By Bjorn Haake in Gent
Belgian ProTour Team Silence-Lotto took advantage of the nice weather on Wednesday to do a reconnaissance ride of the route for Saturday's Omloop Het Volk, which signals the impending start to the Classics season. PR Manager Filip Demyttenaere told Cyclingnews that the team will do most of the route, "about five hours."
The team drew on the knowledge of local resident, Australian Robbie McEwen. The 35 year-old rider returned from the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal last week, and took Saturday off (but joked that he rode five kilometres with his five year-old son, who desperately wanted to go out on his bicycle). Then he rode on the course on Sunday and did 120 kilometres of it on Monday. With a smile he added, "I don't think anybody knows the course as well as I do."
The Australian told Cyclingnews that his injuries, sustained in the Volta ao Algarve, are not too bad. He has bruises and some deep cuts near his elbow and a banged-up hip. "It's a bit uncomfortable, but not really painful." He had no trouble riding on the cobbles the last few days, showing he is ready for the race.
McEwen switched bikes just before the ride, as the one he arrived on was showing the signs of a rainy-day training ride. Currently, the weather is perfect and McEwen expects the same for Saturday.
He will hope for a sprint, but wants to ensure that this year's bunch gallops are safer than last year's. He has talked to International Cycling Union (UCI) officials regarding the various instances last year of sprinters being accidentally hit by spectators. "I still have to do some paper work and fill in some forms," McEwen elaborated that he is in the process of helping the stage finishes become safer.
Even if a large bunch sprint is not expected McEwen has made the race a focus of his race calendar frequently, finishing fourth in 2002. If it wouldn't have been for his recently retired then-team-mate Peter Van Petegem, he may have done even better, so he has a good shot at it on Saturday.
Another rider capable of winning Omloop Het Volk is Belgian Leif Hoste. He was the last to arrive for the training ride, but don't expect that to be the case on March 1.