Took a read through Cyclingweekly’s preview this morning, looking over the favorites for the first cobbled classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
No surprises as far as the favorites go with Sagan, Niki Terpstra, BMC’s power duo Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet and 35 year old Tom Boonen making the star list. For some odd reason, probably just the home team rooting for home boys, they threw in Sky’s Luke Rowe. Yeah we know he’s ambitious and all but seriously?
Working the process of elimination — it’s a cruel sport, after all — we’re discounting Rowe and we have second or third already reserved for Van Avermaet because that’s what the man does. His consistency is impressive and so are the number of near misses.
That brings us to Boonen. He’s had a slow start to the season, getting in his echelon work and form building down in the desert where the heat is high and local fan iinterest low. He’s probably getting used to riding with a significant loss of hearing in his left ear, the result of last year’s high speed crash in the Abu Dhabi Tour. Which means he’ll be passing on the right more often.
If Boonen hadn’t had two straight years marred by illness and injury, we’d expect Boonen to use Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as a secondary object. A nice-to-have but not a necessity. But given his completive nature and the need to raise his confidence a bit before the Flanders-Roubaix show, we think he’ll be pretty aggressive. That’s bad news for his rivals and perhaps for teammate Terpstra.
However, we’re guessing Boonen’s race plan is just to go hard and break things and abuse people and then set up Terpstra unless Niki is not feeling it on the day. Then look out for the Tornado.
That brings us to BMC-land. Van Avermaet is already slotted into second or third or worse, fourth. So that leaves Gilbert to see if he can go one better than his teammate. After his win this year in the Vuelta a Murcia, he was effusive about his team support, practically going full Cav is his gushing approvals. Will he play the good bass plater to Van Avemmaet’s lead guitar or will he play his own solo? As is often the case in the talent-loaded BMC squad– read, Porte, Van Garderen — it’s a case of juggling egos and agendas. We’re putting our money on Van Avermaet.
And finally we arrive at the man-child, world-champion, Grease lip-syncer, Peter Sagan. When he did his Grease tribute, he chose the song ‘You’re The One That I Want.” Perhaps he wasn’t referencing the sexy girl in the movie but rather Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
In our view, Sagan got a huge monkey off his back when he won the World Championship Road Race with an aggressive and bold attack. Even his grouchy team owner Oleg Tinkov, who’d been bitching Sagan out all season, admitted to being impressed.
We fully expect that 2016 is the year that Sagan finally gets his monument and what better way to signal you mean business than winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad? Bring on the wheelie across the finish line.