Omloop het Nieuwsblad marks the start of the road racing season in Europe and the beginning of the Spring Classics. The race is run on the same day as the men’s race, albeit with a different route. But the crowds are huge in Sint Pietersplein, Gent which hosts the finish of both races.
What happened last year
Last year Belgium and much of Western Europe was in a deep freeze from Siberian winds. Temperatures barely got above 0̊ C and with the wind chill it was more like -6̊C. It was so cold a few riders were taken to hospital with ‘frozen eyeballs’! The cobbles and climbs made their selections until with around 30km to go the winner was going to come from a small group of riders including most of the ‘biggest’ names on the start list. On the final run in to the finish in Gent Tiffany Cromwell escaped. Only Megan Guarnier could bridge the gap. Cromwell beat Guarnier on a two-up sprint at the finish to claim the biggest win of her career to date. Emma Johansson completed the podium, in third.
|2013||Tiffany Cromwell||Megan Guarnier||Emma Johansson|
|2012||Loes Gunnewijk||Ellen van Dijk||Trixi Worrack|
|2011||Emma Johansson||Andrea Bosman||Chantal Blaak|
|2010||Emma Johansson||Liesbeth De Wet||Grace Verbeke|
|2009||Suzanne de Goede||Noemi Cantele||Kelly Druyts|
|2008||Kirsten Wild||Angela Hennig||Emma Johansson|
|2007||Mie Bekker-Lacota||Monica Holler||Jacco Lien Wallaard|
|2006||Suzanne de Goede||Miriam Melchers-Van Poppel||Tanja Hennes|
Kluisberg, Molenberg, Paterberg, Wolvenberg. Omloop het Nieuwsblad is no gentle introduction to the Spring Classics. It includes some of the most famous stretches of roads in Flandrian cycling.
The 126km route starts in the Ghent suburb of Drongen, to the west of the city. Heading south the first major obstacle is Nokereberg, the cobbled climb is just 350 metres long with an average gradient of 5% and is a gentle reminder of what it still to come. The cobbles generally even and quite evenly spaced but get to the foot of the climb first and there’s a nice smooth gutter to escape the bumps.
Through Tiegemberg and it’s on to Kluisberg and Côté de Trieu, at the southern-most point of the parcours, where last year’s race blew apart.
Kluisberg, at almost 2km in length is the longest of the race, the average gradient is around 6% but there are a few sections that where the gradient gets into double digits.
The narrow climb of Côte de Trieu then follows. At a little over 1.2km in length, it’s tarmac all the way to the top. Averaging c.7% but with a little ‘kicker’ towards the top where the gradient peaks at 13%.
Côte de Trieu
Next up is the short but steep, cobbled climb of Paterberg followed by Kortekeer and Ladeuze all within twenty minutes of each other. Then it’s on to Molenberg. It’s very narrow, it’s very steep and there’s little to no gutter to escape the cobbles.
Molenberg is the last of the big climbs on the course but there’s still the long cobbled stretches of Padestraat, Lippenhovestraat and Lange Munte, before the finish in front of huge crowds on Sint Pietersplein in the centre of Gent.
Sixteen UCI will take to the start line and will be joined by seven regional teams and two national teams in the form of the USA and Scotland. With the Commonwealth Games being held in Glasgow this year Scotland will probably be making a number of appearances over the Spring to give riders more top-level racing experience ahead of their ‘Home’ games. The complete list of teams due to start is as follows:
|Specialized-Lululemon||Rabo Liv Women||Orica-AIS|
|Hitec Products||Wiggle Honda||Liv-Shimano|
|Estado de Mexico-Faren||Lotto Belisol Ladies||Top Girls Fassa Bortolo|
|Poitou-Charentes Futuroscope||Futurumshop-Zanatta||Parkhotel Valkenburg|
|Topsport Vlaanderen-Pro Duo||Team TIBCO||Team Rytger|
|AutoGlass Wetteren||Kitchens Redant||Isorex|
|Endura Lady Force||RC Jan van Arckel||WV Breda Ladies|