For the Movistar Team, the women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was an example of how much luck can play a role in cycling, and the best-laid plans can come to naught.
Despite playing their cards well in the defence of Annemiek van Vleuten’s 2022 victory, the team lost their leader to a puncture just before the Muur van Geraardsbergen and ended up unsuccessfully chasing eventual winner Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx).
In the group sprint, Emma Norsgaard was beaten by Kopecky’s teammate Lorena Wiebes and Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team ADQ) to finish fourth.
“I had a flat tyre two kilometres before the Muur, so that was the worst possible moment. I hit a pothole, and I had to change bikes, that was the quickest option, but still not quick enough,” Van Vleuten said
“If they go all-out in front, you cannot chase it back, it’s impossible to catch up. You know immediately, ‘this race is over for me’. But you still try to come back, maybe to the group of Emma, maybe I can contribute to the chase, that was the hope I had,” Van Vleuten explained after finishing 2:04 minutes behind.
Before their leader’s misfortune, Movistar had an almost-perfect race: They had five riders, Van Vleuten, Liane Lippert, Floortje Mackaij, Emma Norsgaard, and Aude Biannic, in a group of 17 that formed on the Haaghoek, and Biannic went up the road from that group together with Karlijn Swinkels (Team Jumbo-Visma).
When the group and then Biannic and Swinkels were caught again, Arlenis Sierra attacked solo – and then Van Vleuten suffered her puncture. Without the world champion pushing on the Muur van Geraardsbergen, Kopecky could get away and bridge to Sierra.
“That’s the shit thing. I wanted to test my legs on the Muur, and I couldn’t. Only in the chase, that’s different from in the front,” Van Vleuten was understandably disappointed but looked forward to the next chance at next Saturday’s Strade Bianche.
With Sierra was still up front between Muur and Bosberg, Lippert, Mackaij, and Norsgaard did not chase all-out, and when they committed to the chase after the Bosberg, it was too late.
“The plan was to play the numbers in the front, so it was really good Arlenis was up there. It was a shame she couldn’t follow on the Bosberg because I think if you go to the finish with her, she’s really strong,” Mackaij said.
“We wanted to make a really hard race, and we did it. But there was not enough wind, we expected a little bit more crosswind, so it was too easy among the wheels.
“On the Muur, Lotte went, and maybe we hesitated one, two seconds, the gap opened up, and it was too late,” Mackaij looked back on the race before turning her thoughts to Sunday’s Omloop van het Hageland, a 1.1 race where she and Biannic will be joined by Alicia González, Sheyla Gutiérrez, and Gloria Rodríguez.