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Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Preview

It’s openingsweekend and Belgium is open too, locked indoors last year, the crowds will be back to enjoy a cobbled classic on their doorstep. Here’s a quick preview.

The Route
204km from Gent to Ninove and the action happens in the final 60km. The difference this year is the removal of the Molenberg climb with 45km to go. The race now diverts around it and the plan is to avoid this pinchpoint, although that’s relative given all the twists and traps along the way.

The moneytime is with 18km to go and the Muur van Geraardsbergen. It starts climbing in town and then enters 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. This time it comes after 190km 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 13km to go from here until the streets of Ninove and a wide road for the sprint. In the finish there’s a right turn chased by a left turn onto the finishing straight, all wide roads.

The Contenders

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Quick-Step bring six potential winners but have they got a rider to bank on in case of a sprint in a large group? Florian Sénéchal keeps improving and he’s become a dependable rider for the team – picked for the Tour de France already – but now in search of a big win. The team won’t sit still, Yves Lampaert and Kasper Asgreen can make moves. They might have bigger friten to fry in April but a win here would keep the Belgian media off their backs.

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Wout van Aert is the safe pick, capable of going solo, likely to win a sprint from a group of 20 riders. Like many he’s aiming for top form in April and playing down his chances but unlike many, he can win at 90%. Still, today is as much about seeing how Jumbo-Visma’s recently beefed-up classics team works. New recruit Tiesj Benoot has won this race before and Mike Teunissen is due a win.

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Lotto-Soudal are a force on home soil but rarely win anything, look at the team’s wins every year and the classics are often their most barren spell all year, they haven’t won a major cobbled classic since Peter Van Petergem took the Ronde in 2003. Victor Campenaerts, Florian Vermeersch, Brent Van Moer and Harry Sweeney make for a solid team but the in form rider is Tim Wellens, or rather was as overnight he’s fallen ill and won’t race.

If Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain) can continue where he left off last season he’s an easy pick too. Useful on the climbs and strong in a sprint, but form unknown. Matej Mohorič is in better form and always got an eye for the right breakaway.

The usual “Ineos send a strong squad” line gets replaced with Ineos send a young squad with Tom Pidcock, Ethan Hayter, Ben Turner and Magnus Sheffield. Youth can win in the Omloop, ask Sep Vanmarcke and Tiesj Benoot but they’d also grown up within range of the course and knew the course well. Pidcock ought to be the best bet but could still be sore from crashes in the Algarve, Hayter is quick in a sprint.

Trek-Segafredo return with 2020 winner Jasper Stuyven but no Mads Pedersen. This blog’s Neo-Pros to watch mentioned Daan Hoole and he’s one to watch closely today too after a top-10 ride in the long Volta ao Algarve TT last Sunday.

Ag2r Citroën have assembled a solid classics squad with the recruitment of Greg Van Avermaet to co-lead with Oliver Naesen. But what if 24 year old Stan De Wulf delivers? He was floating in the recent Ruta Del Sol.

Sep Vanmarcke (Israel) had a sustained knee injury over winter – if it wasn’t for bad luck he wouldn’t have any luck at all and so been playing down his chances given a lack of training. But what if this meant he was fresher? Update: he’s out of the race with a cold.

Conditions look too nice for Alexander Kristoff to win. He can still bide his time, hope to stay in contact over the Muur and Bosberg and hope for a sprint to deliver Intermarché-Wanty a giant win.

UAE are more than team Pogačar and have been bulking out the roster. Matteo Trentin knows the roads well and in good form but late last year he was often in a winning position but lost out; younger rider Alessandro Covi is on the top but can he cope with the course, he’s only raced once before in Flanders and that was the 2020 Omloop and a DNF.

Astana have in-form Alexey Lutsenko but the course might not be hard enough for him, he’d like longer climbs to wear down rivals more. Gianni Moscon gets his first outing with the team.

A final rattle through more names. Past winner Michael Valgren (EF Education) is back and seemed to find winning form last season after a couple of barren years so watch out for him today and this spring. Team DSM are still searching for a win this year, Nils Eeckhoff and Søren Kragh Andersen look like their best bets but at long odds. Peter Sagan starts but the form’s not there, his Total team mate Anthony Turgis keeps “turning around the pot” as he’d say in French and has been working on his sprint. Uno-X bring Tobias Johannessen and Rasmus Tiller. Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) is in great form but often wins on the road in grim conditions when he can barge clear, today’s weather is gentle. Arkéa-Samsic have started well but today’s a World Tour race with a dense field, still Conor Swift is a growing threat and the kind of rider you could see joining Quick Step in the coming years. Jasper Philipsen’s on form in the UAE but otherwise Alpecin-Fenix have had a slow start to the season and seem more suited to tomorrow’s finish in Kuurne.

Wout van Aert
Florian Sénéchal, Tim Wellens
Colbrelli, Stuyven, Trentin, Lampaert, Benoot, Asgreen, Kristoff, Pidcock
Covi, Valgren, Štybar, Lutsenko, Hayter, SKA, Turgis, C Swift

Weather: not much of a factor as it’ll be dry, cold and sunny with a top temperature of 9°C and little wind.

TV: the official start is at 11.00am CET and the finish is forecast for 4.15pm CET. Sporza’s coverage begins at 1.30pm with the international feeds likely to start soon after, tune in from 3.00pm to get the Wolvenenberg and the rest.

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Women’s Race: the women’s race starts at 1.25pm CET and finishes at 5.15pm and the last hour will be live on TV. There’s a good preview at procyclinguk.com.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • J Evans Saturday, 26 February 2022, 12:19 pm

    I’ll be interested to see how the relegation-threatened teams go. They’ve been hoovering up the points, thus far, but will they manage this in bigger races? Also, will some – like Arkea – continue the attempts to get multiple riders in the points? I wonder if teams continue to race like that, will it create significant fatigue issues for their riders as the season progresses?

    • Nick Sunday, 27 February 2022, 2:28 pm

      Campanaerts and Pasqualon did well at the Omloop. UAE tour GC was dominated by the top teams.

      With the exception of Woods, I suspect that’s how it may continue: relegation-threatened teams targeting the one day races, because the big teams will dominate the stage races.

      • gabriele Monday, 28 February 2022, 12:29 pm

        It’s indeed way more effort-effective to target one-day races, even if you don’t win. Yet, I think that split calendar for the biggest team might mean that some smaller stage races get a thinner startlist and the likes of… well, Quintana… might go for it. Quintana apart, not all stage races are small GTs and a small team might get a very good reward at Dunkerque or Mayenne and so.

    • AndyW Sunday, 27 February 2022, 11:41 pm

      I thought it was odd that 3 Arkea riders were all sprinting individually at KBK, but then the team ended up with more UCI points than any other team (I think). Hadn’t been paying enough attention until this weekend to notice this tactic in earlier races.

      • KevinK Monday, 28 February 2022, 11:26 am

        I’ve been looking and haven’t really seen that strategy employed previously this season. This was the perfect place for it – a race likely to end in a difficult sprint, lots of points available even down to 13th place, and not ideal for teams with classic sprint-train tactics. I noticed one of the commentators saying that Arkea needed to decide who their sprinter was, and employ the other two fast men in a lead out role if they wanted any chance to win. I thought he got it completely wrong – even with a great lead-out neither Hofstetter, McLay, nor Capiot had a serious chance of beating Jakobsen or Ewan. With a lead-out strategy they’d still be looking at third place at best, though with the two lead-out riders ending up well outside the top 15 (as was the case for QS and Lotto).

        Score: QS 200 UCI points, Lotto 150, Arkea Samsic 285 (assuming no points deductions).

        • gabriele Monday, 28 February 2022, 12:25 pm

          And obviously QS couldn’t care less about the points. Same race, different objectives, different tactics for teams of different size. Actually, it’s something we were no strangers to in stage races, but to a much lesser extent in one-day races… except those of us who were already watching when there were World Cups of sort, or those who follow national calendars and so on.

  • Champs Saturday, 26 February 2022, 1:44 pm

    Not that there’s any going back or that they care one bit about the anglophone market, but every year for quite a while I think about it seeming “almost normal” that it isn’t Het Volk anymore, Seen another way, I suppose the change is still awkward to me.

  • Anonymous Monday, 28 February 2022, 6:07 pm

    Benoot rode a good race on Saturday but he still hasn’t won Omloop, no matter how many times it’s said that he has done so 🙂