So it was Sep day on Saturday. Sep Vanmarcke took out his first big victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. It was a good weekend for Garmin, actually, what with the Omloop and Dave Z’s win over in Langkawi. I still have hopes for Heinrich Haussler there at Garmin, but this weekend wasn’t his race. Vanmarcke called his shot, and nailed it.
Watching the race unfold, it was hard to remember that Vanmarcke is only 23 years old. Those were two big boy moves he put in at crucial points in the race. First, Vanmarcke put in a big acceleration on the Molenberg that left Thor Hushovd and Matti Breschel scrambling. The two chasers (achtervolgers! so awesome, this Flemish) never did make it back to the lead group. Then inside 20 kilometers to go, Vanmarcke went again as the race hit the cobbles. It was a similar move to the attack that won Loes Gunnewijk the women’s race actually. This time, only two riders could follow Vanmarcke – Boonen and Flecha.
That was the bike race: Vanmarcke, Boonen, and Flecha. No slouches in that group. It’s not like Vanmarcke beat out a bunch of B-listers. After the race, Boonen said he wasn’t totally on form, but that shouldn’t take away from Vanmarcke’s big day out.
Boonen created the initial split with his attack on the Taienberg. Which, was one of the more what-the-fuck moments in the race, actually. Lars Boom tried to go up the gutter and crashed cartwheel style into Boonen’s rear wheel. Where did Boom think he was going? Anyway, the Bulgarian judge liked the landing.
Boonen, he can never sit on in these Belgian races, for no one is going to give him a free ride. Despite having a teammate in the break in Devenyns, Boonen spent a good portion of the race in the wind, but after the Taienberg never put in another attack. Maybe he didn’t expect that original attack to go anyhere. Certainly in past editions of this race, he has made a habit of riding hard over the climbs without ever really racing to win. This time, Boonen definitely put his race face on, but Vanmarcke played the race-maker with his two decisive attacks.
Though BMC put in a solid late race chase for Gilbert, the leading three had plenty of time in hand for the sprint. And oh did they use it. C’mon, enough already, just gooooo!!! I confess to some impatience with the last kilometer gameplay. Flecha did a half-assed wind up. Boonen jumped hard, but Vanmarcke overtook him with room to spare.
Sometimes understanding a bike race is as simple as saying that the strongest rider won. This time? The strongest rider won.