Davide Ballerini wins bunch sprint win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Rare bunch sprint sees Deceuninck-Quick-Step take control and deliver Ballerini to the finish line
The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad marked the start of the European cycling season and after a long winter away from racing, the peloton was ready to get on the road again. The race featured thirteen tough climbs, each getting harder as the race went on and the kilometres started to add up. With nine cobblestone sections adding to the difficulty, and some of these ridden twice, this 201km parcours would hit the riders hard.
The break formed within the first 10km and this group of five quickly set about building an advantage of almost nine minutes. This gap didn’t trouble the peloton, with the race favourites knowing the action would start in the last 50km, but just to be safe, upped the pace a little to bring the escape down to a more manageable six minutes with 100km remaining, before pulling them to a little more than a minute with 50km left.
The fast pace led to some nervous moments in the bunch, and a crash brought down BORA-hansgrohe’s Marcus Burghardt, forcing his retirement from the race. As the race sped towards the finale, with 43km left, a small group pushed on hard, sweeping up the break before Julian Alaphilippe went off the front solo and the new escape group fought among themselves to make the catch.
With Ide Schelling on the front of the peloton, the BORA-hansgrohe riders were pushing the pace and this surge in speed brought the race back together at the foot of the Kapelmuur with 20km left.
With no-one managing to escape again, the peloton settled in for a bunch sprint and around 50 riders crested the Bosberg 13 kms out from the finish line, where Deceuninck-Quick-Step Italian Florian Sénéchal led out Davide Ballerini to take an impressive sprint win.
Groupama-FDJ’s Jake Stewart was second and Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Start-Up Nation) settled for third.
Heinrich Haussler managed fourth for Bahrain-Victorious, while Lotto-Soudal’s Philippe Gilbert was fifth.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step brought the race to the rest of the peloton all day, the world champion Julian Alaphilippe animating the racing from the front as he first breakaway before going solo.
The race came back together andAlexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) suffered a mechanical for in the final couple of kilometres.
Ballerini was the best sprinter left in the pack, with a great lead-out, he took his third win this year with two stage victories at the Tour de La Provence.
VIDEO: 2021 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Highlights
2021 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Top 10
1. Davide Ballerini (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, in 4-43-03
2. Jake Stewart (GBr) Groupama-FDJ, "
3. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Israel Start-Up Nation "
4. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-Victorious "
5. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto-Soudal "
6. Alex Aranburu (Esp) Astana – Premier Tech "
7. Florian Sénéchal (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step "
8. Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates "
9. Kevin Geniets (Lux) Groupama-FDJ "
10. Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, "