Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Preview

Feverish? Hot under the collar? Aching arms and legs? Hopefully it’s just because you’ve completed a recon ride over the cobbles and are all set for the openingsweekend. The spring classics start this weekend with the Omloop this Saturday, a tour of Flanders.

The Route: 200km from Gent to Ninove and largely the same as 2018 and 2019, this is the old Tour of Flanders course with a series of cobbled roads and steep climbs leading to the Kapelmuur and Bosberg climbs.

A start in Gent outside the Kuipke velodrome and then the first 30km head roughly south-east. After 60km the road starts snaking all over the place meaning one minute a crosswind, the next a headwind and knowing the route from here on is crucial. There are three passages over the long and exposed Haaghoek pavé before the asphalted Leberg climb, 6% average but with 14% early on. Onto the feedzone and the TV coverage should pick up from here with another loop to the Haaghoek-Leberg combo.

The route embraces the old Tour of Flanders route for the final 60km. The Wolvenberg is hard, it’s tarmac but it reaches 19%. The Jagerij cobbles have suburban feel, lined by houses and not too rough. The Molenberg is iconic, look for the TV shots of the windmill but for the riders the rough cobbles are selective. The third passage over the Haaghoek and Leberg should be decisive. There’s still 41km to go and a tarmac trifecta of the Berendries, Valkenberg and Tenbosse brings us to the moneytime moment with the Muur van Geraardsbergen, also known as the Kapelmuur. After a hard start roared on by the crowds they enter the woodland section which is steep and brutal and the pavé is rough, even if it’s been remade of late. The final climb is the Bosberg, 1.35km which is long for a climb in Flanders and just 5% average and almost in one long straight line and a final chance to break rivals. It doesn’t sound hard but in the old Tour of Flanders it was after 240km and the final straw for some and a launchpad to victory for others. This time it comes after 185km and may not be as decisive, we could see some cagey riders hanging on with others reluctant to attack for fear of being brought back. There’s 12km to go and the finish is flat.

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The Contenders: Zdeněk Štybar won last year and repeat wins are quite a thing, ten times the winner one year has won the next. The Czech champ’s already won this year, just as he did last season before winning here. Deceuninck-Quickstep has lost some of its old stalwarts but new names emerge like Kasper Asgreen, while Yves Lampaert, Bob Jungels and Florian Sénéchal will be expected to deliver this spring. As ever the team has strong riders and will take turns to fire riders up the road but would you bet the ranch on one of them winning out of a small group? Sénéchal is handy while Jungels and Lampaert would probably prefer to get away by themselves which leaves Štybar as the most complete.

Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) is a safe pick for the podium but tends to place rather than win: a year ago when he was second here to Štybar. So far in 2020 he’s had quiet results but look more closely and he was hanging with the best climbers recently in the Algarve but the bad weather isn’t what he’d choose. Matteo Trentin is a good recruit as it will allow the pair to play off each other but the Italian has yet to win a spring classic of any sort but is due one soon.

Jumbo-Visma bring a strong team with Wout van Aert the star name but Mike Teunissen, Pascal Eenkhoorn and Amund Jansen bring weight to the team and pack a fast finish. Van Aert is versatile, look at the Dauphiné last year where he won a time trial one day and the bunch sprint the next which suggests he can solo away or win from a sprint. Form is the question, he’s returning from that big knee injury sustained in the Tour de France and if he dabbled in cyclo-cross then a 200km race is another thing.

Bahrain-McLaren bring a decent team with Sonny Colbrelli a strong sprinter after a race in hard conditions in form too, while Dylan Teuns is in excellent form, he’s more of a specialist in uphill finishes but made the breakaway here a year ago.


Team Ineos have struggled for years in the classics, the results haven’t matched the expenditure but they’re a force as ever and Ian Stannard can dine out on his 2015 overwinning for years to come. Luke Rowe is solid but an infrequent winner to put it mildly and the team’s best rider is Gianni Moscon who is focusing on the spring classics.

Trek-Segafredo have been targetting the classics for some time but with little to show for it. Mads Pedersen is one to watch but now has a rainbow target on his back but this should open up space for Jasper Stuyven.

Sep Vanmarke is 31 and still the only spring classic on his palmarès was the Omloop in 2012 and a career that evokes the old blues lyric of “if it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have no luck at all” with snapped shoes, broken derailleurs and other mishaps denying him a big win. EF Education First look revived these days – but only send six riders – and Jens Keukeleire can feature too.

Niki Terpstra is the perpetual dark horse and if his recruitment chez Total Direct Energie doesn’t look like an outward success, he helped them up their game last year which secured a few more points which has given them that automatic ticket to all World Tour races. Not the panache Jean-Marie Bernaudeau yearns for but we’ll see.

Israel isn’t the obvious team for the spring classics but in acquiring Katusha’s World Tour licence they’ve got Nils Politt under contract and the German looks to be in great condition after placing ninth in the Algarve TT and Mads Würtz one to watch too.

Among the others, 2018 winner Michael Valgren seems in decent shape and we’ll see if NTT fare better collectively. Philippe Gilbert made a name for himself as a young pro winning this race in 2006 and 2008 and is now captain for Lotto-Soudal with Tim Wellens ready to liven things up with his persistent attacks. Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) says he’s short of peak form right now and team mate Silvan Dillier is strong too. Luke Durbridge (Mitchelton-Scott) returns for another swing at the classics. Team Sunweb’s new recruit Tiesj Benoot made a name for himself with third place in 2016 as a second year pro and has since proved versatile enough to look at home in the Alps too while Søren Kragh Andersen could feature. Groupama-FDJ’s Stefan Küng is in good form and contract year. Finally Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) can lurk for the sprint.


Greg Van Avermaet, Zdeněk Štybar, Bob Jungels
Wout van Aert, Yves Lampaert, Nils Politt
Sep Vanmarcke, Jasper Stuyven, Gianni Moscon, Michael Valgren
Pedersen, Asgreen, Trentin, Kristoff, Wurtz, Teunissen, Colbrelli, Teuns, Naesen, Terpstra


Comment: nobody gets 5 chainrings, GVA feels like a safe pick but the grim weather isn’t for him. As the of the spring classics form is still a loose idea, extrapolating from Portuguese time trials only gets you so far and that’s part of this race’s charm.

Weather: spring classics you say? This race has had its share of winter storms and even snow. Today has a wintry feel with 4°C at the start and a top temperature of 11°C and it’ll be wet, with rain clearing. Crucially it’s windy with a SW breeze blowing at 35km/h which is sufficient to split the bunch in the crosswinds, gust could reach 50km/h.

TV: the race starts at 11.35am CET and is forecast to finish around 4.30pm CET. Live TV coverage starts at 2.00pm with local channel Sporza going on air before with and Eurosport showing the race too.

Women’s Race: this starts at 11.45am CET and finishes at 3.20pm and uses the same final 60km as the men’s route. It’s live on GCN’s Youtube channel from 1.00pm CET to the finish meaning it’s probably easier to watch than the men’s race. If readers can share a good preview in the comments, I’ll add it up here.

Omloop? Dutch for a circuit, a tour… a loop. Het Nieuwsblad, literally “the newspaper” is a local newspaper behind the race but the race is run by Flanders Classics, the big race organiser in the region.

39 thoughts on “Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Preview”

    • With the bad weather I was thinking Mads and Trentin and other lesser names that do well in bad waether will win. A lot of “names” will DNF or be way back.

  1. Is it just me, bored after a dreary Pacific Northwest Winter with bad snow and very wet riding and thus excited for a real bike race, or is this race more hyped than in the past? Not that I mind!
    Sympathy makes me pull for Wout van Aert, just because his season ended so horribly; but I’d love to see Stybar repeat.

    Ole-ma yb e politt takes 2nd and 3rd?

  2. EF only bring 6 riders? Instead of the 7
    they are allowed to send? If I understand this correctly then that is ridiculous and totally turns my appreciation of their alternate calendar on its head. If so, then boo to the marketing department and their disdain for the history of the sport.

  3. How nice to read once again a preview for a Belgian (semi) Classic. Has felt like a long winter and even when known as Het Volk, this season opener has always seemed to signify the onset of Spring (although the weather may not always agree)
    Big thanks as ever to INRNG for the insight and always excellent overview.

      • Funny how that works – no tests = no positives. Brilliant! And when/if someone passes the virus on to someone else during these events, the authorities can claim they didn’t know, while other countries’ events get cancelled and they get hammered for doing what seems to be the right thing in testing and quarantining.

        • Belgium’s had 2 recorded cases so far. Yesterday’s was a person who returned from France, so it may well be about to start spreading. The first was a person evacuated from Wuhan.

    • And where will Paris-Nice finish? (wonders a Nice resident)
      More seriously, best wishes to all those reading in northern Italy, where it’s much worse than here.

  4. A race won by a guy who said he “dared to lose”? How refreshing!!! BRAVO! Perhaps just a coincidence this team is now led by a guy who (at least up until the Giro 2019 anyway) raced like that all the time? More please. Keep this up and I might have to switch to Segafredo coffee!!!

      • I must admit to not watching enough of the race to know if the World Champion was of much help in this race? When I tuned in, that guy was wrestling with his jacket and I think I dozed off somewhere between that and the last few kilometers. My comment was based more on post-race reports I read online, but I hope the world champ gets to ride some races with the team’s full support this season. Forza ragazzi!

        • Pedersen had the leader’s number for Trek Segafredo, and he did some pulling on the front, but it’s just an oddity really. Stuyven and Theuns are better Spring Classics bets this year imo.

      • Lavazza’s BLUE is pretty good, almost as good as ILLY though now that I’m an old fart on a sort-of fixed income the quality/price ratio has become more important, meaning the high-end stuff is no longer the regular, everyday purchase.
        Since we spent an extended period in Napoli last year we’ve switched to KIMBO, which does very well in that quality/price contest when bought in 50-dose paks at a supermarket in Sicily. But if this team keeps racing-to-win while daring-to-lose I might have to change…as I doubt KIMBO would ever support a pro cycling team.

        • I’m an oldie on a fixed income too but coffee is the one thing I’m not compromising on. I did see kimbo when were in napoli last year but I’m not sure if we tried it.

        • Wading in to this coffee debate… I’ve tried all the big names mentioned above plus some of the expensive ‘organic, artisan’ small brands that have inevitably cropped up in England to cater for the middle class’s desire to spend as much money as possible. I always end up back with Lavazza ‘Qualitia Rossa’ which I think is their cheapest one. Not sure what that says about me.

          • Richard S – I think is says you like what you like which is why there are so many brands, right? A sales rep from Lavazza kindly sent me a selection of all of their various labels to try awhile back. The only one I thought rivaled my favorite ILLY was “Lavazza in Blue” and I even bought some as a result. It was harder to find than ILLY (though the other Lavazza varieties are pretty much everywhere) so I eventually switched back to ILLY. Spending the time in Napoli last year had us trying some of their brands (our fave was Passalacqua, but it has VERY limited distribution) with the winner on price/quality/availability being KIMBO.
            Back to bike racing – KBK in particular. Am I the only one who wonders in a sport (and even more in a business) where aerodynamic efficiency is a holy-grail about the winner yesterday – a guy riding what I assume is the Big-S’ “aero” machine but with his hands in a position to catch as much air as possible (unless perhaps he cupped them the other way) during his final escape in the race? I’d wager riding along with the backs of your hands fully flat against the wind might eliminate all of the supposed aero advantage of the bike and wheels? Not that I’m sad about it, but to me it proves once again, it’s not the bike, it’s the rider.

          • Pointless discussion. It’s a well-known scientific fact that Malongo sells the best affordable espresso blends, since it’s the one I drink. I’m sure it’s been conclusively proven beyond any doubt by scientists in a lab, somewhere.

            It’s aromatic with subtle touches of citrus, wood bark and chocolate, laterally stiff and vertically compliant, with a satisfying carbon wheel sound.

          • Lukyluk – probably not exotic enough for some – I remember reading somewhere about a coffee made from beans eaten and then excreted by some exotic animal before being roasted. And there’s nothing 3D printed, color-anodized or electronic about your brand, so how can it be the “dogs bollocks” as an infamous bike youtuber likes to say? 🙂
            OTOH I have a friend with an expensive espresso machine who can make gawdawful, barely drinkable stuff no matter what brand of coffee he uses.

          • Everyone knows that when it comes to aerodynamics it’s never only the bike, it’s always all about the rider and the bike together.
            To my eye it looks like Asgreen achieves in that position maybe 95% of what can be achieved. If keeping his hands that way is what allows him to feel relaxed and to make a 100% effort when he’s resting on his wrists, it is a small price to pay for not cupping his hands in search of a minuscule aero benefit.
            (I know I’m no pro, but I’ve done a few miles and while it’s not too difficult to cup my hands when I rest on my forearms, but quite another thing when I’m in the “Asgreen position”. Try it out yourself!)
            Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised if Asgreen had done a wind tunnel session and discovered that there is no real difference. The levers and the hoods create a certain amount of…what is called…unwanted vortex, no matter how the bar is formed – and quite possibly also whether or not you keep your hands flat or cusped in that kind of positon:-)

          • @Larry T: you’re probably thinking of Kopi luwak, aka. civet coffee. You can find it sold as cold brew in posh coffee places in Australia. I tried it a couple of times and found it… meh.

            Although I heard that most of what was sold is actually “fake” (ie. just regular coffee), so chances are I didn’t get to try the real thing.

            Apologies for the off-topic.

      • My reference was to Vincenzo Nibali, who until the Giro last year seemed always “racing to win” and “daring to lose” joining Trek-Segafredo as their captain for stage races. I wondered (hoped) that he might be back to that philosophy and perhaps some of the other members of the team had followed suit. So I was smiling while reading the post-race quotes from yesterday’s winner 🙂
        While I wouldn’t ride a Trek bike if they paid me (though I do own an old MTB from long before they screwed Greg LeMond over) I might switch my espresso habit over to Segafredo if they keep racing this way!

        • I was thinking about him as well. I suppose whether his performance last Giro can be considered as “racing to win” is debatable. I certainly hope he can get back to that as he’s very entertaining when he does.

          The rest is about my confusion with the word “until” as non-native speaker.

          • No debate here: “The Shark” raced Giro d’Italia 2019 more not to lose to Roglic than to win but in the end lost anyway to someone else. A huge mistake and deviation from his normal tactics and he paid the price. I think (hope) it’s a lesson learned, even if he’s never able to win again – I’d rather see someone try and fail rather than the “limit my losses” or racing not-to-lose that has too often been the case in recent years with plenty of riders. Negative racing, no matter who is practicing it, is dull, dull, dull. That is why the post-race quotes from this winner made me smile 🙂

          • Shark of Messina needs to go back to Astana. No good without Dr Prancing Horse.

            Same for the Sardine of Sardinia. DNF-23-14-DNF in grand tours after leaving Astana.

  5. Eskerrik Asko – Plenty of supposition and assumption there. I pointed this out only to counter the dogma about “aero” marketing mojo as here a guy won the race despite his hands facing the wind in a very un-aerodynamic way. It’s not all that new though, I can remember years ago some twits going on and on about something in a rider’s pocket (a cap perhaps?) that was catching some wind and the power losses involved, though just like this fellow, he won the race despite the extra wind drag 🙂

    • Everyone knew *why* you pointed it out.
      But I must suggest that you bring yourself up to date on what we know about aerodynamics in cycling today. I was merely trying to guide your thoughts along those lines. You’d be surprised, much of what we previously thought we knew for sure was, well, quite not true.
      I have a real hard time believing that Asgreen and his coach are so stupid they would continue with such a hand position if it truly meant such an extra wind drag.

      OTOH it could well be – better still – his S-Works was so aero he could easily afford to lose those watts by his very un-aerodynamic hand position?:-)

      • I admit to not paying much attention to what to me is mostly marketing mojo rather than objective science. I like the youtube aerodynamic expert so many love to hate’s takedowns of those who design stuff that is way more marketing than actual aerodynamics, so you can save me the “guidance”. I do doubt your assumption these guys tested anything like this hand position – I think it’s just comfortable for the guy and he feels he goes fast enough – and in this case he certainly did just that….same as the guy with the cap catching air in his back pocket. Back-in-the-day an attack like Asgreen’s would have been done with hands down in the drops, but that would have been before the drops became so compact as to be seemingly useless as they are these days.

        • Larry T, you really are a worse pain in the ass to discuss with than those of my uncles who hadn’t been KIA during the war years. I know I’m not stupid all the time but I was stupid enough to assume that you would actually read what was written and that you could be capable of understanding what you had just read. But you are so fond of your own arguments that you apparently cannot help misreading and misrepresenting what other people actually try to tell you.
          PS The drops may be more compact but the rider’s hands down in the drops are as low down as they were in the old days. The difference – for pro riders and those who ride “like pros” – is that their hands on the hoods or their forearms (or wrists, as in Asgreen’s case) on the bars are lower down than they were back in the day.
          PPS Good luck and my best wishes for you, your family and your business, Italian races and race organisers, especially the smaller ones, and indeed all of Italy! Despite the good news today there’s still every possibility that this will be a season to forget and there are a few indications that it could be almost as bad as the scaremongers would have it. And of course not only in Italy.

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