||Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
||Now in its 9th edition Omloop Het
Nieuwsblad marks the start of the European season. Orica-AIS
has won the last two editions with Loes Gunnewijk and Tiffany
Cromwell. Defending Champion Tiffany Cromwell now with
Specialized-lululemon returns to defend her title. Three other
former winners Loes Gunnewijk (2012), Emma Johansson 2010 and
2011) and Kirsten Wild (2008) will also be on the start line.
Last year as was the case with many of the early classics
weather played a major factor. Eventual winner Cromwell
escaped with Megan Guarnier with Cromwell distancing Guarnier
in the closing kilometre to win solo. Emma Johansson proved
fastest from the bunch to take the final spot on the podium.
The first major climb is the Nokereberg coming at the 28km
mark, before heading on to Tiegemberg. From here riders face
the narrow Côte de Trieu with sections of over 10% From here
comes the Paterberg, Kortekeer, Ladeuze and Wolvenberg climbs
all in quick succession. The final major climb of the day is
the Molenberg but riders don't face any respite after that.
The final 30km includes the Paddestraat, Lippenhovestraat and
Lange Munte cobbled sections. The finish comes in the
redesigned Sint Pietersplein, Ghent.
While held on the same day as the men's race it covers a
different route of 130km but still attracts large crowds especially on
Took arguably the biggest win of her career here last year and
returns hoping to be the 3rd rider to win more than once. Made
the switch to Specialized-lululemon during the off-season and
will be hoping to get off to a strong start. A strong climber
who packs a fast finish but her best chance will be a solo
move or with a small group.
The world number 1 is the only rider to have won back to back
and her Orica-AIS squad has won the past two years and will
look to continue. Johansson is arguably the most consistent
rider in the peloton. Normally finishing in the top 10 and
more often than not on the podium. With the inclusion of more
cobbled sections the race is even more suited to her. Capable
of winning solo or from a small or large group.
Ellen van Dijk
The World Time Trial Champion always performs well in the
classics. Had 8 top 10 finishes last year including the win at
Le Samyn des Dames. Finished 6th here last year but was 2nd
behind Loes Gunnewijk in a two rider break in 2012. A strong
finisher but a solo move or a sprint from a small group is her
best option as she lacks the finishing speed of others.
One of the pelotons top sprinters and generally performs well
in the early season classics. Backed by the strong Hitec squad
that includes friend and leadout specialist Lauren Kitchen as
well as Ashleigh Moolman and Elisa Longo Borghini. Had a
strong Australian summer and comes in with good form after
finishing 3rd at the Tour of Qatar.
The Orica-AIS road captain and one of the best cobbled
classics riders in the business. Has finished in the top 10
the past three years including her win in 2012. Likely to be
riding in support of Emma Johansson but if she finds herself
in the right postion she will be very hard to beat.
After winning the silver medal at the London Olympics
Armitstead had a hard 2013 with just one victory. Looked
strong at the Tour of Qatar but after missing the break on
stage 2 dropped out of contention for the overall. Will be
very dangerous in a bunch finish but with Ellen van Dijk on
the team they have other cards to play.
Annemiek van Vleuten
The last person to win the World Cup who wasn't named Marianne
Vos. Now on Rabo she often finds herself riding in support of
Vos but with Vos absent an opportunity presents itself. Has
finished in the top 10 multiple times including just missing
the podium in 4th last year.
Anna van der Breggen
After her Sengers team folded she moved across to Rabo. A
strong all rounder but the removal of a climb makes it harder
for her. A strong classics rider but is more suited to hillier
races. Finished 8th last year.
An excellent classics rider who spent five years at the hugely
successful AA Drink squad. Now finds herself at
Specialized-lululemon and despite her talent with last years
winner on the team is likely to find herself playing a support
role for Cromwell. But like others in the right position is a
big danger for the win.
Other names to watch: Trixi Worrack, Megan Guarnier, Gracie
Elvin, Audrey Cordon, Elisa Longo Borghini, Emily Collins,
Noemi Cantele, Sofie de Vuyst, Amy Pieters and Lucy Martin.
Based on provisional start list.