PEZ Preview: OMLOOP HET NIEUWSBLAD – Let The Classics Begin!
The Season Proper Kicks Off
Race Preview: After the excitement of the first races of the season in warmer climes, the professional peloton moves north and the Belgian cobbles for the first of the Classics. The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad starts in Gent on Saturday – Here is the PEZ ‘Race Preview’.
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The Belgian weather can be decisive
The real start of the 2023 road season is this Saturday with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Yes, there have been races in Australia, South America, Southern parts of Europe and the Arab countries, but until the ‘Omloop’, these are just warm-ups. All eye will now be on Belgium for the Classics – the big one-day races start now.
Wout van Aert going solo on the Bosberg in 2023
Last year after a tough battle over the Flemish cobbles, top favourite Wout van Aert soloed to victory from an attack on the Bosberg. Sonny Colbrelli out-sprinted Greg Van Avermaet for second place from what was left of the chase group.
A tussle between Van Aert and Trentin on the Muur/Kapelmuur van Geraardsbergen
The list of past winners is a who’s who of Classic stars, we’ll let our ‘font of all cycle race knowledge’, Ed Hood, fill you in on the history:
“The first fourteen editions were all won by Belgian hard men and since then they’ve added another 44 wins, unsurprisingly that makes Belgium record holder with 58 victories. To say that Italy and The Netherlands are ‘distant’ second and third place holders is an understatement – they’re on five and four respectively.
Triple winner – Ernest Sterckx
Wout van Aert was the last Flatlands winner, previously to the man from Herentals was big Japer Stuyven in 2020 before Covid changed everything. Some thirteen Belgians have won the race twice; three have done the treble: Ernest Sterckx (1952, ’53, ’56); Eddy’s most loyal lieutenant, Joseph Bruyère (1974, ’75, ’80) and a man who was no stranger to a glass – or two – of Leffe, Peter Van Petegem (1997, ’98, 2002). Looking back at the winners over recent years it came as a bit of a shock to be reminded that Belgium’s ‘Phil Gil’ first won this race 16 editions ago, way back in 2006 clad in the white of F des J.
Philippe Gilbert in 2006 and 2008
The next edition went to now retired Italian ‘Pippo’ Pozzato – leaving ex-pro Chris Peers’ bar, where we watched the finalé, in stunned silence. Gilbert repeated the deed in 2008 to make himself a double winner – he’s been top 10 on five occasions. Viking Thor Hushovd’s long ship is moored in the fjord these days but he took the honours in 2009 – no complaints there, he was a hard man for a hard race.
Juan Antonio Flecha – Solo in 2010
Another, ‘hard as,’ Argentinean Spaniard who’s now a race pundit, Juan Antonio Flecha provided one of the few hi-lites to Team Sky’s inaugural 2010 season. Dutchman Seb Langeveld was a surprise but worthy winner in 2011. There was another quiet bar in 2012 when big, genial Belgian – but not Tommeke – Sep Vanmarcke spoiled Boonen’s best ever chance of winning and took the honours in a sprint which appeared to be a formality for the Quick-Step Hero. Sep has been top 10 here on six occasions.
Sep Vanmarcke – No stranger to Het Nieuwsblad
A year later in Arctic conditions it was genial but troubled Italian, Luca Paolini taking the flowers – no one grudged him that win on a bitter, grey day with ice on the puddles. The following two years, 2014 and ‘15 it was bestial, now retired Englishman Ian Stannard who won, the latter victory inflicting a crushing and embarrassing defeat on a trio of Quick-Steps – cue another funereally silent bar.
Another top ten for Van Avermaet?
GVA pulled off the ‘double’ trick in 2016/17 – the man has also been twice second and has made the top 10 on eight occasions, but it’s unlikely he can make it a treble. Revelling in the cold conditions in 2018 it was Dane Michael Valgren doing a ‘Pedersen in Harrogate’ ignoring the conditions during a season where he would add the Amstel Gold to his palmarès.
No ‘double’ for Michael Valgren
In 2019 it was the ever-smiling Czech former World Cyclo-cross Champion, ‘Stybie’ who had most left in the finalé. Is Stybie a possible double winner? In 2020 it was big, strong Jasper Stuyven who took the honours and a ‘double’ is certainly possible for the Primavera winner. 2021 with the problems of covid-19 went to Quick-Step’s Davide Ballerini, he will be on the start-line on Saturday.”
Ballerini another possible for the double?
The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 207.3 kilometre route has twelve climbs, some of which have cobbles and nine sections of pavé. The finalé has the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg, both could be decisive, not so much the Muur, but the Bosberg has seen many winning attacks in the past.
The first climb comes after forty kilometres, the Leberg, then thirty kilometres later the peloton hits the Kattenberg and from then on the race should be ‘full gas’. The Leberg (again), Hostellerie, Valkenberg and Wolvenberg all come in quick succession with more cobbled just to spice things up. After passing the town of Mater, the race has to climb the Molenberg, Leberg (yet again), Berendries and Elverenberg-Vossenhol, plus the cobbles of the Haaghoek.
Cobbles, climbs and possible echelons
With just under 30 kilometres to go there is ‘only’ the Muur and Bosberg left to climb and twelve flat kilometres to the finish-line in Ninove. Of course the Muur/Kapelmuur is 475 metres long and has an average gradient of 9.3% with maximum ramps of 19.8%. The Bosberg is longer at just under a kilometre in length, 5.8% average with a maximum of 11.0% and they both have cobbles.
Who’s Going to Win?
No Wout van Aert, but Jumbo-Visma bring a strong team to the start again this year: Dylan van Baarle, Christophe Laporte and Tiesj Benoot. One of their biggest challengers will be Soudal Quick-Step, with former winner Ballerini, Kasper Asgreen, Tour of Flanders winner in 2021, and Yves Lampaert, runner-up in 2020.
Greg Van Avermaet has already won the opening classic twice. With a third victory, the AG2R Citroën rider would be a joint record holder. The Belgian will be supported by Oliver Naesen, Stan Dewulf and Benoit Cosnefroy. Jasper Stuyven, the 2020 winner is also back with his Trek-Segafredo team alongside Edward Theuns and Bauke Mollema. INEOS Grenadiers Tom Pidcock, the former cyclo-cross World champion will be joined by former World road champion Michal Kwiatkowski and Magnus Sheffield, who won De Brabantse Pijl last year. The French TotalEnergies team is bringing Peter Sagan, runner-up in 2016 and 2017, to the start of the last time. Anthony Turgis and Edvald Boasson Hagen, third in 2014, accompany the Slovakian. Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) are also on the preliminary start list.
With Zdenek Stybar (2019) and Sep Vanmarcke (2012), two more former winners will be present at the start in Gent. The Czech will ride the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with Jayco AlUla for the first time. Israel-Premier Tech and Vanmarcke are counting on the support of Dylan Teuns. UAE Team Emirates is relying on Tim Wellens, Ruta del Sol stage winner and third in the opening classic in 2019, forms a duo with Matteo Trentin. There is even more Belgian talent at Lotto Dstny, with three leaders, Arnaud De Lie, Victor Campenaerts and Florian Vermeersch. Alpecin-Deceuninck is sending Jasper Philipsen into battle alongside Søren Kragh Andersen, who completed the podium in 2020. Intermarché-Circus-Wanty will also be chasing victory in the Omloop after several victories in the first weeks of 2023. The Belgian team is relying on Mike Teunissen and Hugo Page.
You can see the provisional start-list HERE.
The 2023 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is a bit more open due to the missing stars, but there are a couple of obvious favourites. Let’s take a look at the teams and riders (that we know of):
Greg Van Avermaet, Oliver Naesen, Benoît Cosnefroy, Michael Schär, Stan Dewulf, Lawrence Naesen, Damien Touzé.
You can’t rule out Greg Van Avermaet, but there is also Naesen and Cosnefroy
Søren Kragh Andersen, Jasper Philipsen, Gianni Vermeersch, Samuel Gaze, Michael Gogle, Oscar Riesebeek, Robert Stannard.
No Van der Poel, but Vermeersch, Philipsen and Kragh Andersen could be amongst the top men
Matis Louvel, Mathis Le Berre, Jenthe Biermans, Andrii Ponomar, Donavan Grondin, Daniel McLay, Clément Russo.
Manuele Boaro, Samuele Battistella, Igor Chzan, Yevgeniy Fedorov, Martin Laas, Alexandr Riabushenko.
Matej Mohorič, Fred Wright, Jasha Sütterlin, Andrea Pasqualon, Jonathan Milan, Kamil Gradek, Dusan Rajovič.
Mohorič and Wright will be worth watching
Ide Schelling, Marco Haller, Nils Politt, Jordi Meeus, Luis-Joe Lührs, Nico Denz, Jonas Koch.
Axel Zingle, Alexis Renard, Piet Allegaert, Andre Carvalho, Wesley Kreder, Christophe Noppe, Jelle Wallays.
Stefan Bissegger, Jens Keukeleire, Jonas Rutsch, Owain Doull, Jonas Rutsch, Tom Scully, James Shaw.
Groupama-FDJ has a strong team led by Küng and Geniets
Stefan Küng, Kevin Geniets, Samuel Watson, Lewis Askey, Olivier Le Gac, Fabian Lienhard, Jake Stewart.
Tom Pidcock looks to have the form and is aiming at the Classics
Tom Pidcock, Michal Kwiatkowski, Luke Rowe, Ben Turner, Magnus Sheffield, Kim Heiduk.
Mike Teunissen, Sven Erik Bystrøm, Rune Herregodts, Arne Marit, Hugo Page, Baptiste Planckaert, Loïc Vliegen.
No Wout van Aert for Jumbo-Visma – Choose any of the others to finish top 10 or maybe a podium place for Dylan van Baarle
Dylan van Baarle, Tiesj Benoot, Christophe Laporte, Nathan van Hooydonck, Edoardo Affini, Jan Tratnik, Mick van Dijke.
Imanol Erviti, Iván García, Matteo Jorgenson, Mathias Norsgaard, Max Kanter, Lluís Mas, Iván Romeo.
Jorgenson and Norsgaard should be at the front for Movistar
Kasper Asgreen, Yves Lampaert, Florian Sénéchal, Tim Declercq, Davide Ballerini, Casper Pedersen, Jannik Steimle.
Always look for Patrick Lefevere’s men in any race – All possible winners
Zdenek Stybar, Luke Durbridge, Lawson Craddock, Christopher Juul-Jensen, Lukas Pöstlberger, Kelland O’Brien, Alexandre Balmer.
Nils Eekhoff, John Degenkolb, Patrick Bevin, Pavel Bittner, Leon Heinschke, Jonas Iversby Hvideberg, Kevin Vermaerke.
Expect a Trek-Segafredo rider in the action on Saturday: Stuyven, Mollema, Theuns and Skujins
Jasper Stuyven, Bauke Mollema, Alex Kirsch, Edward Theuns, Daan Hoole, Toms Skujins, Otto Vergaerde.
UAE Team Emirates
Tim Wellens, Matteo Trentin, Pascal Ackermann, Rui Oliveira, Sjoerd Bax, Ivo Oliveira, Michael Vink.
Wellens and Trentin to fly the UAE flag
Luca Van Boven, Louis Blouwe, Julian Mertens, Rémy Mertz, Ludovic Robeet, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Ceriel Desal.
Dylan Teuns and Sep Vanmarcke – Hard riders, but…
Dylan Teuns, Sep Vanmarcke, Jens Reynders, Tom Van Asbroeck, Guillaume Boivin, Reto Hollenstein, Krists Neilands.
Human Powered Health
Gijs Van Hoecke, Stephen Bassett, Pier-André Coté, Adam De Vos, Colin Joyce, Barnabás Péak, Benjamin Perry.
No longer a WorldTour team, Lotto Dstny will want to show on home roads
Victor Campenaerts, Brent Van Moer, Arnaud De Lie, Florian Vermeersch, Milan Menten, Cedric Beullens, Jasper De Buyst, Frederik Frison.
Sander De Pestel, Jenno Berckmoes, Vincent Van Hemelen, Vito Braet, Gilles De Wilde, Aaron Van Poucke, Ward Vanhoof.
Peter Sagan has a strong TotalEnergies team, can they finish the job?
Peter Sagan, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Maciej Bodnar, Daniel Oss, Dries Van Gestel, Sandy Dujardin, Geoffrey Soupe, Anthony Turgis.
Alexander Kristoff, Jonas Abrahamsen, Martin Urianstadt, William Blume Levy, Erik Nordsæter Ressel, Anders Skaarseth, Rasmus Tiller.
Kristoff has found form in his new team
PEZ Picks: Tom Pidcock with mentions for Dylan van Baarle and if it comes to a sprint then Arnaud De Lie. Don’t forget the ‘old men’ of the peloton: Greg Van Avermaet and Alexander Kristoff.
Favourites according to WielerFlits:
**** Arnaud De Lie
*** Jasper Philipsen, Christophe Laporte
** Tom Pidcock, Tim Wellens, Stefan Küng
* Alexander Kristoff, Matej Mohorič, Tiesj Benoot, Ben Turner
2022 Het Nieuwsblad
Cycling fans can once again attend the start presentation in the legendary ’t Kuipke this year, but unlike last season, they do not have to order a ticket in advance to attend. If you don’t come to ’t Kuipke, but don’t want to miss a second of the team presentation, you should tune in on Proximus Pickx (TV & livestream).
# Stay PEZ for the race report and all the Omloop news in EUROTRASH Monday. #
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