Newly upgraded to the Women’s WorldTour this year, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad upholds its tradition of kicking off the Spring Classics during ‘opening weekend’ on February 25.
The women’s field will race 132.2km between Ghent and the finish in Ninove, Belgium, along a challenging route that includes five cobbled sectors and nine climbs, including the final two ascents over the Muur-Kapelmuur and the Bosberg, set to test the best of the Spring Classics contenders.
Cyclingnews highlights five riders to watch for the women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
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Lining up as the reigning World Champion, all eyes will be on Annemiek van Vleuten as she tries to win a third title at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
She is the defending champion who surged on the back-to-back ascents of the Muur-Kapelmuur and Bosberg, last year, and only rival Demi Vollering could match the efforts.
Van Vleuten then launched her sprint through the penultimate corner, and although Vollering came alongside, she faltered on the last 100 metres, and Van Vleuten took the win.
Van Vleuten recently kicked off her season at Setmana Valenciana, where she said she was not strong enough on the uphill of the queen stage 3, where she finished third.
However, her relentlessly aggressive style of racing could see her off the front again on the run-in to Ninove.
This is a tough choice given that SD Worx has several potential winners, but if we can only choose one rider per team, it must be Demi Vollering.
Second to Van Vleuten last year, Vollering is probably one of the only riders to match the world champion on the late-race hills.
The pair battled it out on several occasions last year, including at the Tour de France Femmes, where Vollering was also second.
This year, SD Worx have several cards to play with Lotte Kopecky and Lorena Wiebes, who was third at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last year, so the team’s tactics could play out in their favour this year.
If it comes down to a two-up sprint against Van Vleuten again, Vollering will have to learn from her mistake last year.
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