Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with changed finish
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with changed finish

by Bjorn Haake at 11:29 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics
 

The start and finish of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, to be held this Saturday, will be at the same location this year, on the Sint Pietersplein in Gent, Belgium. This will change the ending of the 203km race from a long uphill drag on a wide, four-lane boulevard, to an ending in the student quarters on a narrower street.

The organizer Wim Van Herreweghe banks on additional students to cheer on the riders. "The plaza is more attractive to hold such an event," Van Herreweghe told Het Nieuwsblad, the paper that sponsors the event since last year. "In the past, we were in the median that divided the inner ring of Gent, with a pretty bare finishing straight. Now the last few hundred meters lie in-between the cafes of the Overpoortstraat, and we can have a great atmosphere at the finish."

The new finish is not far from the old one. Instead of a two-km loop with the uphill finish near Citadelpark, the riders will immediately dive into the street with the most bars, cafes and restaurants in Gent. After a few hundred meters they will have the Sint Pietersplein to their right, and the finishing banner right in front of their eyes.

The fact that the climb immediately before the finish is now missing doesn't concern Van Herreweghe. "It's a constant false flat in the last few hundred meters." The missing loop had some other consequences. "The Steenakker, the last section of pavé, is barely three kilometers from the finish now. The last real obstacle, the cobble section of the Lange Munte, is now less than 20km from the finish," Van Herreweghe explained.

The riders will be glad that the plaza won't be approached from the north, as that would mean a climb just before the finish - a cobbled one at that. At this point in the race, the riders had their share of climbs - cobbled or paved. There are eleven climbs in this year's race, featuring some of the Ronde van Vlaanderen regulars, like the Leberg, the Valkenberg and of course the famous Muur of Geraardsbergen.

The final climb will be the cobbled Molenberg, which bears more importance for the Ronde preparation this year. In the Ronde, the Molenberg usually comes early and is not too significant, but a change was made this year, putting the Molenberg only six climbs from the end and making it a much more decisive point in the race. The Molenberg is known for its particularly nasty cobbles, with large gaps 'holding' up the rocks.

The race formerly known as Het Volk - another Belgian paper - used to end in Gent before the change to Lokeren for 12 years. It wasn't until 2008 when Gent was again named the finish town, possibly helped by the great experience from the 2007 Tour de France. Then, stage two also ended on the large boulevard, with the two Belgian Quick Step riders Gert Steegmans and Tom Boonen satisfying the hometown crowd.

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