OMLOOP HET NIEUWSBLAD Jasper Stuyven takes the victory • All images by Chris Auld

Saturday, February 29, 2020
[MEN] Start: Ghent. Finish: Ninove. Distance: 200 km.
[WOMEN] Start: Ghent. Finish: Ninove. Distance: 126.1 km.

THE HISTORY
This season-opening classic was created as the Omloop van Vlaanderen (“Circuit of Flanders”) right after World War II by the left-wing Belgium newspaper Het Volk (“The People”) in response to rival daily, the right-wing Het Nieuwsblad (“The Newspaper”), whose major event the Ronde van Vlaanderen (“Tour of Flanders”) had continued to be held throughout the war years thanks to the assistance of the occupying German forces. The owners of Het Nieuwsblad objected to the new race’s name as being too similar to their Ronde, so its title was changed in 1947 to the Omloop Het Volk. But they didn’t like that name either, so in the pages of Het Nieuwsblad the race was referred to as Gent–Gent, after the race’s start and finish. Ironically, six decades later the bigger newspaper bought the smaller one, and the name was changed from Omloop Het Volk to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2009. Although Belgians (including Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck and Philippe Gilbert) won all but eight of the first 63 editions, non-Belgians have won eight of the past 11 editions. The race was upgraded to a UCI WorldTour classic in 2017. The women’s edition has been held since 2006.

THE COURSE
The start and finish remained in Ghent until 2017—except for a few years when the finish was in Lokeren. The first significant change came in 2018 when the organizers adopted the former finale of the Ronde over the Kappelmuur and Bosberg climbs into Meerbeke. Nearby Ninove now hosts the finish of the 200-kilometer Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, which still starts in Ghent. A total of nine sections of “flat” cobblestones, along with 13 hills in the Flemish Ardennes, make this a perfect dress rehearsal for the Ronde. There are six climbs in the final 42 kilometers, starting with the Omloop’s signature hill, the Molenberg, and ending with the Bosberg, 13 kilometers from Ninove.

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WHAT DID JOHN WILCOCKSON PREDICT?

The most successful riders in recent editions have been Belgians Greg Van Avermaet (two wins, two seconds) and Sep Vanmarcke (one win, two thirds) and Slovak Peter Sagan (two seconds). These three should again be in contention.

MEN’S TOP 10
1. STUYVEN Jasper (TFS TREK – SEGAFREDO) 5:03:24
2. LAMPAERT Yves (DQT DECEUNINCK – QUICK – STEP) 5:03:24
3. KRAGH ANDERSEN Søren (SUN TEAM SUNWEB) @0:00:06
4. TRENTIN Matteo (CCC CCC TEAM) @0:00:39
5. DECLERCQ Tim (DQT DECEUNINCK – QUICK – STEP) @0:01:28
6. TEUNISSEN Mike (TJV TEAM JUMBO – VISMA) @0:01:28
7. NAESEN Oliver (ALM AG2R LA MONDIALE) @0:01:28
8. GILBERT Philippe (LTS LOTTO SOUDAL) @0:01:28
9. KÜNG Stefan (GFC GROUPAMA – FDJ) @0:01:28
10. SENECHAL Florian (DQT DECEUNINCK – QUICK – STEP) @0:01:28

WOMEN’S TOP 10
1. VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek (MTS MITCHELTON – SCOTT) 3:34:55 2 21
2. BASTIANELLI Marta (ALE ALE’ BTC LJUBLJANA) @0:00:42
3. MACKAIJ Floortje (SUN TEAM SUNWEB) @0:00:42
4. VAN DEN BROEK-BLAAK Chantal (DLT BOELS DOLMANS CYCLINGTEAM) @0:00:42
5. VAN DIJK Ellen (TFS TREK – SEGAFREDO) @0:00:44
6. BANKS Elizabeth (BIG BIGLA – KATUSHA) @0:01:13
7. BUJAK Eugenia (ALE ALE’ BTC LJUBLJANA) @0:01:13
8. HOSKING Chloe (RLW RALLY CYCLING) @0:01:30
9. VAN DEN BOS Jip (DLT BOELS DOLMANS CYCLINGTEAM) @0:01:30
10. BIANNIC Aude (MOV MOVISTAR TEAM WOMEN) @0:01:30

Words: John Wilcockson.