The Belgian opening weekend is only one day away. Tomorrow at about five past half twelve the first of the Flemish spring races will kick off on the Saint-Peter’s Square in Ghent, where the Omloop het Nieuwsblad begins. A day later Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is programmed. That race had to be cancelled last year because of the snow. Let’s look ahead to both races, which are part of the Europe Tour.
On the course of the Omloop, 198 kilometers long, there are ten hills. After 60 kilometers lies the first one: the Leberg. Next the peloton passes among other over the Muur van Geraardsbergen, but that’s more than 100 kilometers from the finish. There are also ten cobblestone sections, with three times the stones of the Haaghoek (2000 meters). The Molenberg is the last hill of the day, 37 kilometers before the end. Then there are three long cobblestone sections still to come: the Paddestraat (2300 meters), the Lippenhovestraat (1300 meters) and the Lange Munte (2500 meters). After the last cobbles it’s about 20 kilometers till the finish line on the Saint-Peter’s Square in Ghent. Jürgen Roelandts is the leader at Lotto Belisol. The team had to change the selection for the Omloop. Kenny Dehaes replaces Gert Dockx, who is ill.
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is 197 kilometers long. This classic is an opportunity for the sprinters. There are many fast guys at the start, like Lotto Belisol rider André Greipel. Along the route lie nine hills, but the last one – Nokereberg – is still 53 kilometers distant from the finish. Sunday among other Tom Boonen, Bryan Coquard, Arnaud Démare, Tyler Farrar, Alexander Kristoff and Christopher Sutton will appear at the start.
Marc Sergeant, manager Lotto Belisol: “We already have had a good start of the season with six victories of André Greipel, but those have all been a team effort. It’s always nice if you can win early in the season. The whole team performs on a high level. For the opening weekend it’s obvious: Saturday Jürgen is our man, Sunday that’s André. The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the first race on Belgian soil, always gives a special feeling. The best come forward and the very best can ride away. Tomorrow we have to make the race. Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne has a nervous and classic opening phase. It’s important to have as much of our riders as possible in the main group that will sprint for victory. The team then has to drop off André as perfect as possible.”
Jürgen Roelandts: “My preparation has been perfect. On Wednesday we had a nice team training, good to test the legs after the Tour of Oman. If you take a ride with your teammates, you are encouraged to go deep. The weather that’s predicted for tomorrow is an advantage for me. I can cope well with cold and rain. Of course I suffer as well, but less than most other riders. The Omloop is a very beautiful race to win. It’s a race where the decision can be made fast. After the Taaienberg the field splits up. There are different riders that are good. In the team of Omega Pharma – QuickStep there are several riders that are in good shape, not only Tom Boonen. Zdenek Stybar for example has made a strong impression in the Tour of Oman. But next to them there’s a range of other candidates.”
André Greipel: “Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is an important race for the team and also for myself. I want to prove for myself that I can win such a race. I already could have won it two years ago. It’s a strange sprint in Kuurne on a pretty wide road and the wind can come from everywhere. What’s typical about Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is that you have to focus from kilometer zero, the first hour is pretty fast. You have to save as much energy as possible for the final. After the Kruisberg you should start controlling the race and try to get a bunch sprint. But the wind will play a factor. We’ll see what we have to do, depending on the situation.”
"The teams bring their fast guys to this race, but we just have to focus on our thing. With among other Marcel Sieberg and Jürgen Roelandts we have the fastest last kilometer for sure. I already have won six times this year, but it’s not only about me. The teammates support me and give me confidence. I cross the finish line first but the whole team is part of it. They make it possible for me to save power."
Selection Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Lars Bak, Stig Broeckx, Jens Debusschere, Kenny Dehaes, Pim Ligthart, Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg and Frederik Willems.
Selection Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Lars Bak, Kris Boeckmans, Vegard Breen, Jens Debusschere, André Greipel, Pim Ligthart, Jürgen Roelandts and Marcel Sieberg.
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