Van Baarle claims season-opening cycling classic

Dutch rider Dylan Van Baarle of the Jumbo team went solo to win the first classic of the cycling season on Saturday at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Up-and-coming 20-year-old Belgian Arnaud De Lie won a sprint for second place after recovering impressively from a crash, while another Jumbo man Christophe Laporte came third.

The 30-year-old Van Baarle won Paris-Roubaix in 2022 and was second in the world championships in 2021.

On Saturday he attacked from distance after the penultimate climb, and crossed the line with his arms wide open some 20 seconds ahead of a fast-moving pursuit posse.

Briton Tom Pidcock was amongst that group, whose combined strengths was not enough to reel in the relentless Dutchman taking his debut Jumbo win.

"I went for it when everyone was struggling," said Van Baarle.

"I saw a moment. It was quite a hard section of the race, so I decided to go."

"Van Baarle was just the best today," explained Team UAE man Tim Merlier. "We knew we were never going to catch him from about 40km out."

The race is the first of a season known as the spring classics -- one-day races hotly contested in Europe's road cycling heartlands.

This 207-kilometre race featured 12 climbs and nine cobbled sections.