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Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2018 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile

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Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is the start of the Spring Classics season. It’s the first race that will lead us into the major classics of the season like Paris Roubaix and Liege Bastogne Liege. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad contains a few of the same cobbled climbs (hellingen) that are also raced over in E3 Harelbeke and the crown jewel race – the Tour of Flanders.

Puncheur riders are the most suited to this race. Those endless short, steep, cobbled climbs are designed to sap the strength from legs and most Omloop finishes contain only a handful of riders who have made the cut that day. It’s not a race for lightweight climbers who get bounced around too much on the cobbles and the pure sprinters find themselves dropped after a number of climbs. Powerful sprinters like John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff do stand a chance however. Last year’s finale saw Greg van Avermaet out-sprinting Peter Sagan and Sep Vanmarcke – the group of 3 escaping from the pack.

Omloop is the first of a double-header of a weekend along with Kuurne Brussels Kuurne.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2018 Profile

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2018 Contenders

World Champion Peter Sagan won’t be racing Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this year, that leaves 2016 & 2017 winner Greg van Avermaet as the undisputed favourite.

Popular Belgian Sep Vanmarcke has won Omloop before and has 4 top 10 results – he should be up there again at the end of the race. Another popular Belgian Oliver Naesen will be looking to improve on his 7th place last year, he’ll be easy to spot in his Belgian national champs jersey. Philippe Gilbert has won this race in the past and after his return to form in last year’s classics has made himself a contender again. His team-mate Niki Terpstra will also be keen to get a result, traditionally doing well in Omloop (4 top 10s) with a best result of 2nd when Ian Stannard somehow beat 3 Quickstep-ers.

Team Sky’s new Classics rider Dylan van Baarle will be wanting to prove his worth at his new team, not having to work for Vanmarcke should help his chances. The Trek duo of Jasper Stuyven and Fabio Felline will be looking for a good result. Felline managed 4th last year and Stuyven 8th. Dimension Data’s Edvald Boasson Hagen is a perennial one-day race contender, he’s not done Omloop since 2015 however. Frenchman Arnaud Demare will be in the hunt as a powerful sprint, he has finished in top 10 twice as well.

Lotto has a triple threat in Tiesj Benoot, Jens Keukeleire and Tim Wellens. All have the potential to place highly, Benoot came 3rd in 2016. Keukeleire may be more suited to some of the other races during the Spring to excel in Omloop. Tim Wellens is fresh from a rare stage race win in the Vuelta a Andalucia so must have good form. Matteo Trentin will carry the hopes of Mitchelton-Scott, he finished 9th last year for Quickstep.

Sunweb’s guys will be Michael Matthews and Edward Theuns.  This will be Matthew’s first Omloop since a DNF in 2013 as he looks to do a fuller Spring Classics campaign. Edward Theuns had an off year at Omloop last year but has been in the top 15 a few times before then. A Winter move to the Sunweb team may reinvigorate his classics campaign.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2018 Outsiders

The Cofidis charge will be led by Dimitri Claeys, a previous top 10 finish in the Tour of Flanders means he could replicate that on the easier race of Omloop. A recent 13th in the Etoile de Besseges shows some 2018 form.  Verandas Willems’ Sean de Bie had an even better Etoile de Besseges, finishing 8th and winning a stage. Now able to race for himself rather than as a helper at Lotto Soudal he may be able to get a result for himself at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.  Last year’s Le Samyn winner, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck of Wanty – Groupe Gobert is an outsider at all the races during the Spring Classics season. Dutch team Roompot – Nederlandse Lotterij have two outsider shots in Brian van Goethem and Coen Vermeltfoort – a top 20 for either would be a great result.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2018 Prediction

1 – Oliver Naesen
2 – Greg Van Avermaet
3 – Sep Vanmarcke