Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda) won Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad by outsprinting former world road race champion and classics specialist, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha, one of a three-strong breakaway that contested the finish, crossed the line third to claim his fifth podium finish at the Omloop in six years.
Vanmarcke, 23, who delivered only three top 10 finishes last season after a series of impressive finishes in previous years, including second at the 2010 Gent-Wevelgem, told Garmin Barracuda’s website: “A dream came true today!”
Boonen was magnanimous in defeat after being outsprinted by his younger and less experienced compatriot. “It’s a pity but I was beaten by a good rider who deserved the victory,” he said.
“I launched a long sprint because I knew that in the last 200 meters there were two corners where it would have been difficult to pass, but I miscalculated the effort. At 80 meters from the finish my sprint was over, I had no more power in my legs. I had also a cramp on my right leg,” he added.
Flecha was again vying for victory in the Omloop, but his attempts with Vanmarcke to shed the 2005 world road race champion were chased down by Boonen.
Team Sky directeur sportif, Stefan De Jong, said: “It was hard for Flecha against those two guys in the finish there – he was in a difficult position. I’d said ‘go for it when you see an opportunity’ but Boonen chased him down straight away a couple of times. Still that’s five podiums in six years which is a great record.
Boonen began his bid for victory on the slopes of the Taaienberg just over 55km into the 200km race. The select group formed by his attack included 2010 world road race champion, Thor Hushovd (BMC), Flecha and his Sky teammate, Matthew Hayman, Vanmarcke, Matti Breschel (Rabobank) and Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-Quickstep).
Hushovd and Breschel were dropped with 30km to go, and 10 km later, Boonen, Flecha, and Vanmarcke shed their remaining two companions.
Flecha and Vanmarcke attacked repeatedly in the closing kilometres, but were unable to shake the dogged Boonen, who responded by launching his sprint.
“Omloop is always a difficult race and even in the past we had few surprises,” Boonen said afterwards.
“In any case, my condition is good. On the Taaienberg I attacked and the feeling was really good. I have time to improve leading up to Paris-Nice.”