Paolini wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Wind and cold greeted the riders at the start in St. Peter's Square in Gent, Belgium. The early pace was fast, and nine riders sallied off of the front during the first hour. They were William Clarke (Argos-Shimano), Florian Vachon (Bretagne), Julien Fouchard and Nico Sijmens (both from Cofidis), Cyril Lemoine (Sojasun), Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Zakkari Dempster (Netapp-Endura), Gatis Smukilis (Katusha), and Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise). The nonet's advantage maxed out at about five minutes as the escapees reached the day's first cobblestones.
The peloton chased, and the combination of the pursuit and the terrain cut into the fugitives' lead. When the race reached the Taaienberg, 1:15 separated bunch and break. The peloton split, and 40 riders were in the lead group when it reached the Eikenberg.
After the Eikenberg, Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Marco Bandiera (IAM) attacked. The pair bridged up to the leaders. Behind, two crashes delayed the pursuit.
Chavanel surged away from the lead group while teammate Vandenbergh covered for him. Behind, Geraint Thomas (Sky), Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol), Maarten Wynants (Blanco), Vandousselaire, Egoitz Garcia Etxegibel (Cofidis), and Paolini bore down on the chasers. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) led the chase on the Leberg and Molenberg. On the latter ascent, the last of the day, Chavanel was caught.
Vandenbergh attacked, and only Paolini could follow. With 20 km left, the pair led the chasers by 0:30. The gap widened to 0:39 with 10 km remaining and 0:51 with two km left.
Vandenbergh attempted to get clear of Paolini, but the Italian was having none of it. In the last km, the leaders played cat and mouse, but Paolini was stronger. He led out the sprint and won by three bike lengths.
As might be expected, Paolini was ecstatic about his victory. "I'm absolutely happy about this win," he said. "It's a very important victory both for me, for Katusha and for Russia, since today I know is the Russian Men's Day. I'm very pleased to give them another reason to celebrate. It was a special triumph for me in a very prestigious competition, one of the most beautiful Belgian classic races."
"I felt in a great condition despite the cold weather, and in the end I managed to win thanks also to my bigger experience. I have to thank the whole team, they worked great. in the morning we decided the strategy, and everything went as we planned. I wanted to anticipate the most favorite riders, and thanks to my shape I managed to."
The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is the first race on the Belgian classic calendar. Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne will take place tomorrow, and some of today's riders will start that race. How will they fare? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!