Sep Vanmarcke took his first win in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad today in Ghent, Belgium, in impressive style. He turned the race in his favour, followed an attack by Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha and out-sprinted Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
The 23-year-old Belgian of team Garmin-Barracuda forced the three-man group with only 20 kilometres on a long pavé section. He gave himself better odds, having previously been at a disadvantage with Sky and Omega Pharma each having two men each in a five-man group.
After finishing second in Ghent-Wevelgem in 2010 and fourth last year in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, Vanmarcke won his first race in Belgium’s opening classic. The 200-kilometre race, including 10 climbs and plenty of cobbles, finishes just north-east of his hometown in Kortrijk.
Sky makes camp every spring in Vanmarcke’s town and knows the surrounding roads well. Flecha, in fact, gave the team their first big win in 2010 in Het Nieuwsblad. Last year, he finished second in a two-up sprint with Sebastian Langeveld.
The team used its strength and local knowledge to help place Mathew Hayman with Flecha in the winning move of five. Boonen also had help, with team-mate Dries Devenyns. Once Vanmarcke whittled the group to three on Lange Munte sector, Flecha knew he had to attack. His rivals were better sprinters: Boonen already accumulating three wins in sprints this year and Vanmarcke finishing second to Mark Cavendish’s helper, Bernhard Eisel in Ghent-Wevelgem two years ago.
The Spaniard attacked with about 2.2 kilometres remaining, but Boonen, sensing the move was coming, jumped immediately on to his wheel. Under the train crossing with one kilometre to go, Vanmarcke also tried. Boonen marked him and Flecha countered, but only briefly. The race would be decided in a sprint.
Flecha led his rivals, head down, knowing his shot at doubling in Ghent was lost. After 4 hours and 52 minutes, with the line in sight, Boonen charged by. He shot down the right side of the road and shifted left as he neared the finish, which gave Vanmarcke his window of opportunity.
Boonen’s palmarès are steeped in classics win, but he passes another year without adding Het Nieuwsblad. Both his Omega Pharma team and Sky also lost, initially having the numerical advantage in the group.
Sven Vandousselaere (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) lasted the longest of the original seven-man escape. Boonen’s group had them within reach on the Leberg climb.
The two groups merged and grew to 10 men with 40 kilometres and only the Molenberg climb remaining.
Sky and Omega Pharma were the only teams with two men each. Omega Pharma’s Boonen drove on the front on the Paddestraat cobble sector, dropping both Matti Breschel (Rabobank) and Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing). Hushovd had not been contributing as his team was working in a chase group behind for team-mate and Belgian champion, Philippe Gilbert.
Sky’s Flecha followed Boonen’s work to increase the group’s advantage. The responsibility fell on their teams’ shoulders, only Garmin (with Vanmarcke) remained in the group of five.
Vanmarcke shifted the race in his advantage by attacking on the 2.5km cobbled sector, the Lange Munte. He drove hard for a couple minutes with Boonen and Flecha in tow, but succeeded in shedding their team-mates.
Boonen may have missed the win, but he succeeded in being the most valuable player of the day. His attack on the Taaienberg at 58 kilometres to race formed the chase group, which later became the winning group. Sky and Omega Pharma will seek revenge tomorrow in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the former racing with World Champion Mark Cavendish.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2012, 200km
1. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Garmin-Barracuda
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
3. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Sky at same time
4. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Barracuda at 25 secs
5. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
6. Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM
7. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
8. Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Fdj-BigMat
9. Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Europcar
10. Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Accent Jobs-Willems Verandas at same time
26. Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky at 25 secs
75. Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Sky at 5-30
Omega Pharma and Sky had the numerical advantage in the escape group
Sep Vanmarcke wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2012
Sep Vanmarcke tops podium, with Tom Boonen in second (left) and Juan Antonio Flecha in third (right)