Racing in the 2020 WorldTour season has been underway for around six weeks already since it began at the Tour Down Under, but two back-to-back days of racing at Opening Weekend in Belgium, consisting of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne are considered by many to be the true start of the racing season. February in Belgium, with its wintery conditions and cobbled brutality, is a prime testing ground to see how hardware is likely to cope with the season ahead, so it's often used by teams to trial new kit before the upcoming bigger Spring Classics.
With the weather forecast looking ominous, it was unsurprising to see teams and riders taking advantage of their sponsors' wet-and-cold weather gear, with overshoes, gloves and winter jackets - much to Jonas Rutsch's demise - being common sight at the startlines.
Tubular vs tubeless - the debate continues
Wheel and tyre choice was always going to be important for such an arduous day in the saddle. There was a pretty even split in terms of tubular and tubeless tyres but what was clearly evident was the open experimentation with both tyres formats among all teams. Bahrain McLaren kept things tubular for the most part, but two of the seven riders, Heinrich Haussler and Fred Wright, were trialling tubeless tyres. The nervous neo-pro Wright told Cyclingnews he had been given free rein to decide his choice of tyre technology ahead of his first WorldTour Classic and had been impressed with the Continental GP5000-TL tyres during training.
Disc brakes reign supreme, but the rim brake isn't dead
On Saturday, both the men's and women's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad races were won aboard disc-brake-equipped bikes; Annemiek van Vleuten soloed to success aboard her Mitchelton Scott team's Scott Addict RC disc before Jasper Stuyven got the better of Yves Lampaert aboard his Trek Madone SLR disc. On Sunday, Kasper Asgreen followed in Bob Jungels' 2019 success with an impressive solo victory at Sunday's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne aboard the Specialized S-Works Venge Disc.
The trend at Opening Weekend, however, was considerably in favour of the disc brake bike. Of the 25 men's teams that lined up for the start of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne just five called upon the services of rim-brake actuation, including UAE Team Emirates, AG2R La Mondiale and Team Ineos.
However, proving that rim brakes aren't dead just yet, Lorena Wiebes upset the applecart with a win at Omloop van het Hageland aboard her rim-brake-equipped Factor One.
Complex courses, simple minds
With the complexity of a 200km one-day race that traverses many of the same roads on multiple occasions, it's unsurprising that riders, who are regularly riding at - or above - their limit, employ tactics that provide instructions and help along the way. Most riders were seen using stem notes - created with varying degrees of professionalism - while others opted to use their GPS computers to provide map data and instructions.
Scroll through the gallery above for a look at the best of the Opening Weekend's tech, trends and a smattering of the mechanics' hacks for good measure.
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