For many observers, the cycling season really begins today with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium. The peloton will be taking on the first Belgian race of the year in wintry conditions, but that only seems to add to the attraction of the first race on the cobbles and helligen (hills). This year's race is wide open with a number of big-name contenders ready to fight for victory. Cyclingnews has gathered quotes from various riders as to their feelings about today's race and weather.
Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) won the race in 2010 and has also finished on the podium four other years: “I love the Omloop. It is the first race on the cobblestones, up the Flemish 'hellingen' and with a unique public that breathes cycling.” (Het Nieuwsblad)
Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) won in 2007, when the race was still known as the Omloop Het Volk: “I want to win the Omloop for the second time. As I won the opening Italian race Laigueglia last Saturday for the third time. It's time for more honours. My years of understanding have dawned.” (Het Nieuwsblad)
Jürgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) is coming off a stage win at the Tour du Med: “I'm just happy to be here. Last year I left the hospital at this time, and I start (...) as one of the favourites in the first Belgian race. I intend to make the best of it.” (Het Laatste Nieuws)
Other riders were more worried about the weather, as they tweeted before the start of the race.
Bernhard Eisel (Sky): “You know it's cold outside, when you see #belgiumfans in winter jackets, and not in t-shirts and a beer in their hands! Ready for the show!”
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha): “Getting ready to race in minus degrees here in belgium. Should be good weather for Norwegians ;)”
Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing Team): “Remember Taylor. You are a (self proclaimed) mountain man from the Rockies! Belgium cold ain't no thang. #OMLOOP”
Cyclingnews will cover the whole of Omloop Het Nieuwslbad live, with comments and photographs from the start and finish.