Greg Van Avermaet wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Greg Van Avermaet, competing for BMC Racing aboard his fi’zi:k Antares 00 saddle, has kicked off the Belgian classics in style by winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday after a memorable finish.

The 30-year-old Belgian formed part of a leading trio down the final stretch, with both Peter Sagan and Tiesj Benoot fighting for his wheel. But Van Avermaet proved too strong, beating Sagan and Benoot into second and third, respectively.

‘I’m happy that I could finally win a classic like this because I’ve been close a few times here,’ said Van Avermaet, alluding to his second here in 2014 to Team Sky’s Ian Stannard (also fi’zi:k saddles) and to the fact he hasn’t finished lower than sixth in the previous four editions. ‘I know how hard it is to win a classic in the springtime.’

A 12-rider grouped formed early on in the 200km race featuring hot young French prospect Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale and fi’zi:k). The leading pack carved out a 5:30min advantage, but as the climbs came into view – there were 13 this year compared to 11 in 2015 – their lead began to shrink.

With 57km to go, Sky’s Luke Rowe (fi’zi:k Arione R1) attacked with Van Avermaet hot on his heels. The pair formed a quartet who’d catch the peloton and go on to battle for victory, but it was Van Avermaet who proved strongest.

‘I’ve always believed in my ability to outsprint the fast guys, especially after a long, hard race,’ Van Avermaet said. ‘Today’s victory confirmed this.’

Special mention must also go to Gougeard, who finished a fine fifth, and Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ and fi’zi:k Aliante) in 10th.