The key to winning the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is that there is no key, according to Rabobank's Nick Nuyens. There is no one place where the race is won or lost. “I don't think a key exists,” he explained. “It is a small race, and the whole race is important. Any moment can be the most important one.
“There are so many little climbs and cobbles, so many important points,” he told Cyclingnews. “The race can be decided anywhere.”
The Belgian riding for a Dutch ProTour team should know. He has had top finishes in the race, finishing fourth in 2007, second in 2008 and winning it in 2005. Can he make it to the podium again this year? “Yeah, why not? Why not. I've been on the podium twice, once on the top step. Once you have won it, you want to come back and take it again.”
Nuyens is heading up the Dutch squad in the first Belgian race of the season. “I am one of the team captains," he said. "I'm in a good shape. I feel good, that is the most important thing.”
If Nuyens himself doesn't win, he sees two fellow Belgians as top favourites. “Like every year, Boonen,” he tipped. Although Quick Step's Tom Boonen has never won the race, “this year he has proved he is really good”. Another pick is Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma-Lotto, who won the race in 2006 and 2008.
Another possibility is Edvald Boasson Hagen of Team Sky. “Although it is his first time there, it is a good race for him," he said. "Maybe Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo TestTeam) too. He was good in Qatar, but had knee problems in Algarve.”
However, the weather may be a factor in Saturday's race, he added. The single-digit temperatures won't make that much difference, but the continuous rain will make the many cobblestone sections tricky.
“As long as it is not freezing and there is no snow, it is ok, I think,” he said. “But if the cobblestones are wet, they are more dangerous and difficult.
“It is too cold today, 3-4° Celsius," he added. "On Saturday, maybe 9-10° would be perfect. For me, it doesn't have to rain. We have had enough rain this year!”