Even though after October the roads go relatively silent for a while, cycling is never really out of sight. In the world of cycling, there is always something spinning. Something you can hold onto during the ’empty days’…. And then that day is here. The day the roads are filled again with the typical buzzing sound of the wheels that makes you smile. Followed by that excited feeling that creeps up on you when you realize: a new cycling season is on!
In January and early February, there was already more than enough cycling action for the eager beavers and early birds of the cycling community (including ourselves) with the Tour Down Under, exotic sprints in Qatar and Oman and races on the European continent (such as the Volta Ao Algarve, Tour Cycliste International du Haut Var).
However, most cycling fanatics will tell you that this weekend is when the real deal is about to kick in. Hardly revived from last years ‘mud madness’, in a few hours Ghent will lead the way in what is traditionally seen as the opening of the belgian cycling season and the start of Spring: the 67th edition of Omloop het Nieuwsblad (1.HC).
Between the start and finish in Ghent, the riders cover a distance of 200.3km. En route, they’ll be challenged with 10 climbs (some with cobbles) and nine cobbled sectors. The first obstacles of the day are the Haaghoek, a 2km cobbled sector and the climb of the Tenbosse (6.9%). After the riders faced the climb of the Kruisberg (6%), they face the hardest part of the race with a series of cobbled sectors and climbs. The last climb of the day is the Molenberg (7%) at 35 kilometers from the finish. At 5 kilometers before the finish line the riders are challenged with the Steenakker, the last cobbled sector with a length of 700 meters.
Last year, it were Flecha and Langeveld who showcased a very close call at the finish line, resulting in a win for Langeveld. Predictions for today? Although both are aiming to peak a little further along the Classics road, Gilbert as well as Boonen are candidates to ride away with the flowers. And, even though Edvald Boasson Hagen (who initially was our pick) cancelled his appearance due to illness, the Blacks & Blues from team Sky might still have what it takes to put a stop to a Belgian victory.
On Sunday, we stay on the Belgian roads for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. We’ll post updates on both races on this blog and via Twitter @Wheelerwatchers.
Race information Omloop het Nieuwsblad 2012:
Other recommended reads:
- The Inner Ring: Here come the cobbled classics: weekend preview
- Cycling Weekly: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad & Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Preview
- Cyclingnews.com: Gallery: Omloop het Nieuwsblad recon