Nicole Hanselmann (Bigla Pro Cycling Team) probably didn’t wake up with the intention of forcing the organisers of the women’s edition of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to neutralise the race but that’s exactly what happened when the 27-year-old almost caught the men’s race in a brave solo move.
The former national road champion of Switzerland attacked inside seven kilometres of the women’s race, and despite a chase group of three riders forming behind her, she pressed on and steadily built up a lead of almost two minutes.
Despite the men’s and women’s races starting in the same location, the organisers appeared unprepared when Hanselmann could see the last few vehicles from the men’s race up ahead. In order to maintain a degree of organisation, they asked the Bigla rider to stop by the roadside and allow for a gap to naturally form between the two races.
“We came too close to the men’s so we had to get a neutral time gap again so it was a bit sad for me because I was in a good mood and when the bunch sees you stopping, they just get a new motivation to catch you,” Hanselmann told Cyclingnews at the finish.
“The race jury just said we had to neutralise the race because we are getting too close to the men.
“We could just see the ambulances of the men’s race. I think we stopped for five or seven minutes and then it just kills your chances.”
After a pause in proceedings, Hanselmann was allowed to start racing again, and was given a head-start on the bunch in a bid to allow her to regain the time she had built up. However, with the break in racing and the cold conditions also playing a factor, she was soon brought back by the bunch.
Despite the setback, she was pleased with her efforts and the race as a whole.
“I got the gap again to start with on my own and I was just stood ten metres ahead of the bunch waiting and I got the gap again and then they caught me at the end of the first cobbled section,” she told Cyclingnews.
Hanselmann would eventually cross the line in 74th place, while the race was won by Boels Dolmans’ Chantal Blaak. Bigla’s highest placed rider was Leah Thomas in 20th.