Syuk continues to deliver top performances. Tratnik made cycling history by winning the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (OHN) race on the Belgian cobbles, a day after his 34th birthday. Despite spending most of the race in a group that was consistently a minute behind the leaders, he managed to move to the front with a few other riders in the final kilometers. With less than 10 kilometers to go, he launched a solo attack, which only Nils Pollit (UAE Team Emirates) could match from a small group of favourites. They rode to the finish line with a slim lead of 10 seconds, causing a lot of anxiety among Syuk’s fans. In the final sprint, Tratnik was quicker and crossed the finish line with his arms raised high. This is the greatest achievement of his career.
Opening weekend. A real introduction to Belgian classics. There is no better atmosphere than in Belgium. I didn’t train after the Algarve. I was very tired so I only did one short intense training session before leaving for Belgium. Rest seems to work well for me, and I felt rested before OHN. An extremely difficult race. The crosswind made the race even more difficult. As a team, we “opened” the race very early and attacked more than 100 kilometers to the finish line —in crosswind, of course. I managed to be at the front the first time, but the second time I made a mistake myself and paid for it by staying at the back of the peloton. Not a big problem because we had 5 of our riders in the front. Dylan and I just controlled the other teams in the background and conserved our energy in case we ended up racing for the win. It seemed that our early attack was successful because the gap between us and the first group didn’t decrease. However, at one point the advantage started to diminish. I just followed the riders of the other teams and controlled the race. After the last hill, we were all together and everything was still open for victory. The race was difficult, stressful and in such moments, it is difficult to find the right moment to attack. I felt that it was the right moment to attack, because everyone looked at each other for a bit, and I attacked from behind at quite high speed. Nils Pollit followed me. That’s when I saw the chasing group for the last time and knew with 2 kilometers to go that the fight for the win would be between us. I knew that Nils was fast in the sprint, but he covered the last kilometer by himself up to 250 meters to the finish, which gave me a great starting point to sprint and win. Unbelievable. I still can’t find the words. All I know is that we raced fantastically as a team. Had everything under control and even when I was in the front, I couldn’t have done it without such a strong team because I knew the guys in the back had everything under control. A big thanks again to the team! Thanks also to all the fans, friends, and everyone who congratulated me. This is the biggest win of my career, and I am very proud of it.
The second part of the ‘Opening Weekend’ is the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (K-B-K) race, which was also won by the bees. Wout Van Aert (Team Visma | Lease A Bike) was the first to cross the finish line, and Tratnik did an excellent job as a domestique in the first part of the race.
No time to rest. New day, new race. My whole body was just wrecked from the race the day before. I had no choice but to focus and do my best. This time I took on the role of a domestique and helped the team, as the guys have done for me in the past three weeks. From the start, I covered the break attempts because we wanted to make the race more challenging. When a breakaway was finally formed, I started to control the race. When we entered the hillier part of the race, I kept a very high pace for 20 minutes. Then the others picked up a strong tempo and gave Wout the starting point for an incredible attack. It was a fantastic win by Wout and an impressive ride overall. The opening weekend was once again a great success, with two wins in two days. I must admit that I’m quite tired after this block of races and I’m kind of happy I’m going to altitude training camp to rest a little and prepare for the second part of racing in Belgium, which I can’t wait for. But first, I will take some time to enjoy these successes 😊