Lotto Soudal recon Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Belgian team get a jump on the Classics with a reconnaissance ride in December

Lotto Soudal aren't wasting any time getting ready for the upcoming 2019 Classics season, posting video on Twitter today of the team's recent reconnaissance ride for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the WorldTour Classics opener on March 2.

Team director Frederick Willems said that although Omloop is a very important race in general, the Belgian race takes on special significance for the Belgian team and their sponsors.

"It is mostly about the course recon today, but also about testing the equipment," Willems said. "Once the races start, it's hard to get the whole group together."

The team took the race by the scruff of the neck in 2018 and went on the early offensive through Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot, only for the race to boil down to the Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg in the final 17km, by which point they were nowhere to be seen.

"We should have just waited for the Muur," a rueful Wellens told Cyclingnews at the time. "You never know if the early moves are the right choice, but today it was the wrong choice."

In the end, a late solo attack from Michael Valgren (Astana) won the day, with Łukasz Wiśniowski (Team Sky) in second and Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac) in third. Lotto Soudal's top rider was Jens Keukeleire in 21st, part of a large group that finished 12 seconds behind Valgren.

This year's race has a slightly altered finale, but the Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg will remain the final two climbs on the route. The race will now finish in Ninove, while the Molenberg will play a more important strategic role after being placed closer to the finish.

The 2018 edition of Omloop saw the finish line move from its traditional location in Ghent to Meerbeke, which hosted the finish of the Tour of Flanders until 2011. Race organiser Flanders Classics has now decided to shift the finish line to neighbouring Ninove, citing logistical reasons.

The team rode about 100km on the course during their recon and then 40km more on the return trip, according to Willems.

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