Sep Vanmarcke returns to the Omloop het Nieuwsblad, a race he won in 2012. The Belkin rider aims for another good performance in the first race of the Belgian Spring campaign, with the 198km race taking place this coming Saturday, March 1. "I am really looking forward to the weekend," he said. "I want to be good there. My winter was fine and my form is good."
Belkin's other ace for the Omloop is Lars Boom, whose best performance was a tenth place finish in 2011. "From what I saw and heard, both Sep as Lars are doing well. They are our main riders and will be supported by a dedicated group of teammates," sports director Frans Maassen said.
"The course hasn't changed much [since 2011]," Vanmarcke continued. "The race will play out as it usually does. On the Taaienberg the race will really start and from there it will be full on."
Vanmarcke and Boom will be joined by Maarten Wynants, Jos van Emden, Tom Leezer, Bram Tankink, Maarten Tjallingii and Robert Wagner. For Sunday's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne Team Belkin adds a bit more sprint power by adding Jetse Bol, Barry Markus and Ruta del Sol stage winner Moreno Hofland to the line-up instead of Boom, Van Emden and Leezer.
Team Giant-Shimano's Belgian weekend line-ups
Team Giant-Shimano's John Degenkolb will miss Omloop het Nieuwsblad for the first time in his professional career, opting for a different early season race program. The Dutch WorldTour team lines up Dutchmen Koen de Kort, Roy Curvers, Ramon Sinkeldam, Tom Stamsnijder and Albert Timmer. Bert de Backer, while new signing Dries Devenyns and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg complete the team.
Sports director Marc Reef is positive about the team for the Omloop. "The testing [on the new Giant Defy Advanced SL-models] last week got everyone reacquainted with the route and where the difficulties lie. We have a strong and experienced line-up and the goal is to come here with as many guys as possible in the final to set up Devenyns and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg."
The Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne team sees the inclusion of sprinters Tom Veelers, Luka Mezgec and Nikias Arndt as well as Jonas Ahlstrand to replace Devenyns, Stamsnijder, Timmer and Sinkeldam.