The Belgian cycling season’s opening, with the long-awaited Omloop Het Niewsblad, was quite eventful. Stefan Küng himself was really active this Saturday and managed to net a very decent ninth place after a lively, but also tactical race. A nice way to kick off his 2020 Classics campaign!
Like every year at this period, a very special atmosphere comes along with the very first cobbled Classic of the season. It was even more special for Groupama-FDJ’s Kevin Geniets and Tobias Ludvigsson, new on this terrain but who immediately felt both the excitement and the pressure of it. However, the first part of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2020 was rather calm as the breakaway, including Lluis Mas (Movistar), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar), Manuele Boaro (Astana), Senne Leysen (Alpecin-Fenix) and Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal-Wallonia Brussels), was able to go quite early.
“I could not cover all attacks” Stefan Küng
The race discovery however quickly disappeared to let the race speak for itself. After only sixty kilometers of racing, because of an exposed road and a side wind, the first echelons started and sixteen strong riders took advantage of it to form a chasing group. Fortunately for Stefan Küng, who missed the move, it was not the decisive one. “It was a really hard day, especially because it was very windy, said the Swiss at the finish. I was a bit behind when the first echelons formed. Fortunately, my teammates helped me to get back to the main part of the peloton. From then on, I was always positioned and I knew the race could be won at any moment.”
When a new race started, at halfway point, Küng was therefore among the most aggressive riders, dealing with the echelons but mainly trying to create movement. “I got into a group with all the top guys,” he said. “It was not bad, but a group then came back from behind and I was the only one from the team in that group. I could not cover all the attacks and I missed the move that went on to play the victory”. The Switzerland time trial champion found himself tricked tactically at that point while Tim Declercq, Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Frederik Frison (Lotto-Soudal), Matteo Trentin (CCC), Jonas Rutsch (EF Pro Cycling), Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) and Soren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) went away almost easily.
“To start the Classics with a top 10 is not so bad” Stefan Küng
“No one wanted to pull because they had someone in front,” said Stefan. “It was really not an easy situation to deal with for me”. From then on, he could only have as a target a top 10 finish. “In the end, everyone was on the limit,” said Stefan. “I tried also to hang on as much as possible. I was struggling in the Mur de Grammont, but I was able to stay in touch with the favourites’ group. I really wanted to get a good result and it’s not too bad to start the Classics campaign with a top 10 ”. A minute and a half behind the winner Jasper Stuyven, Stefan Küng came to the line playing fifth place in a group of fifteen riders. He eventually grabbed the 9th position.
That final result gave satisfaction to sports director Frédéric Guesdon as well: “It was not an easy race to interpret”, he concluded. “Also, the race had not started very well for us since we lost Marc Sarreau, who was sick, quite early. Then, the other riders failed to stay with Stefan, but despite all that, he managed to get a good result. We eventually got through it ok. Stefan is going well, he fought well today and tried things. It’s a good sign for the upcoming races. ”