Opening weekend is lastly right here, and for the ladies’s peloton, meaning back-to-back races with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, February 25 and Omloop van het Hageland on Sunday, February 26, in Belgium.
The highway racing season is already properly underway with the 2023 Ladies’s WorldTour having begun on the Tour Down Below and Cadel Evans Nice Ocean Street Race in Australia. Groups then traveled to race on the UAE Tour Ladies and onto Spain for the European begin at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana.
Now that the riders and groups have skilled pre-season coaching camps and have had an opportunity to check their racing legs, opening weekend will carry the extent or racing up a notch forward of one of the crucial necessary campaigns of the season, the Spring Classics. Cyclingnews highlights six of the largest speaking factors forward of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Be taught extra concerning the Ladies’s WorldTour in Cyclingnews’ definitive information for 2023. and be a part of Cyclingnews for dwell protection of the 2023 Spring Classics, and verify in after every race for our full reviews, outcomes, galleries, information and options.
Omloop hits the big-time on the WorldTour
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad has been a historic staple of opening weekend, a treasured kick-off to the Spring Classics. It has been a part of the top-tier of occasions on the boys’s calendar since 2016, though this yr marks its debut on the Ladies’s WorldTour.
The UCI introduced Omloop Het Nieuwsblad had secured an improve and would be a part of 4 new races on the top-tier girls’s calendar this yr, together with the ladies’s Tour Down Below, Tour de Suisse and the newly-launched UAE Tour.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad’s improve was all an element organiser Flanders Classics’ plan known as Closing the Hole, which aimed to carry visibility and equality to its occasions from the underside up. The aim was to create high quality throughout all six girls’s and males’s Spring Classics; Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Gent-Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlaanderen, Tour of Flanders, Scheldeprijs and Brabantse Pijl. And the three fundamental areas of focus have been of dwell TV protection by bettering the broadcasting instances for the ladies’s races to complete after the boys’s in prime time, classification on the worldwide calendar and prize cash.
Dwars door Vlaanderen was denied top-tier standing, and it, together with De Brabantse Pijl, is a part of the Professional Sequence this yr. Scheldeprijs stays a 1.1 occasion to present alternatives for the Continental groups to take part.
It could be the primary yr that Omloop Het Nieuwsblad has made it to the Ladies’s WorldTour. Nonetheless, it was praised for taking progressive steps in prize cash and tv protection final yr, and the biking group can anticipate the identical high-quality organisation as soon as once more.
All eyes on Van Vleuten in final Omloop
When Annemiek van Vleuten toes a begin line, the peloton and followers alike have grown to count on nothing lower than a hard-fought battle to the top. The reigning World Champion’s rainbow jersey brings with it a reminder of her aggressive racing type that led to a shock world title victory and one of many most dramatic moments in professional biking final yr. Plus Van Vleuten strains up because the defending champion on the race in her ultimate yr of racing earlier than retiring on the finish of this season.
The Movistar rider has a rigorously laid out set of targets, and whereas her largest targets come later within the season on the Giro d’Italia Donne and the Tour de France Femmes, she has all the time proven an affinity for choose Spring Classics.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad marks the start of her ultimate Spring Classics marketing campaign, which additionally consists of Strade Bianche, Tour of Flanders and the Ardennes Classics. The similarities between the choice are within the problem that every route provides, be it the longer distances, steep and relentless climbs with little to no reprieve, and a basic course toughness that, in her personal phrases, raises the bar for ladies’s biking.
Van Vleuten won’t wish to waste a second of her ultimate expertise racing Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and a shot at including a 3rd victory in Ninove to kick off the win listing in her ultimate season.
New dynamic for Wiebes and Kopecky beneath the microscope
The second has arrived when the biking world will see how the brand new dynamic between Lorena Wiebes and Lotte Kopecky performs out. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad marks the primary race the place the powerhouse cyclists line up collectively as SD Worx teammates, beneath the peace of mind that there’s house sufficient for each riders, and their respective abilities and targets.
When it was confirmed that Wiebes’ had made a shock switch from Crew DSM to SD Worx, many within the biking group anticipated that the transfer may trigger a way of uneasiness for Kopecky, as if two riders of comparable power and stature won’t have the ability to co-exist on the identical workforce.
The duo have laid that hypothesis to relaxation in pre-season interviews stating that they every have totally different strengths and targets this yr. As well as, Wiebes will assume the position of a lead sprinter, and Kopecky is pleased with a wildcard position in races with more difficult terrain.
It’s shocking to see them each on the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad roster, that includes collectively so quickly within the season, and it is going to be fascinating to see how the workforce utilises every rider of their race-day techniques.
Wiebes has already begun testing out her new dash lead-out on the UAE Tour, and they’ll probably reserve her pure dash for the finale. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will mark the primary highway race of the season for each Kopecky and Demi Vollering, who was second to Van Vleuten final yr, each nice choices for late-race breakaways and diminished sprints.
Taking it up a notch
Scan via the UCI highway rankings from the top of 2022 and you may see that not a single identify among the many high ten riders is lacking from the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad begin listing. It’s the very first time this yr such a powerful group of riders have assembled on the one race.
Which may be comprehensible given the SD Worx pair of Lotte Kopecky and Demi Vollering are simply making their season debuts. Nonetheless many others have already pinned a quantity on in 2023, nevertheless even the highest riders amongst that group are but to come back collectively en masse as riders have been break up between two key race choices earlier this month. Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez) all lined up at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana whereas it was the UAE Tour for Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx), Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Silvia Persico (UAE Crew ADQ) and Marta Cavalli (FDJ Suez).
The approaching collectively of all these riders within the race to Ninove unquestionably shifts the competitors up a notch and supplies gasoline to reignite the sporting rivalries of previous seasons. Vollering, who got here second to Van Vleuten at each Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Tour de France Femmes in 2022, has talked of her need to beat Van Vleuten whereas there’s nonetheless an opportunity and this race may maybe be a possibility to modify the rostrum order. There is also the potential for a rematch for Balsamo and Wiebes, with the Dutch rider taking the ultimate podium spot at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad final yr forward of Balsamo within the bunch dash for third, which got here 25 seconds after Van Vleuten and Vollering had swept up the highest two spots.
Solo, breakaway or dash in Ninove?
One of many extra unpredictable races on the calendar, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, has led to 4 reduced-bunch sprints, seven profitable breakaways and 5 solo victories.
The race is longer this yr at 132.2km however features a comparable variation of 5 cobbled sectors and 9 climbs. The race culminates with the back-to-back Muur-Kapelmuur and the Bosberg earlier than the end in Ninove, making it one of many more difficult routes of the Spring Classics.
These ultimate ascents can grow to be the decisive factors of the race and a probable location for assaults from riders like Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) and Demi Vollering (SD Worx), who sprinted towards each other for the win final yr.
If the assaults are sturdy sufficient over these climbs to create significant separations within the discipline, they is likely to be enough to scale back the peloton to a small group, during which case a dash may ensue.
Nevertheless, loads of riders within the discipline will wish to keep away from sprinting towards the likes of Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx) or Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) into Ninove. It might be these riders who disrupt the ultimate run-in with late-race assaults, suppose Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Marta Cavalli (FDJ-SUEZ) or Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM).
The way it will finish this yr is anyone’s guess.
Do not forget about Omloop van het Hageland
Opening Weekend is historically synonymous with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Nevertheless, the organisers of the latter don’t supply a race for ladies’s discipline.
For the ladies’s peloton, opening weekend begins with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and is adopted by the Omloop van het Hageland on Sunday.
Omloop van het Hageland is likely to be the smaller of the 2 races, classed at 1.1. Nonetheless, it has offered the ladies’s discipline with an avenue to start their Spring Classics marketing campaign with a double-header weekend in Belgium, typically attracting the identical top-level groups as Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and a possibility for a number of the smaller Belgian groups to race towards the perfect on this planet.
Emma Johansson gained the inaugural version in 2011, and different former winners embody Lizzie Deignan (twice), Emily Collins, Jolien D’hoore (twice), Marta Bastianelli (3 times), Ellen van Dijk and Lorena Wiebes.
This yr, the ladies’s discipline will compete throughout 123.9k from Aarschot to Tielt-Winge on Sunday, February 26.