a strong attack, and when she was caught team mate Anna Plichta did the same, though still no break stuck.
The race finally calmed when Franziska Koch (Mexx-Watersley) attacked solo with 42km to go, the German quickly allowed a lead of 1.05.
With 22km remaining though, that advantage was suddenly neutralised as the bigger teams emerged to control the final kilometres. As the new super team on the block Trek-Segafredo once again took to the front, though none of the other big teams were ever far away from the front.
Sunweb’s Norwegian rider Susanne Andersen tried her luck and was off the front for four kilometres until Trek once again took the lead 10km out, with five riders on the front of the bunch.
The closing kilometres were gloriously chaotic with Sunweb particularly visible as attack followed attack until finally the bunch fractured and a group of 17 fought for the finish.
Spar Omloop van het Hageland: Tienen to Tielt-Winge (132.6km)
1. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Virtu in 3-32-50
2. Lotta Lepistö (Fin) Trek-Segafredo
3. Leah Kirchmann (Can) Sunweb
4. Roxane Fournier (Fra) Movistar
5. Grace Elvin (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
6. Eugénie Duval (Fra) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
7. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Sunweb
8. Sofie de Vuyst (Bel) Parkhotel Valkenburg
9. Christina Sigaard (Den) Virtu
10. Natalie van Gogh (Ned) Biehler Pro Cycling all at same time