For the purists, Opening Weekend remains the start proper of the new racing season.
The 2019 team bikes and jerseys have been unveiled and already raced, but two consecutive days of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne gives teams a chance to test their new wet – and often cold – weather gear, alongside seeing how the hardware copes with the brutality of the cobbles.
This year's races were a Deceuninck-QuickStep double as Zdenek Stybar took the honours at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and teammate Bob Jungels won alone in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne a day later.
There will be smiles at the Specialized headquarters in California on Monday as Stybar's and Jungels' victories were preceded on Saturday by a win from Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Women's Elite and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) taking the final stage at the UAE Tour.
Stybar and Jungels won their races on an S-Works Tarmac and an S-Works Venge, respectively, showing that both bikes can cope with the cobbles.
The offseason saw several teams switch bike sponsors and with it, plenty of new paint designs and team colours. Factor left AG2R La Mondiale and the WorldTour behind for a new partnership in the Pro Continental Roompot-Charles team.
The Dutch squad, which includes Lars Boom on their roster, have joined several WorldTour teams in committing to racing on disc brakes for the season.
SRAM's new RED eTap AXS 12-speed groupset made headlines last month and Trek-Segafredo, Katusha-Alpecin, CCC-Liv, Boels-Dolmans and Canyon-SRAM all showcased their new groupsets at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad start in Gent on Saturday.
Trek-Segafredo's Mads Pedersen made headlines, though, opting to run the groupset in a 1X setup with a 48x10-33 gearing combination offering a similar range of a double chainring setup.
AG2R La Mondiale are racing on Eddy Merckx framesets for 2019, which at the WorldTour opener at the Tour Down Under in January were equipped with ROTOR cranksets, paired with Campagnolo 11-speed derailleurs and shifters. For Opening Weekend, the team stuck with the ROTOR cranksets but interestingly had switched to Shimano Ultegra Di2 components suggesting an official drivetrain components partnership has yet to be finalised.
The cobbled Classics always see a range of tyres and tyre widths from regular 25mm road racing tyres up to 30mm and beyond cobble-specific options. The Pro Continental Wallonie-Bruxelles team opted for a tubeless setup using Scope wheels and Schwalbe tyres.
This move to tubeless setups is not the first in professional cycling and Cyclingnews understands there could be a lot more integration of the technology in the coming season at the top of the sport.
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