Slovenia's Tratnik Steals In For Het Nieuwsblad Win


Slovenia's Tratnik steals in for Het Nieuwsblad win

Ninove, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 25th Feb, 2024) Dark horse Jan Tratnik won the season-opening Belgian cobbled classic Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, refusing to work with his escape partner UAE's Nils Politt and then overtaking the exhausted German in a desperate cat-and-mouse finish.

Tratnik was the least expected to win of the yellow and black-clad Visma-Lease a Bike team that swarmed around the front of the race over 12 hills and nine cobbled sections.

Despite low-hanging grey skies over 202km of narrow roads in Flanders, there were vast ranks of streetside fans cheering the race on all the way from Gent to Ninove in cycling- mad Belgium.

It was a third straight win here for the neighbouring Dutch team known last season as Jumbo-Visma.

They also collected third place Saturday with Wout Van Aert, who acted as a foil for Tratnik, and celebrated his teammate's win enthusiastically.

"This is the biggest win of my life for sure," said the 34-year-old Slovenian who covered the 202-kilometre circuit in 4hrs 31mins and 28sec.

"I'm more in a domestic role helping the others usually," said a bashful-looking Tratnik, whose top previous win was a stage on the Giro.

German rider Politt was also smiling despite the narrow three second defeat.

"It's now the second time I got second in a big race, but second is okay," said the UAE Team rider Politt who came second at Paris-Roubaix in 2019.

Ineos rider Tom Pidcock was among the pre-race favourites but the Briton eventually dropped out of the elite front group in blustery winds before rallying to narrowly miss the podium.

"There were 25 of us with a 1-minute lead for a while, but I ended up blowing (getting out of breath). At least I can go home and have dinner early," the Yorkshireman said of missing out on the top three.

Outsider Tratnik was not part of the escape group but leapt onto the attack when the chasing peloton caught the leaders.

Two-time world champion Julian Alaphilippe had an awful day blighted by mechanical problems and a heavy fall when a rival rider fell right in front of him.

In the women's race Dutch rider Marianne Vos edged title holder Begian Lotte Kopecky in a four-way sprint for the line at Ninove after 127km featuring eight hills and five cobbled sections.

It was a first-ever Het Niewsblad for the 36-year-old Voss, who also rides for Visma, meaning the Dutch team won the women's and men's version of the classic.