Video: 10 riders to watch in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne

Opening Belgian weekend beckons

The days are getting longer, buds are beginning to appear, but the one true indication that spring has come is the arrival of the professional cycling peloton in Belgium for the first of the major 2014 races there, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

Unlike last year's frigid wintry weather that saw the peloton fully bundled up for Het Nieuwsblad and the cancellation of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, the forecast for this weekend calls for perfect Spring Classics weather: above freezing, but not too warm, and a chance of some rain.

The less adverse weather may not please last year's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner Luca Paolini (Katusha), who goes well in adverse conditions, but we still have the Italian on our top 10 riders to watch.

Should the race come down to a larger group, André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) is a prime contender, having come third in Kuurne in 2011. A smaller bunch sprint could favor former Omloop-winner, BMC's Thor Hushovd, who is looking to overcome two difficult seasons.

Riders who are looking ahead to the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix will aim to boost their confidence by putting a stamp on the opening weekend races: Tom Boonen and Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), and Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) will profit from a hard race, and will look to distance faster sprinters like Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Arnaud Démare ( and 2013 Milan-Sanremo winner Gerald Ciolek.

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