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Visma-Lease a Bike earns natural hat trick of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad wins

Visma-Lease a Bike earns natural hat trick of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad wins

For the third consecutive season, Visma-Lease a Bike has won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and they’ve done it via three different riders. Jan Tratnik became the first Slovenian victor in Saturday’s entertaining start to the Belgian season and the first European race on the World Tour. It’s the biggest triumph of Tratnik’s career.

The Course

Over 208 km, the route offered up eight sectors of cobbles, nine climbs and two cobbled climbs, the most important of which was the Muur van Geraardsbergen/Kapelmuur (1 km of 9.2 percent) that came with 16.5 km to go. Four kilometres after the Muur was the Bosberg climb (1 km of 5.8%). There were sections of stiff wind, and it was a day for arm warmers and vests.

On Friday, Israel-Premier Tech announced that Guillaume Boivin, named to the team on Thursday, was to be replaced by another Canadian, Riley Pickrell. Both Pickrell and Derek Gee were racing their first OHN.

The first breakaway, forming soon after the flag went down in Gent, was a nontet that rumbled over the first cobbles of Haaghoek and the first climb of Leberg. The peloton split at the 72 km mark, and Pickrell was one of 23 riders in the first half, which also contained Wout van Aert, Christophe Laporte, Tom Pidcock and Arnaud De Lie. The van Aert group sopped up the breakaway 20 km later. With 85 km to go, Gee was involved in a crash in the chase group and had to abandon.

With 70 km to go, the 27-strong van Aert bunch was under a minute ahead of the bulk of the peloton, where Groupama-FDJ toiled at the front. Soudal-QuickStep couldn’t make a selection on the Valkenberg.

Pickrell near the front with 56 km to go.

Visma pushed on the Wolvenberg and whittled down the front group to 7. Van Aert had Laporte and Matteo Jorgenson for teammates. Pidcock and De Lie made it as well. Gianni Moscon couldn’t hang and there was a…

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