After a remarkable string of top ten and podium finishes during the early part of his 2019 campaign, World Champion Alejandro Valverde was back in winning ways at the UAE Tour last week. Valverde repeated his 2018 success at Jebel Hafeet, by taking his first win in the rainbow jersey on the third stage and dusted himself down after an early pile up on Friday to finish as GC runner-up on Sunday.
The most important thing today, after all the efforts we made and the difficulties we endured during the week, was simply getting to the finish in one piece. My stage victory on Tuesday and the second place overall are very decent results, I think, really important to continue to work in the upcoming weeks and and hopefully get to my best form.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
The northernEuropean race season kicked off in earnest in Flanders on Saturday as the men’s and women’s pelotons tackled the bergs and cobbles of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium’s Opening Weekend.
Bigla showed their intent early on in the women’s edition, with Nicole Hanslemann attacking in the opening kilometres of the 123km route from Gent to Ninove and the Swiss quickly opened up a one minute gap on the bunch. The race was briefly brought to a halt, in a much criticised move, after 35km as the women’s race threatened to catch the slow moving men’s event ahead of them on the road. After the re-start, Hanselmann was reeled in shortly after the cobbles of Haaghoek.
Movistar Team Women lost two of their squad at around the halfway point as Gloria Rodríguez and Sheyla Gutiérrez crashed out –thankfully without serious injury. Meanwhile, Movistar Team’s Malgorzata Jasinska, Roxane Fournier and French champion Aude Biannic were still in the main group with Biannic topping out over the Kapelmuur and Bosberg in the top 20 and was involved in the bunch sprint in Ninove, eventually finishing in seventh spot. Bigla’s Leah Thomas, a close season signing, was their best place finisher in 20th.
In the men’s event, Jürgen Roelandts enjoyed his first outing as Movistar Team’s northern classics captain by getting into a dangerous looking move that briefly held a 40 second lead at the 80km to go mark. When caught, Roelandts held onto the group that emerged behind the race winning move and eventually finished in 25th spot.
Omloop van het Hageland
Movistar Team Women were back in action on Sunday and again showed their aggressive intent, placing Malgorzata Jasinska into a move and then sending Alicia González and Aude Biannic to the front to pick up the pace. Roxane Fournier was ably led out by Gloria Rodríguez and Paula Patiño and finished just off the podium in fourth place.
Movistar Team’s men were also in good form in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, with Jürgen Roelandts, Carlos Barbero, Jorge Arcas and Imanol Erviti all present in the main group, with Barbero finishing in 10th spot, his best finish in a Belgian race.