Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Classics late bloomer Dylan Van Baarle kicks off spring campaign with impressive win

Thirty year-old Paris-Roubaix winner continues his slow burn after moving to Jumbo-Visma.

Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

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Dylan van Baarle often seemed to be the guy who was in the mix at the spring classics but without actually winning the big prizes.

During his days in the Cannondale team he finished on the podium in Dwars door Vlaanderen (2015). He then captured multiple top-10 results in the Ronde van Vlaanderen (‘16, ‘17). He moved to Sky and cracked another top-10 result in the 2020 Ronde. The breakthrough came in 2021 with the victory in Dwars door Vlaanderen and silver at the 2021 world championships. He confirmed that these top results weren’t a fluke with a second place at the Ronde in 2022 and the biggest win of his career the following week in Paris-Roubaix.

His move from INEOS to the star-studded Jumbo-Visma team was clearly making the Dutch team even stronger than they were before, but the question was how Van Baarle would react to the new environment after spending five years in the British team.

When asked at the start of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad if the Paris-Roubaix winner was still nervous for the the Belgian opener of the season, Van Baarle actually confirmed he wasn’t totally at ease.

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“Sure, I’m a bit nervous. During the week it started to mount and I hope that I can shake it off during the first part of the race,” Van Baarle said in the mixed zone at the Ghent velodrome on Saturday morning.

He had to adapt to the Jumbo-Visma way of approaching races, like tackling the Omloop as the first race of the season coming straight off a training camp. Van Baarle was unsure about how it would turn out.

“I’ll be able to tell you after the race,” he said. “We’ve got a really nice group of boys for the classics. We’re all in good shape. I can’t wait to start racing.”

When asked if he needs a few races to get going, Van Baarle confirmed this. “I’m still a bit of a slow sucker but winning the race is obviously the goal. We had a great training camp and I think the form is good.”

And how it turned out perfectly for the Dutchman. After the race he was all smiles. “Obviously it’s super great. There’s no better way to start in a new team,” Van Baarle said in the post-race flash interview. “The boys were super good. I can’t thank them enough.”

At the Jumbo-Visma team bus director sportif Arthur van Dongen explained the team worked with colors to hand out roles in the team. A red rider is the team leader, yellow riders have a free role. None of the riders at the start of the Omloop were red riders and several riders were yellow riders, including Dylan van Baarle.

Things didn’t look quite that good when he was spotted near the back of the peloton at the foot of the Wolvenberg climb when the race approached its key zone. “I lost the boys and figured I had to find my own way. Two boys in front of me hooked into each other and then my chain dropped. It wasn’t easy to get it back on. I tried to keep calm. DS Grischa Niermann was yelling through the radio that somebody had to wait. I told them to stay where they were and I would come their way. It’s often easier that way than with someone else.”

Van Baarle quickly moved back up through the field and made his move at 38km from the finish. Right after the steep cobbled Molenberg climb and a big move from teammate Nathan Van Hooydonck everybody was gasping for air and the pace dropped. That’s when Van Baarle powered away on the right hand side of the road.

“It’s becoming my signature move I guess. Merijn Zeeman told me during the training camp that I should use my instinct in these races. It was instinct obviously but I knew that when I’m up front that the other boys are relatively comfortable. I know that they’re controlling my breakaway and that they can save their energy. That was the tactic but I didn’t have to be the guy up front.”

He dropped the last breakaway companions on the following climbs but that wasn’t his intention.

“I wanted to keep the pace high and keep the group going but apparently they were on their limit. It’s a shame I had to drop them there. I didn’t even know the Arkea guy (Mathys Le Berre) was a survivor from the early breakaway move. If I had known then I would’ve been less angry when he didn’t cooperate,” Van Baarle said.

During the post-race press conference it turned out Van Baarle had no clue how far the chase group was. “When the car was further back the radio signal wasn’t clear. When looking back I saw that the cars were still behind me which was a good sign. Only during the two final kilometers did I feel that I would win.”

“I rate this victory very high but obviously my last year’s victory in Roubaix remains the most beautiful win in my career,” Van Baarle said. But he hoped it wouldn’t stop with a win at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Ninove. “I hope it grows even bigger.”

The different build-up towards the spring classics with training camp at altitude turns out to be fruitful for Van Baarle.

“Indeed. Pretty soon everybody will do this but it’s no secret altitude can work well. Obviously, it works well for me,” Van Baarle laughed. “During the winter I was very motivated. There were so many new incentives: training, food, equipment. That gives a lot of motivation. Admittedly, during the first training camp in December, it was a bit uncomfortable because you’re still dressed in your old kit but from January on I was feeling at home. The boys were very welcoming. I was feeling a bit nervous because I was training less than before but it worked out very well.”

Tactically, the approach is different too, compared to his days in the INEOS team.

“Ever since November we’ve been preparing this, discussing how to tackle these races. That’s quite different compared to previous years. We’re talking about race principles. We have to search for a point on the course where we want to make the race hard. Sometimes that’s early on and sometimes that’s late and that makes us unpredictable,” Van Baarle explained, and today that was with more than 100km to go at the cobbles of the Lange Munte. Jumbo -Visma ended up racing in the lead group with six of their men.

On Sunday, Jumbo-Visma will surely have a tactical plan to win Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and if Dylan Van Baarle is a red or yellow rider he’ll be looking to build on his splendid form and extend his palmares even further.

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