Gilbert aims for record third Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Quick-Step Floors will head into the opening Belgian weekend with strong but flexible rosters for Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Sunday's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

The Belgian team will kick off its Classics effort backing up Philippe Gilbert's attempt to win Omloop for the third time, a result that would put him on equal footing with four other riders who have also won the race three times. Gilbert last won the race in 2006 and 2008, but the 35-year-old has seen a resurgence since returning to Quick-Step last year, winning the Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold among other races.

Also in Gilbert's favour is the change to the course for this year's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, which will use much of what used to be the Tour of Flanders finale: the Tenbosse, Muur van Geraardsbergen, and Bosberg all come in the final 27km of the 196.2km race.

"It will be interesting to ride the new Omloop finale, similar with the one Flanders had until 2011," said Quick-Step Floors director Tom Steels.

"The new finale is a demanding one, and we'll just see if it will lead to an open race or make the riders take a more defensive approach. We will be there with many cards, strong guys who have shown a good form these past few weeks; some of them can go from afar, while others can make use of their speed in case it comes down to a small group sprinting for the win. We are confident and really looking forward to these races."

Gilbert, Dries Devenyns and Zdenek Stybar will be joined in the Omloop by Fernando Gaviria, Iljo Keisse, Yves Lampaert and Niki Terpstra, who will also race the next day in Kuurne with Tim Declercq, Maximiliano Richeze and Florian Sénéchal. Sunday's roster could change depending on what happens on Saturday, however, as the team warned in its roster announcement.

Gaviria, who has already won four races this year, will be taking his first start at Omloop after getting a taste of the cobbles in his previous two seasons with the team at Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem. Gaviria has found success in Belgiam, previously winning the 2016 Primus Classic Impanis-Van Petegem and the 2017 Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen, but both races were in September. The 23-year-old Colombian has yet to take a victory there in the spring.

Steels said the Belgian weekend will provide and important test and sounding board for the riders and teams as the Classics approach in earnest.

"The opening weekend is an important one for many riders who will come with big expectations, ready to test their condition after the winter training and the first races of the season," Steels said.

"Let's not forget the fans, who, too, are eager to see the first battles of the year unfold on the cobbles of Omloop. One day later, we'll get another taste of the cobbles at Kuurne; on paper, it's an easier race, but it all depends on the weather, because if we have rain, then it won't come down to a bunch sprint."

Quick-Step Floors for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Dries Devenyns, Fernando Gaviria, Philippe Gilbert, Iljo Keisse, Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra

Quick-Step Floors for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne: Tim Declercq, Fernando Gaviria, Iljo Keisse, Yves Lampaert, Maximiliano Richeze, Florian Sénéchal, Niki Terpstra

Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets

After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1