Preview: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Written by: ProCycling Women
Posted 2 months ago

It’s time for the Classics season! And that means the smell of Belgian fries and beer alongside the parcours! The peloton is heading towards Ghent in Belgium for round 4 of the Women’s WorldTour: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. On Saturday, February 24, the riders will climb 8 hard typical Flemish climbs and hit 5 cobbled sections within the 127.1 km from Ghent to Ninove. Most probably the famous ‘Kapelmuur’ of Geraardsbergen will be the decisive climb of the day.

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What happened last year?

Despite various attacks, the peloton was still together halfway through the race. The action only started on the Molenberg when a breakaway group of 29 riders formed. Due to the high pace, not everyone could keep up.

Arlenis Sierra then started a solo move more than 25 kilometers from the finish. The Cuban teammate of Annemiek van Vleuten gained a lead of 1 minute, but as Lotte Kopecky began the chase on the Muur van Geraardsbergen, that lead evaporated like snow in the sun. Before reaching the summit, the Flemish rider caught up and they continued together – but only for a moment!

At the foot of the Bosberg, Kopecky shot away like a rocket. She reached the top with a 40-second lead over the first chasers. On the flat roads to Ninove, the Flemish rider held her position and won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for the first time in her career. In the sprint, Wiebes completed the SD Worx celebration by finishing second before Marta Bastianelli.

The Race

Following the team presentation at the legendary Kuipke in Ghent, the peloton is set off outside. After 7.4 km of neutralized cycling, the race truly begins as they pass through Merelbeke where km 0 is flagged. The riders will encounter some cobblestone sections, but the legendary Lange Munte is just a prelude to the much more bumpy ride that awaits later in the race.

After passing through Oudenaarde, the race really kicks off. From Oudenaarde, nasty cobblestone sections alternate with typical Flemish climbs. Sometimes, both elements combine beautifully, as on the most important climbs in the finale.

The Molenberg, an example of such a cobblestone climb, marks the start of the finale about fourty kilometers from the finish. Then, the peloton faces the challenging duo of Haaghoek–Leberg, followed by Berendries and Elverenberg–Vossenhol and, of course, the most legendary climb, the Muur van Geraardsbergen. Then after the Bosberg, there are still 12 km to the finish in Ninove where still a lot can happen.

The Favourites

By the time this article has been written, the official start list hasn’t been released yet. Also this year, Lotte Kopecky seems the woman to beat. After a stunning performance at the UAE Tour, where she won the 4th stage on top of the infamous Jebel Hafeet and the overall classification, she extended her contract with her current team SD Worx-Protime through 2028. That should give her enough confidence to race with a clear and focused mind.

But Kopecky is not the only one from the team of stars that can cross the finish line in first position in Ninov – even though Marlen Reusser will be missing due to a flu. If it comes down to a sprint for example, Lorena Wiebes could claim victory. And don’t forget Tour de France winner Demi Vollering, who starts her season at the Omloop. Team SD Worx-Protime is therefore the team to beat on Saturday.

But are the results already set in stone? Should we just watch the results and get on with it? No! absolutely not! Anything can happen in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The weather might have a say, mechanicals, crashes, off-days. All factors that make this race so exciting to watch!

Looking at other teams that might hurt SD Worx would be Lidl-Trek with Elisa Balsamo. She has proven to ride really well in classics and looking to her strong performance at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana stage race, if it does come to a sprint in Ninove then the Italian former World Champion has the legs to finish it off as well.

But that is only if her teammate Elisa Longo Borghini is not in any of the frontlines anymore. The Italian champion had a good performance in the UAE Tour as well and is always in the group of favorites. Although the hills and cobbles are tough enough, it all might end up in a sprint. Then the fast Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ) might battle it out with Emma Norsgaard Bjerg (Movistar), or even Marianne Vos (Visma – Lease a Bike) as well!

However, it is our belief that a small group of favorites will battle it out for the win in the final 25 km with the usual suspects of SD Worx-Protime and Lidl-Trek accompanied by riders like Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-SUEZ) and Pfeiffer Georgi (dsm-dirmenich-PostNL).

Will the weather play a factor?

We’re not expecting a warm Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this Saturday. Temperatures up to 9 degrees Celsius are expected, with the possibility of some rain showers. And it’s Belgium, so the wind will blow from the southwest with significant strength.

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