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  Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Preview  
  There has been racing in Australia, Argentina and Qatar but the European season starts here with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The women's race has been held since 2006 with Emma Johansson and Suzanne de Goede the only two riders with more than one victory to their name.

25 teams will line up including the top nine ranked UCI teams. A stronger field all season you will be hard pushed to find with almost all of the big names of women's cycling on the start line. The teams of Rabo, Boels Dolmans, Orica-AIS, Velocio-Sram and Bigla all have multiple cards to play.

2014 Results

1 Amy PIETERS 3:30:15
3 Elizabeth ARMITSTEAD +0
4 Liesbet DE VOCHT +6
5 Kirsten WILD +6
6 Sofie DE VUYST +6
7 Tiffany CROMWELL +6
8 Ashleigh MOOLMAN +6
9 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN +6
10 Christine MAJERUS +6

Past Winners

2014 Amy Pieters
2013 Tiffany Cromwell
2012 Loes Gunnewijk
2011 Emma Johansson
2010 Emma Johansson
2009 Suzanne de Goede
2008 Kirsten Wild
2007 Mie Lacota
2006 Suzanne de Goede

The Route

Eight climbs and six cobbled sections over the 121km starting and finishing in Gent. The first climb of the Nokereberg comes after 27.9km followed by the Kluisberg 20 kilometres later at the 51.3km mark.

The climb of Côte de Trieu after 58.7 kilometres starts a series of climbs and cobbled sections in quick succession. The famous cobbled climb of the Paterberg comes three kilometres later. The race will not be won on the 360 metres of narrow cobbles of the Paterberg but riders could lose it here. Riders then face the Kortekeer, Ladeuze and Wolvenberg by the 76.1km mark.

Just 100m over the top of the Wolvenberg comes three cobbled sections over the next three kilometres. Ruiterstraat (800m), Karel Martelstraat (1,300m) and Holleweg (350m). The final climb of the day if the cobbled 300m Molenberg climb after 85.6km.

There are three more cobbled sections after the Molenberg for riders to deal with. First is the long 2300m Paddestraat and Lippenhovestraat (1,300m). There is only a short respite before the final cobbled section. The Lange Munte comes with just 20km remaining and is the longest of the race at 2,500m. Expect to see the teams with numbers look to break up what remains in the final section of cobbles.


Helling 1: Nokereberg 27.9km
Helling 2: Kluisberg 51.3km
Helling 3: Côte de Trieu 58.7km
Helling 4: Paterberg 62.3km
Helling 5: Kortekeer 67.4km
Helling 6: Ladeuze 72.7km
Helling 7: Wolvenberg 76.1km
Helling 8: Molenberg 85.6km


Ruiterstraat 76.2km
Karel Martelstraat 77.6km
Holleweg 78.9km
Paddestraat 90.5km
Lippenhovestraat 93.2km
Lange Munte 100.1km

The Contenders

Start list available here

Amy Pieters

The defending champion took a stage and 2nd overall at the Ladies Tour of Qatar last year before taking the biggest win of her career here out sprinting Emma Johansson and Lizzie Armitstead. Was under the radar at the Tour of Qatar this year but still finished ninth overall. Very consistent across the spring classics last year and handles the short climbs well. If she keeps herself at the front of the race don't be surprised to see her in contention for the win.

Emma Johansson and Orica-AIS

Emma Johansson won the race in 2010 and 2011 and has finished on the podium the past two years. Johansson is one of the few riders who usually rides the first race of the year and rides all the way through the season. After making the race her own the past few years expect to see a strong Johansson challenging for the podium. One of the best classics riders in the peloton who is at her best on the short climbs and cobbles and has a very quick sprint. Last year lacked support in the closing stages or races but with Loes Gunnewijk and Amanda Spratt back from injury the team should have strong support.

Loes Gunnewijk is a strong classics rider and while she serves, as Orica-AIS's road captain is a genuine contender in her own right if the opportunity presents itself. Had a lot of bad luck and a crash ended her season early last year. Recently announced she would retire at the end of 2015 so expect a strong final season.

Valentina Scandolara was flying in Australia in January winning the Santos Women's Tour and on the podium at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Known for going on the attack and is likely to have some opportunity to do this to take the pressure of Johansson and will also be key support at the finish.

Gracie Elvin and Lizzie Williams are both wildcards. But with several riders out with illness or injury and with their track riders not yet starting their seasons the team will start with just six riders.

Lizzie Armitstead and Boels Dolmans

Armitstead finished third last year behind Pieters and Johansson ahead of her best season to date winning Ronde van Drenthe World Cup, Omloop van het Hageland and the Commonwealth Games Road Race. Despite dominating the World Cup series wins were still hard to come by. Armitstead's climbing has improved dropping even Johansson at times but her speed suffered. Started 2015 on a very strong note winning two sprints and the overall at the Tour of Qatar and will come in full of confidence. Expect to see Armitstead in action in the closing stages and will be hard to beat in a sprint.

Boels Dolmans has numerous other options including Ellen Van Dijk who won Ronde van Vlaanderen last year when she attacked and nobody was willing to chase with Armitstead sitting on. The duo are a very strong combination and with Chantal Blaak and Christine Majerus (10th last year) there is two other strong classics riders who could be contenders in there own right.

Megan Guarnier and Evelyn Stevens come in after a strong showing in New Zealand, where they finishing second and third overall.

Rabo Liv Women

The team took over forty wins last year and despite a very consistent classics season they were unable to take a win until the middle of March. The team is without two of their star names Marianne Vos and World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot. While the team might not have a stand out favourite Rabo still bring a strong team and you can be certain they will be in the action.

Lucinda Brand had a slow start to the season last year but looked to have much better form in Qatar, where she finished 13th. Missed the split on stage two but was in the top six on the other three stages. A quick finish who will be dangerous in a reduced group.

Keep an eye on out for Katarzyna Niewiadoma, who claimed her first professional win at the Frauen Grand Prix Gippingen last year. Anna van der Breggen was just outside the top 20 last year and the race is her first of the season. Expect to see her attacking on the climbs. The more selective the race the better the chances for Rabo.

Wiggle Honda

After major changes over the off season Wiggle Honda has a very different team to previous years and brings a team of mostly sprinters. With Giorgia Bronzini a late withdrawal, Jolien D'hoore is likely to be one of the teams big cards to play. Was one of the standout riders in 2014 picking up numerous wins throughout the year. Just off the track where she finished fourth in the Omnium so don't expect her to have great road form.

Audrey Cordon could be the wildcard for the team. Had a strong season last year including a bunch sprint win at La Route France and podium at Omloop van het Hageland. Elisa Longo Borghini gives the team options for a longer range attack and to follow moves on the climb. In a sprint Chloe Hosking could be a contender if she can get over the climbs.

Tiffany Cromwell and Velocio-Sram

Another team that is spoilt for choice with any one of their eight riders a potential winner. In Tiffany Cromwell they have the 2012 winner and a rider perfectly suited to the course. The short sharp climbs and cobbles are perfect for Cromwell, who showed in the past six months has also been improving on her sprint. Didn't have as strong a start to the season in Australia as she has in the past but finished seventh in Qatar.

Tayler Wiles started her season strongly winning the Queen stage and the overall at the Tour of New Zealand last week. A rider who is on the rise and improves every time she races. How she recovers from the flight to Europe from New Zealand will be important.

Dual reigning German and World Champion Lisa Brennauer came very close to the World Championship triple in 2014, gold in the team and individual time trials and a narrow second in the road race. The climbs are unlikely to trouble Brennauer and in a select sprint will be challenging for the win.

Alena Amialiusik started her 2014 season in South America and was flying when she returned to Europe finishing on the podium of the hilly Trofeo Alfredo Binda. Another rider who could be in the mix. Expect to see her attacking on the climbs to try and break up the field.

If she can survive the climbs and cobbles Barbara Guarischi will be very dangerous in a sprint. Don't discount Loren Rowney or Trixi Worrack either but they are likely to play support roles.

Bigla Pro Cycling

Major changes over the off season have Bigla emerging in to another one of the super teams. The team has recruited big names including Annemiek Van Vleuten, Shelley Olds and Ashleigh Moolman. The experienced Iris Slappendel will be an important road captain for the team.

Former World Cup winner Annemiek Van Vleuten has left Rabo and is now likely to have more opportunities for herself. If we see the Van Vleuten we did in 2011 when she won the World Cup she is likely to have a good year. Always consistent across the season especially in one day races. Finished ninth last year.

Ashleigh Moolman got 2015 off to a strong start as she usually does winning the time trial and road race at the National Championships before repeating the double at the African Continental Championships. Moolman finished eight last year in the first chasing group.

Shelley Olds is one of the top sprinters in the peloton and arguably the best climber of the sprinters. Finished fifth in 2012 and very consistent across the classics.

Elena Cecchini and Jessie Daams (Lotto-Soudal)

Italian National Champion Elena Cecchini had a strong season last year including second at the Tour of Chongming Island World Cup. Didn't manage a win other than the Italian Championship but will be looking to show off the jersey on her new team. Packs a very quick finish and climbs well. Started her season in Argentina with seventh at Gran Prix San Luis Femenino and stage podiums at Tour Femenino de San Luis.

Jessie Daams is one of the most underrated riders in the peloton. Not a frequent winner but is normally around the mark. Started on the track but doesn't have a super strong sprint limiting her opportunities. Finished 18th last year in the first chasing group. Likely to play a support role for Cecchini but could have her own opportunities.

Sofie De Buyst

De Buyst is a rider that is continually under the radar but is a strong classics rider. Sixth last year before third at Le Samyn, fourth Gent-Wevelgem and fifth Omloop van het Hageland. Unlike other contenders is not backed by a strong team but shouldn't be discounted because of that. The slightly uphill finish will suit her but will be a hard ask to out sprint the likes of Johansson and Armitstead.

Lucy Martin

After a difficult two seasons Martin is ready to bounce back in 2015. The London 2012 Olympian is a strong classics rider and has finished in the top 20 here in the past. Not a pure sprinter but from a select group is a contender for a podium finish.

Other names to watch: Claudia Lichtenberg, Roxanne Knetemann, Joelle Numainville, Tatiana Guderzo and Roxane Fournier.
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