- - Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2024

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2024

photo credits @ OLHN

Jan Tratnik pulled off a stunning victory to earn what he described as the “biggest win in my life”, with the 34-year-old Slovenian pouncing during the last 10km to surprise his more feted rivals and teammates to claimed today’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

The Dutch Visma-Lease A Bike team ultimately got first and third place on the podium, as Wout van Aert triumphed in a bunch sprint to the line, but that would not have been the rider combination they would have been expecting on the bus pre-race.

Even with 20km to go it looked more likely that Van Aert or Matteo Jorgensen were set to take the victory, but as the lead group reformed, Nils Politt and Tratnik made a daring bid to go clear and pulled out a 16-second lead as the riders came into Ninove. Pollit led the sprint out deep into the final kilometre, but looked exhausted by the time the veteran Tratnik swung out past him on the run to the line.

“I’m a little surprised to win that, because [Visma-Lease A Bike] have such a strong team for the classics,” said Tratnik afterwards. “In the past I didn’t do many classics and today I was more in domestique role, but still. The guys did a really good job in the first half of the race. I just missed [the breakaway] behind but I could not relax behind because we had five guys up front. Then it was a case of keep believing. We caught back all the guys and then I just went to counter-attack. I was a little worried in the last kilometre if I could win the sprint but then I saw Nils start quite early so I started believe I could win.”

The peloton was blown up early on in proceedings, with a large breakaway of more than 30 riders getting away. This was cut down further with around 50km to go as Christophe Laporte, Van Aert, Jorgensen, Gianni Moscon (Soudal-QuickStep), Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), Toms Skujins (Lidl-Trek), Arnaud de Lie (Lotto-Dsntny) looking like they would decide the race between them.

Jorgensen’s Visma-Lease A Bike teammates took their foot off the accelerator when the American made his move at 17km to go and ultimately lost control of the lead group, allowing it to swell from an elite bunch of six to more than 20 riders. Pidcock was well positioned with the leaders into the final stages but was not able to make it stick, ultimately finishing eighth.

“I was blowing at the end,” he told Eurosport post-race. “It was tough, racing from 30km out is especially so. We knew from the start the wind would be strong, it caused the race split, even if it wasn’t as strong as we thought. We were up the road with a 40-second split for goodness knows how long, but it just didn’t happen. I lost the legs at the end, but that’s how it is.”

Race Highlights

After allowing a small group to briefly break away, they pushed the pace early and hard. Along with Ineos Grenadiers and Lidl-Trek, they were the primary antagonist responsible for breaking the bunch into two pieces before the halfway point had been reached. Theirs was effectively a sub-peloton unit of 31 riders at its maximum, from which the race winner looked sure to come as their built a lead of more than a minute over the rest.

Into the final third of the race and it was the chasing group that achieved a greater cohesion, bringing the lead group back within spitting distance as they weaved their way around the narrow Belgian lanes. Hearing the news of their impending catching over the team radios forced the leaders and with a smaller, six rider selection – of which Visma-Lease A Bike made up 50% – broke clear. Van Aert was the clear favourite from the group. Toms Skujins (Lidl-Trek), Arnaud de Lie (Lotto-Dstny) and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadier) could only rely on each other for any sort of support.

The six appeared to work well enough together to re-establish their advantage over the rest.

As the race’s showpiece, penultimate climb, the Muur van Geraardsbergen, appeared on the horizon Jorgensen attacked and went clear. If not him then it looked certain the win would come from the five behind, most likely Van Aert or Christophe Laporte. The peloton had not admitted defeat completely, however, and it was Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates) who led their surprise resurgence towards the summit of the Kapelmuur.

Jorgensen held out until just beyond the final climb, the Bosberg, when the race effectively came back together.

Tratnik, one of the few riders from the Dutch squad to have missed out on the early split, had been able to minimize his effort by hiding in the bunch. He was therefore one of the few riders with enough left in his legs to go with a final attack on the run-in.

The Slovenian rider broke away from the pack on the final stretch alongside UAE Team Emirates’ Nils Politt.

The pair went all out in search of victory. Though they eked out an advantage of no more than 20 seconds, on the long straight run-in to Ninove, it was enough. As the metres counted down, Politt seemed happy to settle for silver, leading around the final bend. With 200m to go Tratnik kicked out against the German counterpart who had no response. Tratnik surged to the finish line to wrap up a dramatic finish.

Tratnik was, he said afterwards, “a little surprised to win that, because we know [Visma-LeaseABike] have such a strong team for the classics. In the past I didn’t do many classics and today I was more in domestique role but still. The guys did a really good job in the first half of the race. I just missed behind but I could… not relax behind but we had five guys up front. Then it was a case of keep believing. We caught back all the guys and then I just went to counter-attack. This may be the biggest win in my life.”

Visma-Lease A Bike’s Wout van Aert won the sprint for third behind Politt, wrapping up a double podium for the Dutch team and complete a successful day’s business for the favorites.

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