77th Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: February 26, 2022

It's that time of year again! The classic season takes off with the Flemish opening weekend. Thirteen hills and nine cobbled sectors will take the riders from Gent to Ninove on a dry Saturday afternoon. They start at 11 AM. The finish is expected around 4.15 PM. There are some changes compared to last year, but nothing major. The final of the Omloop remains the same, with the old couple Muur & Bosberg as judges. Total distance: 204.2 km.

Cobbled sections:
**Haaghoek (161 km) [2000 m]
**Husepontweg (137 km) [1800 m]
**Holleweg (99 km) [1500 m]
**Haaghoek (94 km) [2000 m]
**Paddestraat (84 km) [2300 m]
**Holleweg (58 km) [1500 m]
**Kerkgate (52 km) [1400 m]
**Jagerij (49 km) [800 m]
**Haaghoek (38 km) [2000 m]

Hills:
  1. Leberg (158 km) [950 m; 4.2%]
  2. Kattenberg (102 km) [600 m; 6%]
  3. Leberg (91 km) [950 m; 4.2%]
  4. Hostellerie (74 km) [1300 m; 4.5%]
  5. Valkenberg (66 km) [540 m; 8.1%]
  6. Wolvenberg (56 km) [645 m; 7%]
  7. Marlboroughstraat (40 km) [900 m; 4.4%]
  8. Blessestraat (39 km) [820 m; 3.8%]
  9. Leberg (35 km) [950 m; 4.2%]
  10. Berendries (31 km) [940 m; 7%]
  11. Elverenberg-Vossenhol (29 km) [1,268 m; 3.6%]
  12. Muur-Kapelmuur (16.7 km) [475 m; 9.3%]
  13. Bosberg (12.8 km) [980 m; 5.8%]
Recent winners:
2012 Sep Vanmarcke
2013 Luca Paolini
2014 Ian Stannard
2015 Ian Stannard
2016 Greg Van Avermaet
2017 Greg Van Avermaet
2018 Michael Valgren
2019 Zdenek Stybar
2020 Jasper Stuyven
2021 Davide Ballerini

Record holders with three wins:
Ernest Sterckx (1952, 1953, 1956)
Joseph Bruyère (1974, 1975, 1980)
Peter van Petegem (1997, 1998, 2002)

The women's race of 128 km will be held on the same day. The final 55 km are the same. They will start at 13.25 PM. The finish is expected around 5.15 PM.

Recent winners women:
2012 Loes Gunnewijk
2013 Tiffany Cromwell
2014 Amy Pieters
2015 Anna van der Breggen
2016 Lizzie Armitstead
2017 Lucinda Brand
2018 Christina Siggaard
2019 Chantal Blaak
2020 Annemiek van Vleuten
2021 Anna van der Breggen

Let's hope for a smashing race!
 
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They are making the part before the Muur easier each passing year, this year the one cut out is the Molenberg, the risk of having an almost full bunch sprinting up the Muur, like happened in some of the last Ronde that had that final, is increasing even more.
 
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Wout Van Aert says it's too early for him, but he's still one of the favorites. His team looks pretty good for the spring. Tom Pidcock is a contender, and QuickStep as a team. An outsider is Moscon, who attacked in last year's final.
Moscon is starting his season here and had bronchitis so not an optimal preparation. I have Van Aert as favorite regardless of his shape.
Curious to see what Daan Hoole can do.

Also: does anybody know what happened to Jake Stewart? I know he got sick at the end of January and had to postpone his season but he was supposed to ride Algarve, then the opening weekend.
 
This race has really gone downhill since the finish was moved out of Gent, supposedly because the chance of a bunch sprint was too high on the old route, yet we've had a bunch sprint and an edition where the bunch caught everyone but Valgren on the line in the four years since the move to Ninove. Now it's just a subpar Flemish classic without its own identity. We already had Dwars door Vlaanderen for that role...
 
This race has really gone downhill since the finish was moved out of Gent, supposedly because the chance of a bunch sprint was too high on the old route, yet we've had a bunch sprint and an edition where the bunch caught everyone but Valgren on the line in the four years since the move to Ninove. Now it's just a subpar Flemish classic without its own identity. We already had Dwars door Vlaanderen for that role...
Hard to argue against.
 
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This race has really gone downhill since the finish was moved out of Gent, supposedly because the chance of a bunch sprint was too high on the old route, yet we've had a bunch sprint and an edition where the bunch caught everyone but Valgren on the line in the four years since the move to Ninove. Now it's just a subpar Flemish classic without its own identity. We already had Dwars door Vlaanderen for that role...
And the other 2 times the weather was pretty bad. Parcours is just not good.
 
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Offering hope against all the doom and gloom of no Molenberg, headwind finale and bunch sprint.

I saw a preview that suggests light winds, no headwind finish and Molenberg taken out but replaced by some really tight roads that could force selections.

Added to that, arguably the strongest teams in the race not really favouring letting it go to a bunch sprint.

Here's hoping for attacking galore and maybe even an epic solo. I'll take Kung for that last option please.
 
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Not even a full page yet in the Opener's thread... Disappointing.
I'm more optimistic than the majority so far.
Enough riders in decent shape already and probably the best chance for many to score.

Not everybody can wait for the sprint.
 
Wout Van Aert says it's too early for him, but he's still one of the favorites. His team looks pretty good for the spring. Tom Pidcock is a contender, and QuickStep as a team. An outsider is Moscon, who attacked in last year's final.
Did you think Pidcock looked all that great at Algarve? I was kind of surprised he wasn't a bit better on the climbs. I know it's a different effort, I guess this is more like 'cross in that you need several explosive efforts.
 
That's as random as it is specific. Why exactly Hoole? Personally i'd expect a guy like Eekhoff to be a better contender here, as far as young Dutch guys are concerned.
Hoole has impressed me both in his last u23 year and so far this season because he's very versatile (which is odd for such a huge guy). He rode a solid TT in Algarve but was also close to a top10 in Tramuntana.
Last year he managed a good GC result in l'Avenir but was also visible in a few pro Belgian semi classics.
I feel like there's a lot of raw power and we're only scratching the surface. Plus he must be in pretty good shape considering his recent results.

Nothing against Eekhoff but he rides for DSM, a team I decided to have zero expectations on for 2022.
 
Quick Step and LTS can't go for a bunch sprint, they don't have a fast guy. That's our only hope cause the weather screams sprint of a big group
Yeah I thought a bunch sprint would be the most likely scenario but QS not having a sprinter here could make a difference (unless they are betting on Senechal being the fastest...).
 
I agree with the main message here that the parcours was better when the finish was still in Gent. The new finale is only trying to copy the old RVV finale for those that are nostalgic and want the Muur back in the finale of a high profile race.

Especially this year in e.g. Ruta del Sol, we have seen what miracles early hard climbs can do in a race in contrast to the usual parcours builder's wet dream of a late hard climb 10-15kms before the finish. In the former scenario, the finale is not-organised, amongst the best riders, with attacks flying left and right. With a harder climb in the end, you have a breakaway, an organized chase, and if there aren't fireworks on the last climb, a big group sprinting for the win. This is exactly what happens in cobbled races that are not hard enough in the middle part or too hard in the latter parts.
That's why I really liked the 'old' parcours finishing in Gent, because riders knew they had to attack and thin out the bunch from furter out.
 
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