Alexis Ryan today sprinted to a gallant fifth place in an exciting classics opener at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Ninove, Belgium. The race was won solo by Chantal Blaak (DLT) with Marta Bastianelli (TVC) winning the reduced bunch sprint for second place, and Ryan just behind in fifth.
A much talked about neutralisation in the early part of the race, to avoid the women’s peloton catching the men’s peloton, didn’t perturb the enthralling race that eventually unfolded. The high pace continued and persistent attacks caused the peloton to splinter. At one point, we had Hannah Barnes, Kasia Niewiadoma and Alexis Ryan in a five-rider move, but with still 55km to race the scenario seemed too good too soon.
Over the brutal Muur climb, the most decisive split was made with Blaak pushing the pace and later herself countering a move from a teammate, to go alone to the finish. Niewiadoma’s group was joined by the rest of the peloton within the final kilometre and 30 riders sprinted for the remaining podium places.
Read the reactions from the riders below:
“Our team was INCREDIBLE today. Over the Molenberg, Kasia, Hannah, and I had ridden away from the peloton. We could hardly believe the strength and unity we were exuding. I’m so proud of all the girls today for fighting until the end. I’m disappointed to not bring home the victory, but I know there is more of these displays of panache and grit in our future.”
“The race was a good start to the season. Personally, I wasn’t at my strongest, but to come fifth at the end of a brutal race and not be on top form gives me confidence for the future.”
“The final sprint was very hectic. I lost Elena’s wheel and got boxed in. If I had been feeling stronger, then I could have pushed my way out of it. For now, I have to be content with fifth.”
“The race for me was better than expected, as I came down a little bit sick after arriving to Belgium. I focused on helping my teammates as much as possible and on the critical points of the race where positioning was vital. I drifted off a little bit on the Paddestraat but then got back so we had a full team there.”
“I was working a bit on the front and over the climbs I managed myself so I could try to help in the lead up to the Muur.”
“As a team we performed pretty well. We showed that the strength is there and we can dictate the race if we want, in particular we did it in the middle part of the race. After the Muur we suddenly weren’t in such a strong position with our numbers in the front group. And then in the final it just didn’t work out how the girls wanted it too.”
“I think we can take a lot of confidence from this race and how we raced together.”
“I didn’t feel 100% yesterday and to be in the front today I had to go really deep. We could have had a better result in the sprint in my opinion but overall in the race we were every time present and ready for each situation. I led into the Muur because I was not feeling good and I talked honest to my team and did the dirty work to lead into the Muur. In the end our group came back for the finish and I could help Alexis in the sprint. I can be proud of myself today and I know when I’m healthy I can be much better.”
“Our plan was to make sure we were all well positioned when the cobbles and climbs started which is always really important in the classics because of how much it can split in these sections. We wanted to be active in the race and see how it played out on the road.”
“I was happy with how I was feeling and helping to lead the girls into key sections in the race. That also helped me stay close to the front over the Molenberg climb where the team was in a really good situation.”
“After this I tried to survive the rest of the climbs where I was able to then lead the girls into the Muur and then I popped.”
“I think for the first classic we rode really well and have a lot of positives to take from the race into the upcoming classics.”
“We didn’t get the result we wanted but we can be proud of the way we raced today. We communicated well and had numbers in the front. Aggressive was a word thrown around a lot in our team meeting and I believe we were.”
“It was really nice to be back racing again after a long winter! I feel good, healthy and fresh. I could see today that my teammates were committed and strong. We had a lot of numbers at the front in all of the cobblestone sectors or most of the hills.”
“Unfortunately after the Muur, I was left alone. It wasn’t the ideal situation for us as I wasn’t the fastest in that group and my teammates were just behind chasing. I waited and helped in the lead out for Alexis.”
“We rode for the victory. We missed a few things but at the end it’s a learning process and I think we were great.”