2017 and here we are again, wondering if the WWT will live up to the hype this year and perhaps naively hoping it will.
Generally there seems to be a feeling that there are more teams with a chance of winning this year, because of a lifting of standards in the bigger teams and, of course, the dispersal of Rabo talent. And I think that’s true: the number of teams with more than one potential race winner is bigger. But then you look at Boels-Dolmans and weep for the competition.
Anyway, I was prompted to post by the arrival of a provisional start list for Het Nieuwsblad, of which an extract is below. The complete list is at Cyclingfever, which I find is usually best for pre-race start lists. (http://www.cyclingfever.com/editie.html?detp=view&_ap=startlijst&editie_idd=MjgyMzA=
I have left out Sport Vlaanderen-Etixx, Lensworld-Kuota, Lares-Waowdeals, Astana, BePink, Bizkaia-Durango, Colavita, Lointek, Veloconcept, German national and a handful of local non-UCI teams. This is mostly because I don’t have much to say about them – there are a few riders there who could feature.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – Saturday 25 February – Gent-Gent – 124km
I haven’t managed to find a suitable course map or profile, but the official Flanders Classics site has some info.
BOELS DOLMANS CYCLING TEAM
Look on my works ye cyclists and despair.
Boels have left out the previous two winners of this race (Lizzie and AvdB) and they still have at least five riders who could win, on paper. On the basis that it might be a bit soon for the full time ‘crossers (Harris and Majerus), Blaak and Pieters (another former winner) are probably the main chances, even though it seems faintly ridiculous to play down Guarnier and Dideriksen. What Boels do with the world champion will be interesting this season… so much competition in that squad.
LOTTO SOUDAL LADIES
VAN DER MEULEN Kaat
Lotto look a bit weaker this year and may rely on Kopecky continuing to improve. This seems a fair bet.
LONGO BORGHINI Elisa
Wiggle have lost a key classics rider in Chloe Hosking, but they have also strengthened. Fahlin is probably quite important in these races, a versatile all-rounder who could win from a small group, as she did in Vargada last year; Cordon is a similar key all-rounder. ELB can be devastating on the bergs, as she was to win in Flanders ’15, but I would pick Gent local Jolien D’Hoore as their main chance. 2016 was full of track but she’s all about the road this year, and Wiggle will be hoping for some wins from her this spring. Lucy Garner is probably her wingman for the final.
Not sure what to say about Claudia Lichtenberg in this context. She will be key later in the season in the proper hilly races, but is probably here just to help. That may be unfair but I suspect it’s more about getting used to the team in time for the Ardennes.
A new, more international face for Ale-Cipollini? Chloe and Marta are apparently co-leaders this year, but for this one I think Hosking and Janneke Ensing are the dangers. Romy Kasper is also a card to play on this terrain.
Canyon have not brought their shiny new PFP to the party, but this is a strong line-up. Brennauer, Cromwell, Worrack and Cecchini could all be in it. Alena’s had an injury and Alexis Ryan is still improving.
CERVELO BIGLA PRO CYCLING TEAM
MOOLMAN - PASIO Ashleigh
UTTRUP LUDWIG Cecilie
It’s not the strongest line-up but Lepisto is properly fast and AMP is a quality rider (albeit probably still feeling her nasty collision with a race moto last October).
CYLANCE PRO CYCLING TEAM
GUTIERREZ RUIZ Sheyla
Kirsten Wild’s abilities are well known, but maybe she’ll miss her usual Qatar tune-up-slash-coronation. King and Ratto provide attacking options, although I would be surprised to see either on the podium.
DROPS CYCLING TEAM
DUYCK Ann Sophie
ZORZI Susanna Italy
Drops make the list because of my GB/NL bias, but they are starting to look like possible contenders. Zorzi and especially Duyck have won races, and Alice Barnes, though terribly young, has bags of talent and a turn of speed.
FDJ NOUVELLE AQUITAINE FUTUROSCOPE
After years as an immensely likeable Rabo domestique, can Roxane Knetemann be a leader? It may hinder her chances of getting another beer going up the Muur de Huy if so. Roxane Fournier would be the fast one in the line-up, certainly capable of placing well in a sprint.
Shara Gillow was the other Rabo recruit, but this feels more like a race for one of the Roxanes or possibly Aude Biannic in a solo or small group attack.
HATTELAND - LIMA Tone
Now featuring Friesland’s hardest woman, Ilona Hoeksma, Hitec remain a likeable team with some very handy riders. No Kirsten Wild any more, but Bjornsrud and especially Kessler are quite fast and it would be unwise to ignore Lotte Becker if she attacks. She won in South Africa over winter, her first UCI win for quite a long time.
KOSTER Anouska Helena
This is not the A team but still a capable bunch. Katie X will rule the world one day, but perhaps not in this kind of race. Personally I’m interested to see how Riejanne Markus goes this year.
ORICA - SCOTT
VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek
A pretty strong line up here. Elvin and AvV can certainly win a race like this – indeed, Annemiek seems to be able to do anything at the moment – and Spratt and Roy are pretty quick in the finish.
PARKHOTEL VALKENBURG - DESTIL CYCLING TEAM
DE JONG Demi
VAN GOGH Natalie
Young gun Jip van den Bos has gone to Boels, and they will miss Janneke Ensing and Vera Koodoeder, especially on the cobbles and at home in NL. Demi de Jong is a talented replacement though, and they have some experience in the mix. Ex-Rabo Anna Knauer had some success in the 6 Days this winter.
VAN DIJK Ellen
Looking pretty good with the addition of absolute powerhouse Ellen van Dijk (Boels) and fast all-rounder Lucinda Brand (Rabo). Kirchmann is possibly a top-tier sprinter on her day. And of course they have Floortje, although it’s probably a bit soon for her after a fairly nasty injury last year.
For what it’s worth, I think the race will break up quite early and come down to having the right numbers in the right groups. That favours Boels and classics specialists. I’d love to see Wiggle win but I think the reality will be a podium of Boels (Blaak/Pieters), Canyon (Cormwell/Brennauer) and Orica (AvV, Elvin). Would not surprise me to see Sunweb, Wiggle or perhaps Ale in the mix.