Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2016 race overview
Top riders can be seen at big races across Australia, South America, the Middle East, and Europe over the first few weeks of the year, yet for many, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad still heralds the commencement of the cycling season proper.
The 'opening weekend' of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, which takes place the following day, forms a bridge between the early-season outings of the winter and the more serious fare of the spring, with the balmy climes of Adelaide, San Luis, and the Persian Gulf swapped for the cold and often miserable conditions of Flemish Belgium.
Omloop is long, at 200 kilometres, and arduous, with its 13 hellingen - or climbs - and 10 stretches of cobbles. The racing is invariably tough and aggressive, and the weather often conspires to complicate matters further.
Last year Ian Stannard (Team Sky) claimed his second successive Omloop Het Nieuwsblad victor with one of tne of the most memorable displays of the spring, if not the season. Outnumbered three to one by Etixx-QuickStep riders, including monument winners in Tom Boonen and Niki Terpstra, Stannard shouldn't have stood a chance, but he outfoxed his rivals to steal away with the victory.
While Stannard is still debating whether he'll be back to try and make it three in a row, world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) will definitely be start in Gent, as will last year's Tour of Flanders winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), along with Classics stalwarts Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep), Greg Van Avermaet, and Philippe Gilbert (both BMC). Former world time trial champion Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) will also be there as he targets the cobbled Classics for the first real time.
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- Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite Start list
- Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite overview, highlights, winners and previous editions