Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

By @EchelonsHub

Into the cobbled classics season we go! Opening weekend, what some call the true start of the season, and the first one-day World Tour race of 2022. On the menu, a classic route through Flandres, with some of the region’s most iconic bergs on display on what should be a great day of cycling!

The Route

On the menu are 204 kilometers to munch up, just a warm-up for the classics riders who really want to thrive later on in the spring. The race is divided into two halves, the first one being mostly flat and with only a couple of cobbled sectors who should be meaningless, and with the 100 kilometer mark the true race begins as the peloton hits the first set of closely-followed complicated sections.

Katteberg, Holleweg, Haaghoek and Leberg all in sequence, Paddestraat closely after. Not much climbing, but cobbled sectors that won’t be easy, and with the narrow roads and stretching of the peloton this can prove to be a point where some loose their opportunity to fight for the race.

From 58 to 29.5Km to go we find the second set of sectors, where attacks are expected, anticipating the run-up to Geraardsbergen. Here is where team depth will kick in, with many teams looking to put pressure over the rivals and distance themselves from the responsibility of working.

The final decisive sections come with the Muur de Geraardsbergen, summiting with 17 kilometers to go, needs no introduction, will be a place where any group ahead of the peloton will loose time as the leadout to the cobbles is always furious. Over the top gaps can be created, the Bosberg will follow quickly after with 13 kilometers to go, it’s also hard but to create gaps is much more complicated, unless if it’s a sprint over the top. Things consolidate between the two sectors and the riders within a chance of winning are usually very evenly matched.

From there on it’s a fast, slight downhill approach to Ninove where the riders will finish the race in familiar roads. Not a technical run-up to the line, however there is a long S turn that finished with just under 300 meters to go so if a sprint is to decide the race positioning will be crucial to time the sprint correctly.

The Weather

Very mild temperatures and a small breeze from the southeast. Nothing big honestly, but it may help a little bit any rider or small group who’s at the front of the race towards the end.

The Favourites

Quick-Step – The main contenders, quite possibly. It’s their racing grounds. Although Kasper Asgreen looked far from his best at Algarve due to Covid, the team still counts with Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar and Florian Sénéchal who can very well take the win in multiple scenarios here.

Wout van Aert – He’s always the most complete rider, but far too often missing out because of the “Sagan/Matthews syndrome” to which he falls under aswell in the classics. Omloop is usually a more controlled race, he will have teammates with no doubt until Geraardsbergen, but he will need to attack to make sure the head of the race is as reduced as possible and that’s his best chance of winning. Although a bunch sprint would also be to his liking, it’s hard to see teams work alongside him, although Jumbo has got quite a strong team!

UAE – A bit of a wildcard move but UAE are coming in with an incredibly diverse team stacked with top riders. Fernando Gaviria and Ryan Gibbons are threats for a possible sprint and Matteo Trentin is expected to be on the attack as always. Alessandro Covi is a wildcard, not a cobbled classic expert but he’s very sharp and is on great form. The team is well rounded and having cards to play is crucial in this race.

But the favourite list expands far and wide. Some riders would prefer a sprint finish which is absolutely possible, the likes of Cofidis with Bryan Coquard, Intermarché with Alexander Kristoff or who knows TotalEnergies with Peter Sagan may help in such situation, the latter one having Anthony Turgis as their preferred option likely though.

Some teams have strength in numbers and have to be very aggressive, like Lotto Soudal with Victor Campenaerts, Tim Wellens and Florian Vermeersch, AG2R with Greg van Avermaet and Oliver Naesen, Astana with Gianni Moscon and Alexey Lutsenko, Bahrain with Sonny Colbrelli and Matej Mohoric or INEOS who have Jhonatan Narvaez as their leader, but Ethan Hayter and Tom Pidcock as riders who are trying to get some form and may ride strong.

That still leaves us with a list of other very dangerous contenders who don’t have as much strength in depth, but can do very well on their own. This section includes Jasper Stuyven, Nils Politt, Ivan Cortina, Michael Valgren, Stefan Kung and Soren Kragh Andersen who are all extremely dangerous riders if they find themselves alone after all the climbs and can power away into a win. Sep Vanmarcke is also to be considered, he has been on great form aswell it seems and has a nice sprint.

Inside The Bus

This morning I talk to…

#66 Leonardo Basso – We have to cards to play with Gianni and Alexey today but we won’t be trying to blow up the race, we don’t have the team for it. Let’s focus on our efforts on getting them both well positioned and within a shot of winning into Geraarsbergen, the race will split into some group there and we want both of them in or near the front after them. Our only way to win it is with a move after the climbs, so ideally they will save up as much as possible for that section and then go all-in when the opportunity arises.

#37 Loic Vliegen – Loic two things here, Alexander is our leader and priority, but at the same time we need to make sure we get the UCI points, it’s necessary. We have a nice team here, you, Aimé and Dimitri have a green card if you’re on a good day but if you see Alexander is in the group after the climbs, and you’re there too, you have to cover moves mandatorily. Essentially, you can lead if you find yourself in front, if Alexander is there too focus will be on him, but without sacrificing yourself.

#121 Tom Pidcock – Tom, how we feeling today? Form isn’t yet there, but that’s fine, I don’t want you to take today with a lot of pressure as the spring is still distant. Jhonatan will have his opportunity today, he will work for you later so we return favour here, the climbs are where we need to be good, he has the form and should be up to the front. If it is necessary, you can sacrifice to bring back a gap if you’re together behind, and you can also push the pace hard if you see it’s the right thing to do to make the race very hard for the sprinters. 

Prediction Time

⭐⭐⭐van Aert, Sénéchal, Lampaert

⭐⭐Colbrelli, Turgis, Stybar, Vanmarcke

⭐Stuyven, Asgreen, Wellens, Mohoric, Trentin, Lutsenko, Kristoff, Campenaerts, SK.Andersen, Naesen, GV.Avermaet, Coquard, Politt, Narvaez, Pidcock, Hayter, Cortina

(Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

The list of favourites is so big, looking at the started had me in scratching my head. I think we’ll have a great race above all, it’ll be very chaotic, at the end of the day I’ll go with smarts and form, QuickStep to take a win, with Florian Sénéchal.

Zweeler is a fantasy sports game that includes many sports and cycling is no exception. I ask that you check it out, if you register with the link below you will not only be joining an exciting game but will also be personally supporting me and my work, and allow me to make more content for you!

Tomorrow’s race has prizes of at least €1500 and an entry fee of only €5. Make good use of your knowledge!

Furthermore, the Fantasy Spring Classics series will start with prizes of at least €10.000 and an entry fee of only €10.

Rúben Silva

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