Annemiek van Vleuten went into Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as defending champion and one of the nailed-on favourites for the win. As it happened, however, the European champion and former world champion found herself distanced as a crucial split formed on the Leberg climb, and found herself in the very rare circumstance of having to chase.
Van Vleuten was not the only favourite to miss the split of around 30 riders, with Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) also getting caught out along with her teammate Ellen van Dijk.
The split proved decisive and neither van Vleuten nor Deignan managed to return to the front of the race. Van Vleuten did attempt to bridge back to the main group, attacking on the Berendries with van Dijk but spent the remainder of the racing chasing.
“I had my race from behind,” Van Vleuten said. “That was actually quite good so I can take confidence out of today.”
The 38-year-old Dutch rider, who joined her new team Movistar during the off-season laid the blame on herself for her bad positioning.
“Only I should be in position at the right moment so that’s the stupid thing for me I can blame that I was not able to play in the final,” she said.
Despite losing their team leader and favourite for the race, Movistar had another strong card to play in the form of Emma Norsgaard. After Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx) took a solo win, the Danish sprinter won the bunch kick for second place ahead of sprinting powerhouses Amy Pieters (SD Worx) and Lotte Kopecky (Liv Racing).
“I think we played it super well, and I think for the team it’s a great start to ride so well together,” said van Vleuten.
“I’m super happy for her. She’s just like me, new in the team, and already a second-place showing that she’s so strong.”
Van Vleuten will undoubtedly be looking to return to racing from the front at the opening of the Women’s World Tour at Strade Bianche next Saturday.