Saturday 25th February
The European cycling season finally kicks off for real on Saturday with the 6th running of the women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 127km complete with seven hills and 11 stretches, or 10.5km of cobbles. You can download a race route or follow it on Google maps on the official website, but if you want the crucial details then here you go:
1 - 40km Moregemplein
2 - 57.2km Kluisberg 1000m ave 8% max 13%
3 – 64.6km Cote de Trieu (Kwaremont)
4 – 68.2km Paterberg 360m ave 12,9% max 20.3%
5 – 77.9km Edelareberg
6 - 81.9km Wolvenberg
7 – 91.9km Molenberg 463m ave 7% max 14.2%
1 – 53.8km Grote Herrenweg 200m
2 – 68.2km Paterberg 360m
3 – 80.4km De La Kethulleplein 50m
4 – 82km Holleweg 2400m
5 – 84.4km Jagerij 100m
6 – 91.9km Molenberg 300m
7 – 95.5km Borstekouterstraat 300m
8 – 96.5km Paddestraat 2300m
9 – 99.3km Lippenhovestraat 1300m
10 – 106.3km Lange Munte 2500m
11 – 124.1km Steenakker 700m
And interestingly if you compare the route with that taken by the men then you see that both races follow different courses for the most part of the day, joining together only for the final run-in to Gent.
The start-list can be downloaded from here (pdf). Last year four riders came in a long way ahead of the main field: Emma Johansson, Liesbet de Vocht, Grace Verbeke and Regina Bruins. All four will be back again this year, but interestingly they are all riding for different teams. Emma J will of course be with Hitec, and they also bring Lise Nøstvold, Lisa Brennauer, and smiley Emilie Moberg. Verbeke and de Vocht are now teammates on Topsport Vlaanderen, while Bruins leads what could be a surprisingly strong Skil-Koga team. Keep an eye on Alison Testroete and Roxanne Knetemann for now.
Elsewhere the Vos-less Nederland Bloeit bring World Cup winners Loes Gunnewijk and Annemeik van Vleuten, and new signing Sarah Duster who was originally part of the lead group last year until she lost contact in the last few miles. Kirsten Wild and Chantal Blaak are the main hopes of AA Drink, Martine Bras of Dolmans Landscaping is always a good bet for a high placing, and making an interesting return to top-level racing is Julie Krasniak of Rapha Racing. Her teammates there include Sarah Byrne, thus answering the question of why she gets no mention on the website of Motorpoint-Marshalls Pasta (that was her team last year, duh).
RTBF are streaming the race, but there may be geo-restrictions in place. Chances are that all we will see is the final sprint and that only if they remember to switch the cameras on in time. Het Nieuwsblad also has a live ticker, but again there’s no mention of how much attention this race will get. That depends on how well Messrs Boonen and Gilbert are doing, I guess. And I’ve got both on my VDS. Ain’t priorities tough.