Omloop Het Nieuwsblad voor Vrouwen
With the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad sending the Elite Men in the direction of Geraardsbergen and a 200km adventure through eastern East Flanders, it only makes sense that the Elite Women find themselves headed in the opposite direction. But what happens in the end is all too familiar, and should make for an utterly fantastic race.
What's the Women's Omloop About?
Like the men's course, this is a sub-Ronde winter preview of what's to come starting in late March. It's 123km with nine rated climbs, which you can lump into four phases:
- An early, meandering phase where the race takes in the Nokereberg, Tiegemberg, Kluisberg and Cote de Trieu, about one every 10km;
- From the Trieu, a quick succession of the Paterberg, Korte Keer and Ladeuze beauties;
- The Murderer's Row of climbs and cobbles: Wolvenberg, Ruiterstraat and Jagerij cobbles, Molenberg, Paddestraat, Lippenhovestraat and Lange Munte cobbles; and
- 20km of flat run-in to Gent.
All told, apart from the nine climbs those flat cobbled stretches add up to just under 8km of bouncing across the stones, all in a 25km stretch before the finale.
What's New for 2016?
Essentially nothing. The finish line is outside of town, as I mentioned yesterday. Maybe the race will be won there, but the good stuff comes earlier.
Where Will the Race Be Won?
The Molenberg, cresting with 35km remaining, traditionally plays a role in separating the men's race out for the final battle over the stones, though it's removed from that event, but not from the women's race. And last year it was there that Ellen van Dijk and Anna van der Breggen left the field for good. If winds are out of the south or southwest -- blowing any breakaway back to Gent -- then this year shapes up for similar tactics. The difficulty of the Molenberg is too perfect a place to gain separation, coming as it does after 1600 meters of tough cobbles, and the subsequent sections can put a dent in a chase group if the leaders are strong. If anyone else has a better idea, I'd like to hear it.
Do they still give the winner a stuffed donkey? Some traditions are too sacred to be left behind. Anyway...
What's K-B-K About?
A downshift from the Omloop but nonetheless a companion race, with cobbles, climbs and a generally rugged day in the saddle. The race starts and ends in Kuurne, makes a vague feint in the direction of the capital region, but then meanders back through East Flanders, just over the Leie (Lys) River into West Flanders, and does a couple local circuits.
The eleven total climbs are all in the first 150km (of 200), which makes for some soft legs, particularly for anyone who raced the Omloop. But make no mistake, ending the climbs 50km from the line is a great way to set up a sprint finish.
Nothing I can tell. The trophy?
Where Will the Race Be Won?
As close to the finish as possible. The closing circuits are over the completely flat roads of Kuurne, Harelbeke and outer Kortrijk, and go on long enough to discourage too much action from unfolding earlier, though rain and wind have occasionally broken things up pretty good, like in 2014 when Tom Boonen won from a group of 10 riders, or 2010 when a trio came home alone with Bobbie Traksel doing the honors. It happens... but the forecast calls for sunshine and mellow winds this weekend. So yeah, a sprint.
Bonus! Omloop van het Hageland! (Women)
No Women's K-B-K? No problem! Because on Sunday the Vrrrouwen are just a touch north of the Greater Kortrijk Metroplex, in Tielt, for the Omloop van het Hageland.
What's the OvhH About?
Sprinting. Truly this is the women's K-B-K, only easier, because it's in an area short on climbs of any kind, rated or otherwise. There's a meandering opening loop and a 15km local circuit, which sends the riders over the Roeselberg four times, plus a ride up Kerkstraat early on. The last summit is about 20km from the line and a sprint is the likeliest outcome, but it's Flanders, so you never quite know. Check out more at the race website.