Lorena Wiebes took the first win of her 2020 campaign at Omloop van het Hageland on Sunday. The Dutch champion out-sprinted last year’s winner Marta Bastianelli after the wonderfully aggressive race came back together on the last of five, 15km laps.
Wiebes remained hidden throughout the race, protected consummately by her Parkhotel-Valkenburg team. She was only visible inside the final two kilometres, where her striking Dutch jersey could be seen immediately behind that of the equally obvious Italian champion, Bastianelli, who won last year’s event.
Trek-Segafredo were unable to capitalise on an incredibly aggressive performance. They had been extremely active throughout the race, leading the bunch and placing riders in the numerous breakaways which punctuated the Belgian event. However, the US squad could not prevent the expected bunch sprint, which Wiebes won with relative ease.
Wiebes had hoped to leave Parkhotel Valkenburg over the winter, though stayed with the squad after the threat of legal action over her contract, and may be happy she did after Sunday’s result.
How it happened
With no Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the women’s opening weekend traditionally heads for the 130km Omloop van het Hageland, which takes place east of the Belgian capital, Brussels, between Tienen and Tielt-Winge.
The route took the peloton on an opening leg of 54km before crossing the finish line and taking on five laps of 15km around the finish town, which contained the race’s signature climb, the Roeselberg.
The race was hugely entertaining, with numerous attacks and breakaways, making any lull in the action a surprise.
With no early breakaway, Trek-Segafredo took responsibility for much of the early work, some of their big guns keeping the pace high. This tactic forced a split on the climb’s first ascent, leaving only around 20 women at the front before crossing the finish line for the first time.
A subsequent brief spell of crosswinds finally saw a two woman breakaway, with Tayler Wiles (Trek-Segafredo) joining forces with Romy Kasper (Parkhotel-Valkenburg).
Just after they crossed the line for the first time, the leading duo were joined by three others, but the peloton were in hot pursuit and the race re-formed, Bigla-Katusha and Mitchelton-Scott taking over on the front.
The race then settled, riders taking time to re-fuel, while Wiebes's Parkhotel-Valkenburg team came to the front. After this brief period, Mitchelton-Scott’s Lucy Kennedy attacked at the bottom of the climb, not only taking maximum queen of the mountain points, but taking four women with her.
The four tried to get away, but were soon caught and a further group of five headed up the road, Trek-Segafredo once again represented. They were soon joined by four more, and with 43km remaining, the day’s break finally formed.
Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo), Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-Scott), Aude Biannic (Movistar), Silvia Persico (Valcar Travel and Service), Romy Kasper (Parkhotel-Valkenburg), Eri Yonamine (Alé-BTC Ljubljana), Lone Meertens (Lotto-Soudal) and the Bigla-Katusha pair of Mikayla Harvey and Marlen Reusser soon had a lead of 50 seconds.
However, just as it seemed the nine would be allowed their head, Cordon-Ragot’s team mate, Lucinda Brand bridged across. The Dutch woman dragged the dropped Persico and Kasper back to the leading group, but her arrival caused a reaction in the peloton.
Despite having Yonamine ahead, Alé-BTC Ljubljana took up the chase, and with help from FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, who did want to allow the winning break too much leeway as they did in yesterday's Omloop het Nieuwsblad, brought the leaders to heel inside the final 25km.
Another brief lull in the action was once again brought to a halt by Trek-Segafredo. Wiles attacked first, then van Dijk before Brand went after Mitchelton-Scott’s ever aggressive Grace Brown.
Yonamine went with them, but with Bastianelli in the bunch behind, the Japanese champion was not allowed to work, sitting on while the advantage increased to 30 seconds as the final lap began.
They were not able to build a conclusive lead though, and on the final ascent of the Roeselberg, with just 6km remaining were caught, though the race was not yet done for Trek-Segafredo.
The moment it came back together Wiles had another go, Yonamine going with her and once again sitting on. But as had happened so many times before, they were unable to build a lead and the race settled in for a bunch sprint.
Omloop van het Hageland: Tienen - Tielt-Winge (130km)
1. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) Parkhotel-Valkenburg in 3-30-05
2. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Alé-BTC Ljubljana
3. Emma Norsgaard (Den) Bigla-Katusha
4. Emilia Fahlin (Swe) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
5. Teniel Campbell (TTo) Valcar Travel and Service
6. Charlotte Kool (Ned) NXTG Racing
7. Lotta Hentalla (Fin) Trek-Segafredo
8. Arianna Fidanza (Ita) Lotto Soudal
9. Ilaria Sanguineti (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service
10. Jelena Erić (Srb) Movistar all at same time
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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.
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