When Bigla Pro Cycling Team rider Nicole Hanselmann picked up the pace early in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad women’s race she probably didn’t expect her breakaway move to force the organisers to halt the race, but that’s exactly what happened.
After launching an attack just seven kilometres into the race, the former Swiss national road champion began to break away from the peloton and despite a chase group of three riders forming behind her, she pressed on and steadily built up a lead of almost two minutes.
The men’s race started 10 minutes before the women’s race but Hanselmann’s brave solo effort saw her catch the back of the men’s support vehicles after just 35km.
The organisers appeared unprepared and 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.
Speaking to Cyclingnews, Hanselmann said: “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.”
“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.”
The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race, which took place yesterday (2 March 2019), features five cobbled sectors and marks the start of the ‘cobbled classics’ season.
When the 123km race was restarted, Hanselmann was allowed to build an advantage before the peloton was released.
However, the 27-year-old was soon caught and eventually finished in 74th place, with Chantal Blaak taking the title.
Hannah Barnes was the first British rider across the line, finishing 28th, 69 seconds behind Dutch rider Blaak.
“May the other women and me were too fast or the men too slow,” joked Hanselmann on Instagram after the race.
The men’s race was won by Czech rider Zdenek Stybar. Ian Stannard, who won the race in 2014 and 2015, was the best placed British rider in 26th, almost two minutes adrift.
Featured image: Nicole Hanselmann/Instagram