Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women 2023 Race Preview

Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women History

Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women will be part of the Women’s WorldTour for the first time in 2022! A long history back to 2006 has seen the race slowly elevate itself through the levels from 1.2 to 1.WWT. The honours board contains some of the very best riders in the women’s peloton – the likes of Van Vleuten, Van der Breggen, Van den Broek-Blaak, Brand, Deignan, Pieters, Johansson and Wild. Famously, it also saw the first win in her first race of Mie Lacota before her cycling career began to have more lows than highs.

Last year’s race saw an epic finale where SD Worx rider Demi Vollering just sat on Annemiek van Vleuten’s wheel for the final 10km from the summit of the Bosberg. The presence of Lotte Kopecky in the group behind was the reason but also Van Vleuten’s strength. After 10km of taking the wind, all of the smart money was on an easy victory for a rest Demi Vollering. Instead, Van Vleuten had gone at such a pace that Vollering was blowing hard, even in the draft. When Van Vleuten launched a super long sprint, not far off the entire final kilometre, that was unable to be matched.

This year’s course sees the usual Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg finish, also known as the ‘old Tour of Flanders’ finish but also the return of the Molenberg. That cobbled climb was removed from the route last year due to roadworks on the approach road, preventing the peloton from being able to even get near it. The Molenberg is almost uniquely tight as soon as the riders turn onto it and poor positioning there can be race defining.

Previous Winners

Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women 2023 Profile

TV Coverage

Saturday 25th February 2023

Live on ES/GCN
15:30-17:00 GMT

Twitter: #OmloopWomen or #OHN23

Startlist: FirstCycling

Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women 2023 Contenders

The addition of Liane Lippert and Floortje Mackaij has made Movistar absolutely stacked for this year’s Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women. Led by Annemiek van Vleuten, Movistar will have the full scope of their team for the first European Women’s WorldTour race of the 2023 season. Van Vleuten has won 2 of the last 3 editions but didn’t look in her absolute best form at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, unable to distance some rivals. Liane Lippert had a surprisingly poor UAE Tour Women, despite finishing actually 9th in GC. It was a surprise to see her struggling in the wind after a strong 2nd place at Vuelta CV Feminas. Floortje Mackaij won that race, podiumed Clasica de Almeria and then was 6th in GC at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. The Dutch rider is in great form and has a genuine shot to win here and will be encouraged to attack.
If it does come back down to a sprint, Movistar also has cards to play in Arlenis Sierra and Emma Norsgaard. Sierra has 3 top-10s already in 2023 from racing in Spain. Norsgaard has the higher results though with 2nd at Women Cycling Pro Costa De Almería and 4th on a UAE Tour Women stage. We can expect to see both in the mix in Ninove.

We get to see the first time SD Worx has had to manage the combined skills of Lorena Wiebes and Lotte Kopecky. Much was made of the riders going for similar races, although Kopecky seems focused on maybe some of the hillier races in 2023. The sight of seeing Lotte Kopecky leading out Wiebes will feel like a little bit of a waste but has the potential to make the team very tough to beat. If it comes to a bunch sprint, you really favour SD Worx to win or to get on the podium behind any breakaway winners. The other card to play is Demi Vollering who really should have won last year’s race. It’s the first race of the season for her so her current form is unknown. As ever though, when it comes to these climbs she will be a contender.

Elisa Balsamo took 2 victories at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana last week and will have gained confidence from that. She was 4th in last year’s Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women, finishing behind Lorena Wiebes in the bunch sprint. She will take more confidence from Wiebes being beaten in the UAE as well. Elisa Longo Borghini had a slow start to last season but has got 2023 off to a flyer with a GC win at the UAE Tour Women. It’s never really been the Italian’s race though, solid results for sure but a best of only 5th in 2011 & 2017.Ellen van Dijk will start her 2023 season here and can count on 6 top-10 results at Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women over the years. She’s been 2nd in both 2012 & 2015 but also finished 5th more recently in 2020. She will always be a threat, especially with a flat run-in to the finish.

I’m not sure what to think of Canyon SRAM’s chances at Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women. On paper, it’s a strong collection of riders but none of them has a particularly good record here. Even Kasia Niewiadoma‘s best result in 6 efforts is 12th from 2017. She’s yet to race so far in 2023 so her form isn’t known yet. Swiss rider Elise Chabbey is coming off a 5th place in GC at UAE Tour Women and is clearly in good form. She was 24th in her one and only edition here in 2021. Soraya Paladin was 7th in the UAE but has never finished higher than 16th (2022) in this race. Aussie Sarah Roy was 12th in the 2020 edition and has a 5th place sprint finish this season but you feel she will support Shari Bossuyt, who unfortunately had a bit of a shocker of a Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. She crashed on Stage 1 and then positioning amongst the millions of roundabouts on Stage 2 saw her down in 15th place.
All of these riders are absolutely capable of a top-3 finish at Omloop het Nieuwsblad, it’s just the formbook and history is saying to maybe look elsewhere.

Marta Bastianelli
Marta Bastianelli

FDJ-SUEZ hasn’t had the best February so far. Many tipped the team to do well in the UAE Tour Women, where a serious climb would give Marta Cavalli a chance to shine but she was repeatedly caught out by the winds. That affected Grace Brown’s chances as she had to do some pulling work instead. Then over in Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig struggled to make a major impact, finishing 10th in GC. We saw a couple of attacks but it seemed to indicate that the form peaks are going to be later in the year. Between all 3, there are attacking cards to play, the team certainly can’t wait for a sprint finish. Cavalli has a pair of top-10s, 9th in both 2018 & 2021 and Grace Brown was 8th in 2021. It’s never really been Uttrup Ludwig’s race with a best of 17th, also in 2021. Loes Adegeest will be the interesting card to play after her win at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. The Dutch rider also just retained her eSports World title this week too.

Whilst it’s been a slow start to the year for Marta Bastianelli, that’s mainly down to working for Chiara Consonni at the UAE Tour Women. She has a strong history at Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women however, with 4 top-10 results in a row, including twice finishing 2nd at the start of that run in 2019 & 2020. I suspect the sprint talent here will be too strong for a repeat podium but top-10 is a good possibility. She’s supported by Sofia Bertizzolo, who’s had a mixed week at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and Silvia Persico who finished 3rd in GC at the UAE Tour Women. The latter probably represents the team’s best chance to win form wise, even if her best result at Omloop is only the 22nd place she finished in last year.

I’m not quite sure how to rate Charlotte Kool‘s chances at Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women. The Dutch rider managed to beat Lorena Wiebes twice at the UAE Tour Women but her prospects here are tempered by a best result of 91st and 2 DNFs in her past. She will be a threat in any final sprint but it remains to be seen if she can get there. Teammate Pfeiffer Georgi might present the all-round option for Team DSM. A best finish of 45th whilst working for Lorena Wiebes in previous years probably doesn’t represent all she can do. Clearly in good form, she was 3rd on a UAE Tour Women stage whilst leading out Kool, you can see how Georgi could make the top 10. Also a small nod to Elise Uijen who took her first pro win at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana last week. A certain indicator of some good form.

Anna Henderson
Anna Henderson

Jumbo-Visma comes to this year’s race with 4 riders who have previously finished in the top 12 of Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women. Anna Henderson finished 7th in last year’s race, Karlijn Swinkels 11th also last year, Coryn Labecki 5th back in 2018 and Riejanne Markus 12th in 2021. Anna Henderson hasn’t raced so far in 2023 but the other 3 riders all have top-10s in 2023 already. For Swinkels, 3rd on the final stage at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, Riejanne Markus was 4th the stage before that and Coryn Labecki was 3rd and 7th in the first 2 stages. It’s hard to see the team securing a win but they should be well-represented nonetheless.

The chances of Liv Racing Xstra’s Rachele Barbieri depend pretty much on making the final sprint. Whether she gets there though remains to be seen. She’s had a pair of DNFs at this race in the past but they come from 2016 & 2010 when the Italian was a different rider. Her comeback to the road last season showed what she can do in tough races but we’re yet to see what she can do so far in the 2023 season.

Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women feels like a Maria Giulia Confalonieri type of race. Tough but no doubt with a sprint at the end of it. The Italian was 8th in last year’s race and can look back to 2018 where she finished 3rd as well. A move to a new team in Uno-X has already seen her finish 4th and 6th in UAE Tour Women stages. It feels like those sorts of results are on the table in this year’s race.

Arianna Fidanza has started the 2023 season in some form. Winning the Women Cycling Pro Costa del Ameria, she then finished 7th at the Vuelta CV Feminas too. Her climbing skills there were evident again at the UAE Tour Women, where she finished 14th on the major climb to Jebel Hafeet. That bodes well for a hilly race here and she can improve on a best finish of 48th.

Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women 2023 Outsiders

Julie de WIlde
Julie de WIlde

I’m expecting a big season from Fenix-Deceuninck’s Julie de Wilde this year. She ends up in the Outsiders section though because De Wilde has never raced Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women before. With the race’s tendency to finish as a solo/pair and then a decent-sized bunch sprint, I can definitely see how her team gets her into a great position to contest that. It’s a bit all or nothing though, De Wilde could finish top-10 or the toughness of the race and its climbs will see her well out of contention.

It’s a similar story for Zoe Backstedt in her first road race of the 2023 season. She’s never done Omloop het Nieuwsblad before but had the right skill set to be able to navigate the cobbled sections and be punchy enough to get up the Muur near the front of the race. Experience does play a role in winning these sorts of races, but Backstedt being based out of Oudenaarde at the moment will surely help narrow that gap.

Last year’s race saw Swedish rider Julia Borgström finish in the top-15. It was the first result of a season that saw her achieve a strong set of finishes, including 8th in GC at the RideLondon Classique. Only 21 years old, we’ll see if she has continued to develop and is able to build on last year’s results.

Anne Dorthe Ysland finished 13th here last year, whilst supporting Julie Leth to get near the top-10. Her 2022 season was up and down due to crashes and things but getting the 2023 season off to another decent start could see the Norwegian have a career year. Ysland looked good in her 2021 season with Hitec Products and there is more to come. Her teammate Anouska Koster doesn’t have the best results over the years at Omloop het Nieuwsblad Women, with 16th being her best result. However, she’s started the 2023 season off well with 8th at Vuelta CV Feminas and sprinting to 4th on the final stage of Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and 12th Overall. In that form, she can do well here.

Top 3 Prediction