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  Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Preview  
  After racing in Australia, Argentina, Thailand and Qatar racing returns to Europe for the opening weekend of the classics starting with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Held since 2006 only Suzanne de Goede and Emma Johansson have won twice with five different winners in the last five years.

Anna Van der Breggen returns looking to make it two in a row with her strong Rabo Liv team. Boels Dolmans and World Champion Lizzie Armitstead is also backed by a strong team with Wiggle High5 and Canyon SRAM who have strong teams.

2015 Results

2 Eleonora VAN DIJK +0
3 Elizabeth ARMITSTEAD +14
4 Chantal BLAAK +14
5 Tiffany CROMWELL +14
6 Elena CECCHINI +14
7 Amy PIETERS +14
8 Christine MAJERUS +14
9 Trixi WORRACK +14
10 Roxane KNETEMANN +14

Past Winners

2015 Anna Van der Breggen
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

Helling / Côte 1: Nokereberg 29.4km
Helling / Côte 2: Tiegemberg 44.5km
Helling / Côte 3: Kluisberg 54.6km (1000m Average 8% Max 13%)
Helling / Côte 4: Côte de Trieu 62km
Helling / Côte 5: Paterberg 65.7km (360m Average 12.9% Max 20.3%) - cobbles
Helling / Côte 6: Kortekeer 70.8km
Helling / Côte 7: Ladeuze 76km
Helling / Côte 8: Wolvenberg 79.4km (645m Average 7.9% Max 17.3%)
Helling / Côte 9: Molenberg 88.5km (463m Average 7& Max 14.2%) - 300m cobbles

Ruiterstraat 79.5km - 800m
Jagerij 82.8km - 800m
Paddestraat 93.4km - 2300m
Lippenhovestraat 96km - 1300m
Lange Munte 103km - 2500m

The Contenders

Start list available here

Anna Van der Breggen

Van der Breggen had the biggest year of her career last year winning from start to finish. Took the win after a bold attack and it is a move that also paid off for her at La Course. Will be keen to pick up 2016 where she left 2015 as she approaches the Rio Olympics as one of the favourites. Expect her to be heavily marked after her 2015 season.

Lucinda Brand and Katarzyna Niewiadoma are both names to keep an eye on for Rabo who might be a little less marked.

Wiggle Honda

Wiggle comes in with a very strong team including two former winners Emma Johansson and Amy Pieters who will both be chasing another win. Johansson is arguably the most consistent rider in the peloton strong from the start of the year to the end. In her final full season as a professional every race will have more meaning. The short steep climb and cobbles give Johansson plenty of chances to go the attack. Pieters is a very similar rider who can win from a select group of a break.

In Chloe Hosking the team also has one of the quickest sprinters in the world and if the race ends in a sprint will be the name to beat. On paper it might not seem like the race for Hosking but has finished just outside the top 10 twice.

Lizzie Armitstead and Boels Dolmans

Armitstead will make her debut in the rainbow jersey and after finishing third the past two years will be hoping to start her year in the rainbows with a win. Showed last year she has become one of the most complete one day riders in the peloton. Can win a sprint from the bunch or a select group while being one of the best on the short steep climbs. She has been marked in the past and expect her to be even more so now.

Boels Dolmans often use the tactic of sending riders up the road allowing Armitstead to sit on and with the likes of powerhouse Ellen Van Dijk and Chantal Blaak and Christine Majerus they have riders who can attack and win the race themselves.

Canyon SRAM

Another team with a squad full of potential winners. 2013 winner Tiffany Cromwell will be chasing a second victory and a strong start to the 2016 season as she chases selection for Rio Olympic Games. A consistent rider but wins are hard to come by. In Lisa Brennauer and Alena Amialiusik the team has two strong riders who are likely to be aggressive while Brennauer's finishing speed was on display last year beating some of the quickest in the peloton.

Annemiek van Vleuten

Van Vleuten has finished in the top 10 three times with her best result fourth in 2013. One of the strongest all round riders in the peloton and is at her best on this sort of terrain. Returned to her best last year and will be looking to carry that through to her first race in Europe with her new Orica-AIS team. The former Tour of Flanders winner can count on strong support from the likes of Gracie Elvin, Tayler Wiles and Amanda Spratt.

Lauren Kitchen

In one of her final races as Oceania Champion Lauren Kitchen will be looking to finish her time in the jersey on a strong note. Comes in off a strong Australian summer with third at the Santos Women's Tour and fifth at the National Championships and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. The past two seasons has seen Kitchen come in to her own. Packs a very strong finish from a more select group and has no trouble on the short steep climbs or cobbles.

Sofie De Vuyst

De Vuyst is an underrated rider and always performs well in the classics had a standout year in 2014 but wasn't able repeat those performances last year. A move to Lotto Soudal should do her well and if she can refind her form of 2014 will again be fighting for the top 10. Has a strong finish and can handle the short steep climbs and cobbles well.

Joëlle Numainville and Lotta Lepistö

While neither may stick out as big name favourites both are riders who have stepping up the past 12 months. Both have strong finishes and can get over the climbs.

It will be interesting to see how the young Great Britain National team goes. A mix of mountain bikers and track riders with plenty of potential. Evie Richards and Alice Barnes could produce strong results but positioning will be key and they have little experience. Manon Lloyd is worth watching to as a star of the future.

Other names to watch: Roxane Fournier, Emilia Fahlin, Lauren Hall, Coryn Rivera, Valentina Scandolara.
 © 2016