The Omloop van de Westhoek is another young race on the calendar. Originally held in 2018, the race was cancelled in 2019 due to storms and then due to the pandemic in 2020. This year, thankfully, it seems to have the go ahead to take place. The parcours sees the riders in West Flanders, where they head north towards the coast. They don’t quite reach it though, falling short of the cyclocross destination of Middelkerke. Transversing the flatlands here could prove tricky but at the moment the forecast says the wind, coming from the direction of the sea, shouldn’t be too strong (11mph).
After heading back inland, the riders will have completed 52km when they join the local circuit at Ichtegem. They then complete 6 laps of 13.3km for a total race distance of 131.9km. The local lap contains a pair of lumps but at a max ascent of 30m, they shouldn’t affect the favourites much. In theory, there’s not much here to suggest anything other than a sprint finish. However in the first edition, Floortje Mackaij was able to escape the bunch and make it to the finish line solo by 10 seconds.
2020 – Not held due to COVID
2019 – Not held due to storms
2018 – Floortje Mackaij
2017 – Not held
2016 – Not held
Sunday 21st March
14:30-16:30 GMT approx.
Last 2 hours will be shown live on the race website – here
Twitter Hashtag: #OmloopWesthoek
Women’s Omloop van de Westhoek 2021 Profile
Women’s Omloop van de Westhoek 2021 Favourites
Lotte Kopecky races here on a Belgian national team rather than the usual Liv Racing outfit. It’ll be interesting to see how they work together for their main favourite. Kopecky very smoothly ascended the Nokereberg at the end of Nokere Koerse this week. With the race already won by the 3 riders ahead, she might light work of coming in as the next best rider. The winner of Le Samyn is still in good form.
Another major favourite on a national team will be Lorena Wiebes, for the Dutch team. In contrast to Kopecky, Wiebes made hard work of finishing 5th on the Nokereberg. She unleashed the power out of the saddle on the wet cobbles and the bike struggled for grip as a result. She’s almost there again where we expect her, she just needs to convert now.
Unsurprisingly, SD Worx come with the strongest team. Jolien d’Hoore was 2nd behind Elisa Balsamo at the GP Oetingen but won that first stage of the Healthy Ageing Tour. She’s their top favourite for a sprint finale. Amy Pieters took the win from the break at Nokere Koerse. Jumping clear with Lisa Klein as they joined Grace Brown in front. She quite comfortably took the win in the end. She’s still finished no lower than 6th in 2021. There’s also Lonneke Uneken who took that great solo win on the VAMberg in the Healthy Ageing Tour. She’s a useful alternative for a break or a sprint should anything happen to other riders.
Parkhotel Valkenburg’s Amber van der Hulst didn’t race Nokere Koerse in the end, despite being on an early startlist. She impressed on the final stage of the Healthy Ageing Tour, showing that she can do punchy climbs as well as flat sprints. That will help her reach the final in great shape here where the climbs are much easier. Gladys Verhulst took a great 4th place at Le Samyn for Team Arkea. Omloop van de Westhoek is the same race level as Le Samyn, which should bode well for her to match that.
Drops-Le Col rider Marjolein van ‘t Geloof was another to drop off the start list for Nokere Koerse. She’d taken part in the Healthy Ageing Tour and GP Oetingen the week before, completing 4 races in 5 days, so deserved a race off. She was 5th at Le Samyn and 9th in Stage 1 of the Healthy Ageing Tour.
I can’t quite decide which Stade Rochelais rider will be the most likely to sprint. Severine Eraud has won a similar race to this before, the Flanders Ladies Classic in 2018. She struggled coming out of lockdown last year after a good start to the season with 7th in Valencia. The saving grace was finishing 2nd in a Coupe de France race in October. Teammate Manon Souyris could do well too. She was 11th in last season’s GP International d’Isbergues, finishing just behind Alice Barnes. It’s her first race of the 2021 season.
Bingoal Casino-Chevalmeire’s Thalita de Jong ended up DNFing Nokere Koerse after I predicted she’d do well. The return to form at the GP Oetingen saw her in the front group and finish 15th despite a mechanical. Hopefully with a few days extra rest and not a full race in the legs, she’ll be able to get a similar sort of result.
Doltcini’s Bryony Van Velzen was in the lead group at Nokere Koerse until the final lap where she unfortunately was distanced. She was 15th at the flatter Le Samyn earlier in the year and that’s what she could improve upon at Omloop van de Westhoek. Her teammate Nicole Steigenga is also an option. She’s been finishing solidly in the 30s in 2021, launching the odd doomed attack for good measure. If she can recreate the finish that saw her finish 11th in last year’s Omloop van het Hageland and also win a stage of the Dubai Tour, she could make the top-10 against this field.
Lotto Soudal have their pair of options in Jesse Vandenbulcke and Abby-Mae Parkinson. Vandenbulcke has finished 25th and 22nd at GP Oetingen and Nokere Koerse and is improving. She was in the front group too at Le Samyn but unfortunately slipped out on a bend to fall down the standings. That crash gave an opportunity to Abby-Mae Parkinson, who finished 17th in the final sprint. Both have greater opportunity to perform this season without Lotte Kopecky on the team and it’ll be interesting to see which rider steps up most.
Women’s Omloop van de Westhoek 2021 Outsiders
Team Rupelcleaning’s Sara van de Vel has the chance for a good result in the sprint. She’s predominantly a time triallist but did finish 5th in a sprint at the Dubai Women’s Tour early last season. She could be very useful if she can get into the right break. I keep mentioning Kathrin Schweinberger but she’s still struggling a little bit. After scoring 20th at the GP Oetingen, she went back out to 36th at Nokere Koerse. At this easier race with a weaker startlist, she should trend in the right direction again.
Instafund’s British rider Rachel Langdon has got off to a good start in 2021 over in Turkey. She’s finished 16th in the GP Manavgat and then 21st in the GP Alanya. The startlist quality is always interesting in those races but hovering in the top-20 is still a good effort. It will be interesting to see what she can do in Belgium. NXTG’s Clara Lundmark was 14th in the first stage of the Healthy Ageing Tour. Picking a path through the chaos caused by the final chicane and Wiebes’ crash, that’s a great result for the young rider. She’s not raced since the VAMberg stage so should be fresher than most.
Finally, St Michel-Auber 93 rider Barbara Fonseca is often a solid bet for the top-25 at these sorts of races. She was 20th at La Perigord last season and 29th in the French Championship. She finished the 2020 season with a 10th place at the lower-level Mirabelle Classic race. She’s not raced so far in 2021 so her form is unknown.