Next Saturday, the first big Flemish cycling festival of the year is on the programme. The city of Ghent and ‘t Kuipke are already preparing themselves to celebrate the 75th birthday of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The provisional list of participants is filled with big names who can turn this jubilee edition into an unforgettable race. According to the provisional list, Zdenek Stybar has to put up with tough competition in his quest for a new victory in Ninove.
Last year, the Belgian Deceuninck – Quick-Step could celebrate after Zdenek Stybar’s solo. The 29th of February, the Czech will pin number 1 on his back and defend his title. He gets support from Lampaert, Jungels and Asgreen, who came second in the Tour of Flanders last year. Within the other Belgian WorldTeam Lotto Soudal, all eyes are on the leader who is back again: Philippe Gilbert. He can try to take the win in the opening classic together with his compatriot Wellens.
Also among the other WorldTeams, Belgians are shining on the provisional list of participants. Jasper Stuyven and Edward Theuns will take the start next week at the side of none other than world champion Mads Pedersen for Trek-Segafredo. At CCC Team, two-fold winner Greg Van Avermaet can become shared recordholder with a new victory. His all new team mate Trentin will support him. At AG2R La Mondiale we look forward to the brothers Naesen and their compatriot Vandenbergh. Another former winner can be found on the list of EF Pro Cycling. Sep Vanmarcke took the victory in the opening classic in 2012 and this year he can count on the support of Jens Keukeleire.
Tiesj Benoot, born and raised in Ghent, will be at the start for the first time for his new team Team Sunweb. At Bahrain – McLaren we look forward to Dylan Teuns, Sonny Colbrelli and Heinrich Haussler. The Spanish Movistar places its bets on Jürgen Roelandts, while the French Cofidis, who were rewarded a WorldTour license this year, counts on the Belgians Claeys and Vermote. Israel Start-Up Nation hold a WorldTour license for 2020 as well and they count on the German Nils Politt. At Team Ineos we see the familiar names of Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe. Team NTT deploys the winner of 2018, Michael Valgren, and Alexander Kristoff will be of service for UAE Team Emirates.
Many supporters are undoubtedly looking forward to Alpecin-Fenix, who will be at the start thanks to a wildcard. Last season, the dutchman Mathieu van der Poel took the victory in both Dwars door Vlaanderen and De Brabantse Pijl and this year he will be present at ‘t Kuipke as leader of this formation. Besides, he will be battling it out against that other dutchman who more than once shone in Flanders Classics races, Niki Terpstra from Total Direct Energie.
So Linde Merckpoel and Stijn Vlaeminck will be able to welcome a lot of fine people at ‘t Kuipke. Do not hesitate, entrance to the historic cycling venue is completely free. Make sure to be there Saturday 29 February at 9.30 am!
(c) Sigfrid Eggers