Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Kick-starts the European Classics Season
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on March 2nd, signifies the start of the Spring Classics season in Europe
It’s the first race that leads us to the legendary classics of the season like Paris Roubaix and Liege Bastogne Liege. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad contains a few of the same cobbled climbs (hellingen) that are also raced over in E3 Harelbeke and the Queen of the Classsic, the Tour of Flanders.
Puncheurs and classics specailsts like Degenkolb, Vanmarcke, Wellens, Van Avermaet, Van Baarle, Stuyven, Theuns, Colbrelli and Stybar are most suited to this race. The endless short, steep, cobbled climbs are designed to sap the strength from legs of the hardest Pros.
A group of 10 riders made the breakaway last year before the final climb of the Bosberg. With 2.5 kms to go, Sep Vanmarcke attacked but was brought back, and immediately Astana'a Michael Valgren counter attacked and solo'd to the line, 12 seconds in the lead.
It’s not a race for climbers and pure sprinters, who'll find themselves being dropped after a number of climbs.
Omloop is the first of a weekend of Spring Classics along with Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
The battle will intensify in the last 80 kilometres of the race, eight hills and four cobbled sectors on the menu.
The riders crest Rekelberg (800 metres at 4%), Valkenberg (540 metres at 8.1%) and Wolvenberg (645 metres at 7.9%) before the cobbles of the Ruiterstraat, Kerkgate and Jagerij follow in rapid succession. The Molenberg (463 metres at 7%) leads to a third stint on the cobbles of the Haagkoek before the Leberg pops up again. Shortly after its summit the route takes in the combo of the Berendries (940 metres at 7%) and Elverenberg/Vossenhol (1.3 kilometres at 3.6%). That last hill is paved with 650 metres of cobblestones.
With 27 kilometres to go, the race intensifies at the foot of the Wall of Geraardsbergen. The renowned cobbled climb is 475 metres at 9.3% with steepest ramps at almost 20%. The finale continues to the Bosberg – 980 metres at 5.8% and almost half of it is cobbled. The last 12.8 kilometres to the finish in Ninove are played out on the flat.
It is one exciting race to watch, as the drama builds and the attacks come thick and fast.
The Classics favorite team Deceuninck-Quickstep will be led by Yves Lampaert. The current Belgian national champion will be backed up by two times winner Philippe Gilbert.
Trek Segafredo's Jasper Stuyven and Edward Theuns will lead their ambitions, Stuyven has consistently finished in the top ten.
Greg Van Avermaet has won the race twice and will be supported by former Team Sky rider Lukasz Wisniowski who was on the second last year.
Last year's winner Michael Valgren moved from Astana to Dimension Data and will be backed up by Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens from Lotto Soudal will be a duo to watch. Benoot won last year's Strade Bianche and Wellens has already won three races this year.
Team Sky will have a strong team including Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe and Dylan Van Baarle .
Previous race winner Sep Vanmarcke will EF Drapac classic's hopes and so will AG2R’s Oliver Naesen.
Cyclocross triple World Champion Wout Van Aert will be force to reckon with.
Niki Terpstra left Quickstep and finds himself at Direct Energie and will be one of those likely to animate the race later on.
Arnaud Demare and Sonny Colbrelli who both have top 10 finishes in Omloop, will be ones to watch if they are still in contention after Muur - Keppelmuur
The list of contenders of impressive and this opening Classics race will be one you won't want to miss!
VIDEO: 2018 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Highlights
2018 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Top 10
1 Michael Valgren (Den) Astana Pro Team
2 Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Sky
4 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
5 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
6 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
7 Edward Theuns (Bel) Team Sunweb
8 Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
9 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
10 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe