The final weekend in February, this for me is when the season truly starts. Many of the rider’s will have spent the last month removing sand from their ears after Tour of Qatar or racing in South Africa but this weekend is the start of the European Spring season. Omloop het Nieuwsblad isn’t just like opening a window on an advent calendar, heightening the anticipation of what is yet to come. Its a “Christmas Day” in it’s own right: There’s great racing, cobbles, bergs, fries with mayo, “Belgian toothpaste” (weather permitting!) and just about every other Belgian stereotype you can imagine!  Natalie Creswick wrote a great post about her “baptism” of one day pro racing at the race in 2011:

…wind, rain, mud, cobbles, cold, narrow twisty Belgian farm tracks, bad road surfaces, short sharp flandrien climbs and a peloton of Dutch girls who like to hoof it along on the flat. Yesterday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad definitely didn’t disappoint…

The full post can be found here. It not only gives a feel for the race but is also a great first-hand account of taking part in your first pro race.

The route

The parcours is deceptive. Whilst there are no mammoth climbs the combination of short sharp climbs, narrow cobbled roads and tight turns make it an exciting and challenging course and includes the infamous Paterberg AND Molenberg, but more on those below!

Women's Omloop het Nieuwsblad Profile
Women’s Omloop het Nieuwsblad Profile

50km in Kruisberg is a steady 1.5km climb and the first significant hill on the course. There’s also a cafe popular with cyclists at the top!

The pace will be high in the kilometres leading up to the Paterberg cobbled climb as the road have narrowed significantly to little wider than a car. Those caught at the back could easily be left behind.

With less than 45km to go whilst back on tarmac Wolvenberg ascent only gets steeper the higher you climb:

With just 35km to the finish its back to the cobbles to tackle the Molenberg climb, one of the most infamous climbs in all of Belgian racing. It may only be half a kilometre long but with and average gradient of almost 10%, peaking at leg sapping 14% combined with the eye-ball rattling cobbles can make this section a race defining moment. This is the last big test on the course before the dash to the finish. It’s still a long way back to Gent solo but the the final selection will almost certainly have been made by the top.

Previous Winners

After back to back wins for Emma Johansson her chance of a hatrick were ruled out after breaking both her collarbones in an awful training ride accident a month earlier. Loes emerged as the worthy winner on a day which was absent of the infamous “belgian toothpaste”.

Year 1st 2nd 3rd
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