Van Vleuten overcomes uncooperative Vollering to seal Omloop Het Nieuwsblad win

From the steep cobbled slopes of the Muur van Geraardsbergen to the finish line of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Dutch Annemiek van Vleuten and Demi Vollering were inseparable at the front of the race.

Van Vleuten, who ended up triumphing in the two-man sprint in Ninove to claim his second career Omloop title, had attacked the hallowed climb, closing in on a strong leading group.

With it, the SD Worx driver accelerated again on the second of the famous double, the Bosberg, where Wout van Aert had launched his own winning attack earlier in the day. There, it was the leader of Movistar who started the movement, while Vollering stayed with her.

This situation persisted until the finish, with Vollering sticking to Van Vleuten’s wheel in the final kilometers, to the 39-year-old’s visible frustration. Speaking after the race, which ended in a tense final sprint, Van Vleuten said she had to accept the situation, even if it reduced her chances of victory.

“I’ve said it before – when I fall I accept that situation and I keep going. It’s the same with Demi Vollering in my wheel – I accept the situation. I asked her if she wanted to ride?’ No, I don’t want to drive.’

“I can also understand it because she had two [teammates] behind her, so I just accept the situation and always try to do something good for me. If I let the group come back with two more SD Worx from behind, that’s definitely not a good situation for me.

“So if maybe I just kept riding 95 per cent in front, I felt like I still wanted to go and I still think after a tough race I might have a chance when I do. a very long sprint. Yeah, that was the result too.

“I don’t get frustrated with things I can’t control. I tried to let her drive, saying that [Movistar teammate] Emma Norsgaard Bjerg was behind us, but she didn’t accept.

Despite her bulging record and countless successes, Van Vleuten wouldn’t normally be favored in a two-man sprint against Vollering, who herself won Liège-Bastogne-Liège, La Course and The Women’s Tour last season.

However, she said her sprint had relatively improved after the previous three and a half hours of hard racing, while a move before the final corner before the finish also helped.

“I wanted to fly around the last corner like a suicide bomber,” Van Vleuten joked. “It makes me happy to beat someone who is inherently faster than me. But I also get faster after a hard race. I saw her coming next to me in the sprint, but I was able to add a other speed.

“It’s ‘lekker’,” she said of her win – number 88 in a career that stretches back 15 years. “It’s good. I think we’re good because it was very unexpected, it was team work and it’s great fun to stay to start the season in a good dynamic and with the team. , and I think we can continue from there.

“I think it’s a good flow with the team, and for the next maybe will be for someone else. But yeah, it’s a dream start.”

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Virginia S. Braud