A prestigious women’s one-day race in Belgium was temporarily halted after breakaway leader Nicole Hanselmann almost caught the men’s race.
The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race marks the start of the ‘cobbled classics’ season and is a UCI World Tour event. The men’s race started 10 minutes before the women but Bigla Pro rider Hanselmann was catching the back of the men’s support vehicles after 35km.
Organisers neutralised the women’s race to create a gap between the races.The Swiss rider Hanselmann, who attacked after seven kilometres and had opened a lead of around two minutes, was stopped, allowing the peloton to catch her. When the 123km (One hundred and twenty three kilometers) race from Gent to Ninove, which featured five cobbled sectors, was restarted, Hanselmann was allowed to build an advantage before the peloton was released.
However, the former Swiss national champion was soon caught and had eventually finished in 74th place, with Chantal Blaak taking the title that Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead won in 2016 race. Hannah Barnes was the first British rider across the line, finishing 28th, 69 seconds behind Dutch rider Blaak.
She said maybe the other women and her were too fast or the men too slow, she joked on Instagram after the race. Speaking to Cycling News,she said: they came too close to the men so they had to get a neutral time gap again so it was a bit sad for her because she was in a good mood and when the bunch sees one stopping, they just get a new motivation to catch them.
They could just see the ambulances of the men’s race. And she thinks they stopped for five or seven minutes and then it just kills your chances. The men’s race was won by Czech rider Zdenek Stybar. Ian Stannard, who had won the race in 2014 and 2015, was the best placed British rider in 26th, almost two minutes adrift.