Katusha counts on Kristoff in opening Classics
The Katusha team will line up behind sprinter Alexander Kristoff in this weekend's opening races of the cobbled Classics. With five wins under his belt already this season between the Tours of Oman and Qatar, Kristoff is primed to improve upon his best-ever 9th place finish in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, although the parcours of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is less suited to his capabilities.
Katusha for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Sven Erik Bystrøm, Marco Haller, Vladimir Isaychev, Alexander Kristoff, Viacheslav Kuznetsov, Rudi Selig, Gatis Smukulis and Alexey Tsatevich.
Katusha for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Jacopo Guarnieri, Marco Haller, Dmitriy Kozonchuk, Alexander Kristoff, Viacheslav Kuznetsov, Rudi Selig, Gatis Smukulis and Alexey Tsatevich.
Flu strikes Roelandts ahead of Omloop Het Nieuwsbald
Flu-like symptoms will prevent Lotto-Soudal’s Jurgen Roelandts from starting the upcoming Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium on Saturday. The former Belgian champion started to feel ill following the team's pre-ride the course on Wednesday.
"Everything was, until yesterday afternoon, going perfectly," he told Nieuwsblad.be. "We had a good ride on the course. Then there was the press conference and I returned home. I couldn't sleep last night and had a sudden fever. Immediately I knew that the flu had struck.
"I spent all of Thursday morning in my bed. This afternoon I walked around but I feel anything but good."
Roelandts’ teammate André Greipel is also suffering form a sore throat and may not be able to start Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday.
Marcato looking forward to Classics test
After a year away from the opening weekend of the cobbled Classics, Wanty-Groupe Gobert's Marco Marcato is looking forward to returning to the races in which he's been competitive in the past. The Italian was sixth in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2012.
"Ever since I rode with Hilaire Van Der Schueren, with Collstrop in 2008, these races are special to me," Marcato said. "The Omloop is a nervous race where up to 20-25 riders can win instead of a short list of favorites of maybe 5-6 riders."
The Italian dropped out of the Volta ao Algarve after one day because of illness, but is hoping he's recovered enough to have a good weekend.
"I am still guessing after my form now but I do feel good. I hope to do a good race on Saturday and I will help Roy [Jans] in the best way I can in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday. Kuurne isn't such a hard race on paper but the weather in Belgium makes it very unpredictable."
Wanty-Groupe Gobert for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Marco Marcato, Bjorn Leukemans, Mirko Selvaggi, Frederik Veuchelen, Frederik Backaert, Jérôme Baugnies, Kévin Van Melsen and Tim De Troyer.
Bora-Argon 18 pleased with wildcard invite to Paris-Roubaix
Bora-Argon 18 has received a wildcard invitation to race at this year’s Paris-Roubaix held on April 12. The German-registered team has also been invited to Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders and Il Lombardia.
"We are excited about the wildcard because we now have the most challenging Classics scheduled for our riders this spring," said the team's manager Ralph Denk. "Participating in Paris-Roubaix is something really special. Every rider respects and is motivated by the legends surrounding this race.
"To date, we have been known for having a presence in the decisive breakaway groups. Now that we have more experience, we want to focus our attention and strategy on reaching the podium this year."
MTN-Qhubeka still finalising weekend's roster
The MTN-Qhubeka team has whittled down its choices for the weekend's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne to nine riders, although only eight can start. The team is sure to feature Edvald Boasson Hagen, who finished third in last year's Omloop after a long spell in the breakaway. Sprinters Gerald Ciolek, Tyler Farrar and Theo Bos are likely candidates for the flatter Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.
"These races are known as the 'openingsweekend' among the riders," Reinardt Janse van Rensburg said. "It is the official opening of the classics season and it offers our first opportunity to test ourselves and to prepare for the bigger classics later. A good showing here can set you up for a good classics season."
Tyler Farrar has had good results in the opening weekend in the past, having landed on the podium of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2010 and taken fourth in Kuurne the following year. "Opening weekend is always something special. After a winter of training and a month of preparation races, it's the first time to really test yourself on the cobbles," Farrar said. "Everybody would like to kick-off their classics campaign with a good result. After a month of waiting for the classics the Belgian fans will go crazy, which makes it pretty cool."
MTN-Qhubeka for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (8 of 9): Edvald Boasson Hagen, Gerald Ciolek, Tyler Farrar, Theo Bos, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Kristian Sbaragli, Youcef Reguigui, Jay Thomson, Jaco Venter and Matt Brammeier.