We opened the spring season with Elena Cecchini finishing in 11th place in today’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Ninove, Belgium. The race was fought out in tough weather conditions with Annemiek van Vleuten (MTS) topping the penultimate climb, the Muur van Geraardsbergen, alone and going on to a solo win.
An elite 21-rider group including Hannah Barnes and Elena Cecchini formed after the Molenberg climb, with still 55km remaining in the race. While a large chase group formed behind, they could never get closer than 30 seconds to the leaders who went on to fight for the win. The lead group splintered over the Muur van Geraardsbergen with van Vleuten going solo, followed by a 6-rider chase and further behind, another chase group containing Elena and Hannah.
The chase groups never re-formed and it was Hannah helping Elena in the sprint for 8th place overall.
Read the reactions from each of the other CANYON//SRAM Racing riders below.
“Hannah and I were outnumbered in the front group so we didn’t have to be the ones pushing the pace. The plan was that Hannah had to try her chances until the Muur and then hopefully we could go for a sprint final if an attack hadn’t worked. It was a strange race because with a tailwind from the Muur to the finish, everyone was waiting for the Muur, so nothing really happened until there.”
“Personally, it was a matter of legs when the real selection has been done. I know my form is not quite there yet, but today was a good starting point for myself and for the team. We look at the next races with confidence.”
“As expected it was pretty epic conditions with strong winds and heavy rain at times. As a team we raced quite well. It probably split slightly earlier than we expected with the Molenberg and Paddestraat was a mess with a lot of crashes going on. We ended with Elena and Hannah Barnes in the front group of 21 riders. Ideally we would have liked to have more there to help them going into the Muur.
For me personally I was frustrated as I went into the Molenberg in a really good position and I had good legs but then got caught up and lost a huge amount of ground that couldn’t be made up.”
“Hannah and Elena fought well in our start to the classics and I’m sure we can build further on this.”
“It wasn’t the best day for me which is disappointing but it is always a bit of a shock to the system with the first race of the year and some good points to build on. I think as a team we showed good commitment and worked to what our strengths were.”
“I tried to help the team as best I could in the beginning of the race but I didn’t have the best day out there. Still, I have to say that I’m looking forward to the next races and working on that. I’m proud of the rest of the team for fighting hard in some tough race conditions.”
“Starting into the Belgian and Dutch racing is always quite a shock to the system even after we already collected some race days in Australia. But I could see a further improvement to last year on positioning and the overall feeling for these kinds of races.”
“My pure helper role today suits the way I love to ride races anyway and I think I did my job quite well to stay in control especially in the first half of the race and be in important moves during that time. I shared the work load with Hannah Ludwig, who was always there when I wasn’t and is always keen to play her role in the team plan.”
“I could position myself and my teammates for the key moments and we ended up with Hannah Barnes and Elena in the small front group after the split at the Molenberg. I could stay with the rest of the peloton over the final climbs and could test my legs in the sprint, after all those efforts.”
“Overall we didn’t end up with the result we were aiming for, but it was one of the races where you can just admit: we did our best and today others were just stronger. But the season just started and we are still aiming high.”