Of the two races this weekend if you were to ask the riders which one they would prefer to win I can guarantee you they’ll say the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Sure it’s got a higher category UCI ranking than KBK (1.HC vs 1.1) but UCI points are not what this race is about. It’s about the prestige, the history and the fact that there is never a lucky winner in the Het Nieuwsblad.
Let’s look at some great images from the last few years
Last year’s race was run under sunny skies with just arm warmers needed for the peloton in the early running at Strijpen around 90 minutes into the race.
Just a few kilometers down the road though, the arm warmers were pulled off and the early break were getting in their TV time. Look for the guys from the smaller Belgian teams, Topsport, Accent Jobs or Crelan-Euphony in the break on Saturday and if they’re not there – look for some very unhappy Director Sportifs and sponsors after the race….
Sure the race is 200km, 10 hills, and 9 sections of cobbles but there’s so much more. There’s the wind, the constant changes of direction and of course these crazy little concrete roads that you get in Belgium that make this race so tough.
And speaking of hills, here’s the famous Muur which always takes its place amongst the bergs of the Omloop. It comes a bit too early in the race to be a place to make the winning move but if you’re not positioned well here you’ll lose valuable energy in the chase.
The Taaienberg is also a classic part of the race and a great place to string out the bunch.
Leif Hoste does just that in the 2009 edition but this time it’s on the Molenberg.
Thor Hushovd hung on to all the accelerations and attacks in the 2009 edition to take the win and early 2013 form suggests that he could be competitive again on Saturday.
Back in the 90′s the race was called the Het Volk but apart from the name not much else has changed over the years, the Molenberg still hurts…..
and its cobbles are still brutal.
When it starts to rain at the Het Volk it usually doesn’t stop and the climbs and cobbles become much harder.
Check out the mud! A slippery, sloppy mess and a nightmare for many riders, whilst others excel in such conditions.
Frank Vandenbroucke overcame the weather in a rain soaked ’99 edition.
And in more recent times Sebastian Langeveld triumphed in the 2011 race.
And it would be remiss of me if I didn’t show a picture of Mr Paris-Roubaix, Roger De Vlaeminck (left) who also excelled at this race winning it in ’69 & ’79..
Now let’s talk about Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. It’s often referred to as Het Nieuwsblad’s little brother and looked down on as the consolation prize once the stars of Het Nieuwsblad have gone home. But if you win any one day race over 194kms of such brutal conditions, you’re a true ‘Flandrien’!
Despite the cobbles and the bergs in KBK this race has often come down to a small to medium sized bunch sprint with Cavendish sprinting at his devastating best last year to get the win.
Tom Boonen has twice sprinted to victory in KBK (’07 & ’09) but in 2011 he tried a different tactic and attacked with six kilometers to go…..
It didn’t work that year for Boonen though with him getting caught before the line and it was C.J Sutton who took the win for Sky.
In 2010 Bobbie Traksel put in one of the best performances at KBK that I’ve ever seen. Traksel won after being away for nearly 100km on a bitterly cold and miserable day in Flanders where just 26 of the 195 starters finished!
Traksel away alone earlier in the 2010 race.
Followed by his two breakaway partners, Flens and Stannard chasing him down.
And the remnants of the peloton, doing their best to catch back up or maybe just stay warm followed through some minutes after.
The wet cobbles of the Oude Kwaremont.
At this stage fine weather is predicted for both Saturday and Sunday but it’s going to be cold with maximum temperatures hovering around 2°C (35F). The racing will be hot though so keep it tuned to PEZ for full race reports and PeloPics over the weekend plus a full roundup of roadside reports during the week.