Thursday, February 29, 2024

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2019 – Zdeněk Štybar Solos In

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HomeDiariesOmloop Het Nieuwsblad 2019 - Zdeněk Štybar Solos In

Let’s start with a bit of culture; it’s famous Flandrian ‘luminist’ painter Emile Claus who keeps an eye on proceedings as the 2019 Gent-Gent comes to life on a chill, grey but not too savage morning.

Photo©Ed Hood
Photo©Ed Hood

The race begins with a presentation in the big exhibition hall adjacent to the Kuipke Velodrome; we liked it better when the buses lined up in the street across from the track – but with the race now part of ‘Flanders Classics’ package there has to be glitz.

Photo©Ed Hood

It is pretty cool to watch the team wagons roll in, very military – but the diesel fumes aren’t so much fun.

The teams do their best to keep saddos like us away from the bikes with those tapes they use outside night clubs – no creds for us for this race, we’re just fans – so you have to make do with the ‘B’ bikes on the team car roofs for.

Photo©Ed Hood

This neat rear suspension on the Direct Energie Wiliers caught our eye though.

Photo©Ed Hood

It was nice to meet up with our old friend, former Belgian Time Trial Champion and now the face of Shimano at all the big races; Bert Roesems, seen here speaking to UAE DS and former pro, Alan Peiper. 

How do they keep so skinny?

Photo©Ed Hood

From old pros to neo pro; 24 year-old Englishman Harry Tanfield started his World Tour career nicely with the best young rider jersey in the opening time trial of the Valenciana – he was also silver medallist in the Commonwealth Games TT last year – but the Opening Weekend has scant regard for chrono palmarès and our Harry had a bit of torrid time.

But he’s a versatile, talented lad and will have learned a lot over the weekend. 

Photo©Ed Hood

Meanwhile the UCI guys go about their business of checking for hidden motors…

Photo©Ed Hood

Swiss TT star, Stefan Küng took time out to meet his fan club – it’s a fair trail from Switzerland to Flanders…

Let’s dash, we don’t want to get stuck in the road closures and traffic jams.

Photo©Ed Hood

‘Break of the day’ at Oombergen some 16 K in, working sweetly; Alex Howes (EF), Roy Jans (Correndon), Tom Wirtgen (Wallonie) and Tom Devriendt (Wanty – it’s not a proper break without a Wanty guy.

Photo©Ed Hood

The slowest moving peloton we’ve ever seen in Het Nieuwsblad followed a couple of minutes later with the ‘start of term’ chat audible from way down the road.

Photo©Ed Hood

Eventually winner, ‘Styby’ was back among cars with no sign of anxiety.

Photo©Ed Hood

Time to move, the top of the Leberg and the break had built such a lead – it would top out at 14 minutes – that we missed them.

But we did catch the bunch; there was no chat in that peloton this time with Iljo Keisse doing what he gets paid for – hammering away at the front with another four of the windows and floors men in line astern behind him.

Photo©Ed Hood

Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain) was looking as cool as ever but it wasn’t his day – or weekend.

Photo©Ed Hood

Over the cobbles at Mater the break was still looking tidy but behind the pressure was telling with gaps in the peloton and discomfort etched on most faces.

Photo©Ed Hood

Small wonder, that beast of a man Tim (The Tractor) De Clerq (QuickStep) had the pain dialled up to 11 as the QuickStep purge continued.

Photo©Ed Hood

Some 30 minutes later we were among the big bucks poseurs at the junction at the top of the Valkenberg; no Decathlon ‘sports’ bikes for these dudes.

Photo©Ed Hood

The break was still just clear and beginning to look scrappy – dead men walking.

Photo©Ed Hood

It was still a big bunch with eventual winner Styby looking sharp and top performers next day at Kuurne, Magnus