Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team were such protagonists at 198.9km Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday that both Stijn Vandenbergh and Sylvain Chavanel had chances at a race victory. First, it was Chavanel attacking out of a break he bridged to with about 45km to go. Then, when Chavanel was caught by a new chase group that included Vandenbergh, Stijn eventually accelerated with Luca Paolini (Katusha) and they were suddenly off the front of a 10 rider escape group with 26.5km to go.
Vandenbergh and Paolini continued to work together, and the gap only got as low as 28" to the chase group that included Chavanel with 13.1km to go. It became clear, with 6.8km to go and the gap hovering at about 40", that Vandenbergh and Paolini would battle it out for the win.
Paolini went for the sprint in the final few hundred meters, and despite the best efforts of Vandenbergh, Paolini crossed the line victorious. Chavanel attacked the chase group in the final kilometer, but finished 7th amongst his chase group members. Sven Vandousselaere (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise) was 3rd.
"Second place is also good, to win is better but with second I am happy," Vandenbergh said. "I was in front with Chava on the Eikenberg when he took action. Then, after the Lippenhovestraat, I attacked. It was in my mind I was in a good place because on the Lippenhovestraat I was in the front, and after that we turned to the left I went on the side, and it was a good moment for an attack. After the Eikenberg I knew I felt really good and I really felt I was strong overall today. As for the sprint, Paolini went with 250 meters and he took directly two or three meters. He was simply too fast. When I attacked I knew I had Paolini with me, and he is really strong. But after a hard race like today you don't know how he will be in the final. I will sleep good because I am happy with my second place."
"I am happy about my race," Chavanel said about his aggressive performance. "I tried to attack and I was thinking somebody would have followed me. When I remained alone I really didn't force the situation. With a headwind it wasn't possible to go to the finish alone. In any case I'm happy about my condition and I want to congratulate Stijn for the great race. He deserves it."
Tom Boonen, meanwhile, was seen chatting comfortably in the peloton at times during the race and was seen at the front grabbing bottles deep into the race.
"I still have a lot of work to do," Boonen said about his condition leading into the Classics. "I think I did better than I expected. I'm back on track for the Classics. Especially with this really hard weather, these really hard conditions it went well. After 100km I already felt empty, but with the experience I have, and the experience with the race, I still made it through pretty OK to the final, and made it through the accelerations I needed to do because the group was already gone. I felt OK and like I said, I need some extra work, but it was the first time I really had to go deep for a longer time — one hours or two hours. So, I feel satisfied. Today we had a few guys who were able to make it into the front group. It's really nice to have a race like that. It's nice to know if you really have a hard half hour, you have teammates who can take over the actions of the race. I'm happy for Stijn. I knew that he can do these kind of actions. Unfortunately he was in the breakaway with Paolini who is faster than him, and has a lot of experience. Stijn in any case showed he was ready and on a good track for the next important races."
Matteo Trentin crashed during the race — hitting his right hand — and was forced to withdraw. He will pass further examinations this evening to check the extent of the injury to his hand.