Omloop Het Nieuwsblad opens the semi classics season on Saturday. So far the main races have been week-long tours in much warmer climates for the main core of racing. Now the one day riders get to truly show their hands as we hit Belgium as winter begins to lift its spell on a cycling mad nation.
The 199km race begins and ends in the town of Ghent, the race will see them go over 12 climbs, including the Berendries, Valkenberg, Eikenberg and Molenberg, which all feature in the tour of flander s later in the season., but the flat sections of cobbles (including two goes over the 2km stretch at Haaghoek) often play their part in the winning and losing of this race.
The run in from the last 30km is straight forward, so if a group does make it together this far the best sprinter should win. Given the weather will be dry we could see a handful contest the finish. Belgiums have dominated this season probably as a result of targeting this a lot more than their european rivals might. 8 of the past 13 winners have been from Belgium. 10 of the 26 other podium places have also been taken by them since 1999.
Bonnen who dominated last year was edged out by Vanmarcke here last year in a 3 man sprint with felcha coming 3rd. a 26 man strong group came in just 26 seconds down. 36 riders finished inside a minute of the winning time showing that there is no mass finishes in this race, and any bad weather can blow it to pieces..
PRELIMINARY START LIST
As you can see from the route there are bumps in the road with short explosive climbs to sap the legs and cobble sections to test the riding skills and the riders luck on the day. Their will be no Sagan or Cancellera here as their teams are absent. This race will not have English coverage but do not be put off the local coverage is decent and you will know if a Belgium is in with a chance. This race really is interesting as it mixes the skills needed in flanders with those needed to win roubaix.
Vanmarcke is defending champion, now riding with the Blanco team who he says are more focused on his goals for the classics. He says he is still strong this year and that winning this last year really built up his confidence.
Pozzatto shows his face here, he was 2nd in flanders last year but a let down in roubaix. He beat flecha here back in 2007. I’m not sure he is the rider he was then, but he is back with the team that he won it with back then. He didn’t get going till Match last season so he’s started much better this season This year he comes in with a win under his belt.
Roelandts is popular for lotto, he has shown his shape so far in 2013. He looked very strong in the tour of med coming 7th in the overall and winning stage 5. A lot of forum talk is about him going well.
Lars Boom is favourite at moment, he is a good rider, powerful able to solo but he does strike me as a hard luck guy not always in right move or finding one too good for him and he looks too short. Van Avermaet is seen as the strongest card for BMC after his solid showing so far this season, and he is also a home boy. He was a solid 6th overall in Qatar.
Flecha has a great love of this race, he has always got himself involved in this part of the season and now with his move away from sky there has been a stronger focus on him from their team. He has not been outside the top 3 for the last 4 years which has to be appreciated. He was 78th before that good run. Boassen Hagen is Sky’s strong hand for this race but his level over the cobbles is still in question but his strength on the climbs is not.
Terpstra is interesting for OPQS with Bonnen saying he ill not be prepared till the proper classics so the team will allow him to play his cards. And there is no better allies than bonnen to guide you to the line. He is also in good race shape leading out in Qatar and been part of strong team time trial. Hushovd has failed to deliver for a while at BMC but recently got back on winning ways but I still would place little faith with him with the field he faces here.
Other contenders here of course Bonnen who might try a trick but I think will play a card for his friend Terpstra here. Haussler has a strong classics team in support of him but like Boom he has always been a little of let down after some big bright moments from him. Degenkolb has a very good 2012, but yet this year he hasn’t shown much of his hand as of yet but he has shown talent on this type of course. At big odds we could see Stybar get involved he had some early season showing but as always there are many team players ahead of him. Also watch Phinney who could have the eye on him.
So the two best picks for me are Terpstra and Roelandts I expect strong rides from both here with support from their teams. Phinney is too big at 50/1 for this and is worth a risk.Terpstra can lead his high quality team
.2pt Terpstra 12/1 Paddys
.2pt Roelandts 9/1 Ladbrokes
.05pt Phinney 50/1 Paddys
Its early days for classics but theirs still some chances to be had.
5pts Roelandts to beat Van Avermaet 13/20 Sportingbet (1.66 pinnacle)
Reolandts looks a strong bet for me and van Avermaet might still have a bit of shape to go find.
3pts Phinney to beat Thomas evens Betvictor
Phinney will have a say for Thomas and his love for cobbles more so than Thomas in my view, who would not have raced too much of this last year with olympic prep.
2pt A.Kristoff to beat Ciolek 11/10 bet365, hills (2.18 pinnacle)
2pts Haussler to beat Paolini 17/20 bet365 (1.87 pinnacle)
2pts Boom to beat Pozzato evens bet365
2pts Ladagnous to beat Thomas 8/5 bet365,hills (2.73pinnacle)
1pts Leukemans to beat Chavanel 17/20 bet365, hills, ladbrokes (1.952 pinnacle)
2ptsElmiger to beat Offredo 17/20 bet365 (2.03 pinnacle)
2pts Phinney to beat Stybar 8/5 bet365
2pts Terpstra to beat Van Avermaet 10/11 betvictor
3pts Terpstra to beat Langeveld 4/6 ladbrokes
1pt Leukemans to beat Langeveld evens sportingbet