While racing has been going on in Australia and the UAE already, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is generally considered to be the true start to the road season. It’s the first of the classics races, and it’s the first major one-day race on the calendar. And while the racing was exceptional as always, the coverage in the U.S. and Canada left a lot to be desired, with the women’s race only coming online on FloBikes with roughly 20 kilometers to go, and no commentary whatsoever—just the roar of the crowd and the helicopter. Here’s how both races played out:

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Results

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Lotte Kopecky Storms to the First Belgian Women's Win at Omloop

First: it’s impossible to leave this report without noting the utterly dismal coverage of this race on FloBikes. “Unimpressed” is a mild way of expressing the disappointment cycling fans felt at this embarrassing start to the season in terms of women’s race coverage—especially coverage that costs the viewers in the U.S. a wh0pping $150 per year, with no option for a monthly subscription. To pay so much for a race only to have the final 20 kilometers streamed and no commentary around it until 10 kilometers to go—and minimal information on screen about the race—is unacceptable.

As one Twitter user put it:

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Now, on to the race itself, which is in its first year as an official Women’s WorldTour level race. Last year, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) predictably dominated this race, but this year, it wasn’t quite as simple for the multi-time World Champion. With 132 kilometers of racing, the women hit many of the same climbs and cobbled sections as the men.

The racing started out fairly mild, with the group staying together for the first two thirds of the race. Several riders abandoned with mechanicals, small crashes, or illnesses, but there was minimal drama in the peloton.

Sadly, viewers were unable to see the women hit the Molenberg cobbled climb with 40 kilometers to go, but as the cobbles and climbs came more rapidly, the peloton began to thin out, with more and more riders dropping out of the back but no distinct attacks.
As the group hit the Molenberg climb, though, a large group of around 20 riders containing most of the race favorites finally broke free from the larger peloton.

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(“AAA group, hope to see them live at some point,” snarked a Twitter commentator, since at 40 kilometers to go, fans still couldn’t see the race.)

At 28 kilometers to go, Arlenis Sierra (Movistar) attacked and created a small gap. Movistar chilled the pace in the peloton, but between UAE Team ADQ, SD Worx and Team DSM all working at the front, the peloton’s pace stayed high.

But it was Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) who made an impressive solo attack on the climb at 16 kilometers to go, chasing down Sierra and quickly passing her around the 12 kilometer mark.

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With 10 kilometers to go, Van Vleuten was working to catch back on to Kopecky at the head of the race. Behind Van Vleuten, Lorena Wiebes was sitting confidently on her wheel, waiting to see what she would do. Unfortunately, Van Vleuten didn’t have many supporters in the chase group, with very few women willing to move to the front to work.

At 9 kilometers to go, SD Worx Demi Vollering was also in the lead group, along with teammate Wiebes—ready to sprint if the group did catch Kopecky. But Kopecky continued to push her pace after hitting the five kilometer mark with 30 seconds between her and the rest of the peloton, led by the UAE and Movistar teams chasing hard.

But Kopecky was clearly doing everything she could to maintain her gap, pushing at her absolute limit and holding her 30 second lead with two kilometers to go, despite Van Vleuten’s best efforts in the chase group. In the chase group, the pace continued to be strong, and as riders started to shift to prepare for the final sprint, launching test attacks and ultimately bringing the speed higher and higher.

With a kilometer to go, Kopecky’s lead dwindled to 17 seconds and it seemed as though she may not make it to the finish before being swallowed by the peloton, but she powered through that final kilometer, holding that gap strong, coming in to the finish with only seconds to spare but plenty of time to celebrate.

In the bunch sprint, Wiebes sprinted in for second place, putting SD Worx in 1-2 with Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team ADQ) in third, Emma Norsgaard Bjerg (Movistar) in fourth, and Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM) in fifth.

“It was really hard but I had a good feeling in the race,” Kopecky said. “I really felt strong on the climbs. I set a pace on the climb that no one could follow so I couldn’t hesitate anymore and had to go,” she added, speaking of her impressive solo breakaway. (After the finish, she told her teammates that next time, she would go later—“I wasn’t sure how to pace this kind of race, but I think I did well,” she laughed.)

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Women’s Top 5

  1. Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx)
  2. Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx)
  3. Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team ADQ)
  4. Emma Norsgaard Bjerg (Movistar)
  5. Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM)
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Jumbo-Visma Plays It Perfectly with Dylan Van Baarle

Without last year’s winner Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) or his Dutch rival Mathieu van der Poel on the start line, it was anyone’s guess who would dominate in this cobbled 207-kilometer race.

While Omloop can occasionally be wet and provide slick, challenging conditions for racers, today was dry, sunny, and cool: optimal race conditions of plenty of exciting action. An early breakaway of seven riders took off and established a large gap early in the race, bringing the gap up to six minutes while several riders were forced to abandon after a crash. The group of seven maintained their lead for more than half of the race, until Jumbo Visma picked up the peloton pace and started trying to pull the leaders back, splitting the peloton in the process.

Included in the chase group was the 2022 Paris Roubaix winner, Jumbo-Visma’s Dylan van Baarle, who was clearly Jumbo-Visma’s pick to go for the win in the absence of Van Aert. By 80 kilometers to go, the seven minute gap had been brought down to 2:30 by the smaller chase group.

The peloton behind the chase group also finally motivated to start to chase down the chasers as the climbs started coming fast and furious. Soudal-QuickStep led the charge and eventually pulled back to the chasers, easing off despite the seven leaders still up the road. But the lead group must have been tiring as the peloton surged ahead, bringing the gap down to under a minute. Unfortunately, some small crashes marred the peloton, with Soudal-QuickStep’s Tim Declercq, Jumbo Visma’s Jasper De Buyst, Anthony Turgis, and Arnaud De Lie (Lotto Dstny) both having small crashes.

The lead group began to break up, with only three riders—Jelle Wallays (Cofidis), Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar) and Mathis Le Berre (Arkéa Samsic)—remaining just 30 seconds ahead of the peloton being led by Jumbo-Visma.

On the Molenburg—the trickiest cobbled climb of the race with only 40 kilometers to go—potential race favorite Ineos’ Tom Pidcock made a move along with four other riders, finally catching the remaining three leaders. Behind them, more riders surged to meet their effort including Van Baarle, who immediately attacked with Florian Vermeersch, Jonathan Milan and Mathis Le Berre.

Jumbo Visma began to work to control the peloton to allow Van Baarle to continue to grow his gap, and Vermeersch and Milan dropped out of the lead group leaving Van Baarle with only Le Berre with 25 kilometers to go.

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Coming out of the Muur, arguably the hardest (and final) climb of the race, Van Baarle attacked and dropped Le Berre. His lead was only 15 seconds ahead of the slightly disorganized chase group as he hit the 10 kilometer to go mark. American Magnus Sheffield made an appearance at the head of the large chase group, working for Pidcock. But Van Baarle’s lead continued to grow.

Ultimately, it was Van Baarle who took the solo win, coming in 20 seconds ahead of the pack. Impressively, Arnaud De Lie managed to take second despite his earlier minor crash and subsequent bike change. He was followed by Christophe Laporte in a sprint, then Alexander Kristoff and Tom Pidcock.

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Men’s Top 5

  1. Dylan Van Baarle (Jumbo Visma)
  2. Arnaud De Lie (Lotto Dstny)
  3. Christophe Laporte (Jumbo Visma)
  4. Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team)
  5. Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers)