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Start gallery: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

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Dutch champion Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

Dutch champion Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Snoods of various sizes and colours were the order of the day in the peloton at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Snoods of various sizes and colours were the order of the day in the peloton at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Ian Stannard (Sky).

Ian Stannard (Sky). (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Taylor Phinney (BMC) signs an autograph for a fan.

Taylor Phinney (BMC) signs an autograph for a fan. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka).

Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka). (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Chris Sutton (Sky) before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Chris Sutton (Sky) before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Thor Hushovd (BMC) hopes that he has rediscovered his form of old.

Thor Hushovd (BMC) hopes that he has rediscovered his form of old. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Zdenek Stybar is part of a very strong Omega Pharma-QuickStep team.

Zdenek Stybar is part of a very strong Omega Pharma-QuickStep team. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) does not look like a man worried by his condition.

Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) does not look like a man worried by his condition. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) salutes the Flemish public.

Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) salutes the Flemish public. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Riders tried launching attacks right from the gun.\

Riders tried launching attacks right from the gun.\ (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) was in demand before the start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) was in demand before the start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) greets the fans in Sint-Pietersplein, Ghent before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) greets the fans in Sint-Pietersplein, Ghent before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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A relaxed Nick Nuyens (Garmin-Sharp) on the start line at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

A relaxed Nick Nuyens (Garmin-Sharp) on the start line at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) has the climbs carefully marked on his top tube.

Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) has the climbs carefully marked on his top tube. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) chats with former teammate Kevin Hulsmans (Fantini-Selle Italia) in Ghent.

Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) chats with former teammate Kevin Hulsmans (Fantini-Selle Italia) in Ghent. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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A pensive Yoann Offredo (FDJ) before the start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

A pensive Yoann Offredo (FDJ) before the start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco) gives his thoughts before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco) gives his thoughts before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Manuel Quinziato (BMC) before the start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Manuel Quinziato (BMC) before the start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Wang Yip Tang (Champion System) checks on his bike before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Wang Yip Tang (Champion System) checks on his bike before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Saturday morning in Ghent

Saturday morning in Ghent (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Lars Boom (Blanco) is the favourite in the eyes of many in the peloton.

Lars Boom (Blanco) is the favourite in the eyes of many in the peloton. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) signs on for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) signs on for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Geraint Thomas (Sky) is a contender for classics glory in 2013.

Geraint Thomas (Sky) is a contender for classics glory in 2013. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Somewhere in there is Steve Chainel (Ag2r-La Mondiale).

Somewhere in there is Steve Chainel (Ag2r-La Mondiale). (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Andreas Klier (Garmin-Sharp) is vastly experienced and knows the value of keeping out worst of the Flemish spring weather.

Andreas Klier (Garmin-Sharp) is vastly experienced and knows the value of keeping out worst of the Flemish spring weather. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky).

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky). (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol).

Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol). (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Jurgen Roelandts carries Lotto Belisol's hopes.

Jurgen Roelandts carries Lotto Belisol's hopes. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Yoann Offredo (FDJ) makes his return to the classics after a year on the sidelines.

Yoann Offredo (FDJ) makes his return to the classics after a year on the sidelines. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) dreams of victory in a cobbled classic.

Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) dreams of victory in a cobbled classic. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) was in determined mood before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) was in determined mood before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Taylor Phinney said he was the "wildcard" of the BMC team.

Taylor Phinney said he was the "wildcard" of the BMC team. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Kevin Hulsmans (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) brings a splash of lurid colour to Sint-Pietersplein.

Kevin Hulsmans (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) brings a splash of lurid colour to Sint-Pietersplein. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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The men in black from Omega Pharma-QuickStep hold the keys to the race.

The men in black from Omega Pharma-QuickStep hold the keys to the race. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)

The temperature may have been hovering above freezing in Ghent on Saturday morning but there was a distinct sense that spring had sprung as the peloton gathered in Sint-Pietersplein for the start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the race which heralds the beginning of the Belgian cycling season.

The peloton has warmed up all around the globe in recent weeks, from Australia to Oman, but any early-season indications of form will be given a rather more robust test over the 199 kilometres and twelve climbs that make up the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

A quick canvass of the riders edging their way to sign on suggested that Lars Boom (Blanco Pro Cycling) is considered the danger man this afternoon. The confident Dutchman’s stage victories at the Tour Mediterranéen and Tour du Haut Var have not gone unnoticed among his peers and he has a perfect foil in the form of defending champion Sep Vanmarcke.

While Boom is the riders’ choice for victory, Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) was the man highlighted in Saturday morning’s edition of newspaper Het Nieuwsblad as the number one favourite for the win. The Italian won in 2007 and, fresh from victory at Trofeo Laigueglia, he enters this year’s race on a high. “I hope that being picked as favourite doesn’t bring me bad luck,” said Pozzato, who, like many, wrapped up against the cold: “I’m not worried about it. It’s normal here, we’re in Belgium.”

The fans’ favourite in Flanders, however, is Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), and as always, the loudest cheer of the morning was reserved for Tommeke, who was one of the last riders to reach the podium to sign in. The reason? His progress from the team bus was blocked by television crew upon television crew, all looking for a word with the Belgian champion.

A relaxed Boonen was happy to oblige, although he insisted that he is not among the contenders for the win today given that he began his season later than planned due to an elbow infection. Even so, Boonen – and many other classics contenders – will have the first serious gauge of their spring form on twelve hellingen of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

For an exclusive start line picture gallery, click here.