Team Sky confirm line-up for Belgian weekend
Team Sky has opted for a different build-up for some of its Classics riders, with Stannard spending a long spell racing and training in Australia in January. He is expected to ride Paris-Nice before starting his Classics campaign at Milan-San Remo. In the absence of Stannard, world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) will wear race number one.
The Team Sky line-up for both Belgian races is lead by Luke Rowe and includes Andy Fenn, Michal Golas, Christian Knees, Gianni Moscon, Salvatore Puccio, Alex Peters and sprinter Elia Viviani.
Viviani is perhaps more suited to Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne race but is part of Team Sky Classics squad for 2016 and will ride the Belgian race before heading to London for the UCI Track World Championships.
Wiggle High5 ready for women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
The women’s Wiggle High5 team is ready for an intense weekend of racing Belgium. They will ride the women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday on a testing 123km course, then ride the Omloop van het Hageland, in Tielt-Winge to the east of Brussels.
The team will line up at the start on Saturday in Gent with two previous winners: 2016 recruits Emma Johansson and Amy Pieters, along with 2015 Tour of Flanders winner Elisa Longo Borghini. Completing the team are former two-time road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini, Japanese Champion Mayuko Hagiwara and Australian sprinter Chloe Hosking, who took the final stage of the Tour of Qatar.
“Obviously I just love the Spring Classics. It’s close to my home in Belgium,” said Johansson, who is a cycling ambassador for the Flanders Region. “I’ve won Het Nieuwsblad two times before in 2010 and 2011 so it’s obviously a race that suits me, and I have a really strong team.”
Johansson, Longo Borghini, Bronzini and Hosking will also ride Sunday’s Omloop van het Hageland, in Tielt-Winge, with Pieters and Hagiwara making way for French time trial Champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot and two-time World Junior Champion Lucy Garner, who is also set to make her European debut in the black and orange jersey.
Greipel to miss Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne due to broken rib
Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) has announced that he will not ride Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne due a broken rib.
The German sprinter crashed during Saturday’s stage of the Volta ao Algarve. He did not start Sunday’s final stage in the hope of recovering in time but was forced to throe in the towel on Thursday evening.
Tiesj Benoot, Jürgen Roelandts and Jens Debusschere will lead Lotto Soudal in both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Greipel hopes to recover in time to start Paris-Nice on Sunday, March 5.
Dry but cold weather forecast for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Riders in Belgium awoke to snow falling on Thursday as they went for a final training ride but will be relieved to know that better weather is forecast for the Flanders region for the opening Belgian weekend.
A maximum temperature of 6C is expected on Saturday for the finish of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, with the riders perhaps starting the race just above 0C. There is little chance of rain making the cobbled climbs of the race slippy however the win could be a factor. A stiff easterly wind is expected to blow across the fields, with gusts of up to 35km/h on Saturday.
Similar weather is forecast for Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.