New name, similar route for Belgian Classic opener

Can Philippe Gilbert get a third Omloop title?

Can Philippe Gilbert get a third Omloop title? (Image credit: Bjorn Haake)

By Bjorn Haake

It will take a while to get used to Het Volk's new name but after a change in sponsorship the race will be known as Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Both former and current sponsor are newspapers and ironically Het Volk once created the race as a rival to the Ronde van Vlaanderen, which was sponsored by Het Nieuwsblad.

The route

To everyone's relief the name change won't affect the race with the distance (203 kilometres), the number of short, steep, cobblestone-clad climbs called hellingen (11) all remaining. Once again the race will start in Gent with the riders heading off from Sint Pietersplein for their neutral roll-out.

The route then makes a short loop east of Gent before heading into deep Vlaanderen terrain, with its narrow and poorly surfaced roads. But it isn't until kilometre 74 that the riders encounter the first test of the day – 2000m of cobble stones over the Haaghoek which will provide a first test for both man and machine.

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