European women’s season opens with Het Nieuwsblad
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Friday, February 26, 2010

European women’s season opens with Het Nieuwsblad

by Ben Atkins at 6:11 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics
 

The start of the men’s classics season also sees the start of the women’s season in Europe with the fifth running of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for women. The race shares its start and finish in Gent with the men’s race, and covers a similar course of cobbles and hills around the Flemish countryside.

Who will win?

2006 and 2009 winner Suzanne De Goede leads her new Nederland Bloeit team that is once again Marianne Vos-less, as the World cyclocross champion delays the start of her road season until the Trofeo Binda World Cup on March 28th. While not possessing the pure speed of many others, De Goede can pack a powerful punch at the end of a tough race like this, and is supported this year by the cream of the defunct Flexpoint team in Loes Gunnewijk and Loes Markerink.

Probably the hottest favourite for the race though is 2008 winner Kirsten Wild (Cervélo TestTeam), coming off the back of a successful defence of her Tour of Qatar title. The Dutch sprinter will be supported by most of the team that carried her to victory in Qatar, and is strengthened by the experience of two-time Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel.

Other likely contenders include 2009 World Cup runner-up Emma Johansson (RedSun Cycling) who will be looking to improve on her third place in 2008. Latest Dutch prodigy Chantal Blaak (Leontien.nl) was fourth last year and fears no one in the sprint, not even Wild.

The big absence, besides Marianne Vos, is that of the HTC-Columbia team. Admittedly, the team didn’t ride this race last year but bristles with classics quality. Last year’s second and sixth placed riders, Noemi Cantele and Adrie Visser, joined the team this year.

A tough classic course

Unlike the men’s race, which is a full 60km shorter than its more illustrious cousin the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the women’s Het Nieuwsblad is actually slightly longer and therefore just as tough.

In the 122.5km race the peloton will tackle seven of the toughest climbs that the Flemish Ardennes has to offer. A new addition to the course this year is the fearsome Paterberg; this will be the first time a women’s race has tackled its 20% cobbled slopes and many will likely find themselves walking up, just as the men often do.

The final climb, the cobbled Molenberg, comes with more than 35km still to race, so sprinters’ teams will have plenty of time to regroup and pull back breakaways. With Wild at the head of the formidable Cervélo TestTeam, it seems almost inevitable that a bunch gallop is on the cards. The big question is: can anyone beat her?

Hills:
1. Moregemplein
2. Kluisberg
3. Côte de Trieu (Knokteberg)
4. Paterberg
5. Edelareberg
6. Wolvenberg
7. Molenberg

Past Winners:
2006 Suzanne De Goede
2007 Mie Bekker Lacota
2008 Kirsten Wild
2009 Suzanne De Goede

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