Davide Ballerini continued his strong start to the cycling season by sprinting to victory on Saturday in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the opening Belgian classic of the year. The Italian sprinter who rides for Deceuninck-Quick Step edged Briton Jake Stewart of Groupama in the bunch finish at the end of the 124 mile run from Ghent to Ninove. Sep Vanmarcke of Israel Start-Up Nation was third.
In a race that was marked by the usual attacks, Ballerini was part of one dangerous breakaway that also included heavyweights Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe and Belgian Greg Van Avermaet.
26-year-old Ballerini won the first two stages of the Tour de Provence earlier this month but the victory in a WorldTour level race was the biggest of his career.
“It’s a dream come true,” Ballerini told broadcaster Eurosport.
“This is the start of the really big classics. I love it and I love this team. It was my dream since I was a baby when I saw my first race on TV.”
In the women’s race, world champ Anna van der Breggen took the second victory of her last four starts. Van der Breggen attacked the lead pack on, the Bosberg, the final cobbled climb of the day. She held off the chase group and finished with a 23-second lead over Emma Norsgaard and her teammate Amy Pieters.
|1||BALLERINI Davide||Deceuninck – Quick Step||4:43:03|
|2||STEWART Jake||Groupama – FDJ||0:00|
|3||VANMARCKE Sep||Israel Start-Up Nation||0:00|
|4||HAUSSLER Heinrich||Bahrain – Victorious||0:00|
|5||GILBERT Philippe||Lotto Soudal||0:00|
|6||ARANBURU Alex||Astana – Premier Tech||0:00|
|7||SÉNÉCHAL Florian||Deceuninck – Quick Step||0:00|
|8||TRENTIN Matteo||UAE-Team Emirates||0:00|
|9||GENIETS Kevin||Groupama – FDJ||0:00|
|10||POLITT Nils||BORA – hansgrohe||0:00|
|1||VAN DER BREGGEN Anna||SD Worx||3:21:00|
|2||NORSGAARD Emma Cecilie||Movistar Team||0:23|
|3||PIETERS Amy||SD Worx||0:23|
|4||KOPECKY Lotte||Liv Racing||0:23|
|5||BARNES Hannah||Canyon SRAM Racing||0:23|
|6||BASTIANELLI Marta||Alé BTC Ljubljana||0:23|
|7||BRENNAUER Lisa||Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling||0:23|
|8||BROWN Grace||Team BikeExchange||0:23|
|9||CAVALLI Marta||FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:23|
|10||LONGO BORGHINI Elisa||Trek-Segafredo Women||0:26|
RBA/AFP Photos Bettini