Big names gear up for cobbles

Fri, 24 Feb 14:15:00 2012

The European classics season begins this weekend with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad followed by Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

CYCLING, Omloop Het Volk - 0

The 67th edition of Het Nieuwsblad, previously known as Omloop Het Volk, on Saturday comprises many of the same short, sharp cobbled climbs used in the Tour of Flanders.

Unseasonably warm weather is expected for the race, which begins and finishes in Ghent, with the riders covering 200 kilometres including 10 climbs and nine sections of pavé.

The race was traditionally dominated by Belgians. However only one home rider has won in the last five editions; Belgian hopes this year rest with national champion Philippe Gilbert.

Team BMC's Gilbert, winner in 2006 and 2008, said: "For me, it is important to be here in Belgium, with the national champion's jersey. I will see how the race will go Saturday. It's not the most important race, but it is still a nice one.

"We have a strong team, it will be really helpful because the main thing here is to have many guys remaining in the group close to the finish and I think one of us can be close to the win."

Tom Boonen will start favourite in the Flemish classic with Greg Van Avermaet another home hope but the likes of Juan Antonio Flecha, Matti Breschel, Heinrich Haussler and Thor Hushovd are expected to challenge.

On Sunday is Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the second 1.HC race of the weekend and normally one that favours the sprinters.

The last climb comes 53km before the finish and Mark Cavendish has identified the race as an early-season target.

He will hope to be led-out in a sprint by last year's winner Chris Sutton but the Team Sky duo must beware of fellow quickmen Andre Greipel, Tyler Farrar, former team-mate Mark Renshaw and two-time former winner Boonen.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Most wins - Riders

3 Ernest Sterckx BEL 1952, 1953, 1956

3 Joseph Bruyère BEL 1974, 1975, 1980

3 Peter Van Petegem BEL 1997, 1998, 2002

2 André Declerck BEL 1949, 1950

2 Jean Bogaerts BEL 1945, 1951

2 Frans Verbeeck BEL 1970, 1972

2 Eddy Merckx BEL 1971, 1973

2 Freddy Maertens BEL 1977, 1978

2 Roger De Vlaeminck BEL 1969, 1979

2 Fons De Wolf BEL 1982, 1983

2 Eddy Planckaert BEL 1984, 1985

2 Johan Capiot BEL 1990, 1992

2 Wilfried Nelissen BEL 1993, 1994

2 Johan Museeuw BEL 2000, 2003

2 Philippe Gilbert BEL 2006, 2008

Most wins - Countries

53 Belgium

4 Netherlands

3 Italy

1 Ireland

1 Germany

1 Norway

1 Spain

Last 10 podiums

2011 Sebastian Langeveld (NED) Juan Antonio Flecha (ESP) Mathew Hayman (AUS)

2010 Juan Antonio Flecha (ESP) Heinrich Haussler (GER) Tyler Farrar (USA)

2009 Thor Hushovd (NOR) Kevyn Ista (BEL) Juan Antonio Flecha (ESP)

2008 Philippe Gilbert (BEL) Nick Nuyens (BEL) Thor Hushovd (NOR)

2007 Filippo Pozzato (ITA) Juan Antonio Flecha (ESP) Tom Boonen (BEL)

2006 Philippe Gilbert (BEL) Bert De Waele (BEL) Leon van Bon (NED)

2005 Nick Nuyens (BEL) Tom Boonen (BEL) Steven de Jongh (NED)

2003 Johan Museeuw (BEL) Max van Heeswijk (NED) Paolo Bettini (ITA)

2002 Peter Van Petegem (BEL) Frank Høj (DEN) Michel Van Haecke (BEL)


Most wins - Riders

2 Jef Planckaert BEL 1955, 1960

2 Léon Van Daele BEL 1954, 1961

2 Roger De Vlaeminck BEL 1970, 1971

2 Frans Verhaegen BEL 1975, 1976

2 Walter Planckaert BEL 1973, 1979

2 Jan Raas NED 1980, 1983

2 Hendrik Redant BEL 1988, 1990

2 Johan Museeuw BEL 1994, 1997

2 Andrei Tchmil BEL 1998, 2000

2 Steven de Jongh NED 2004, 2008

2 Tom Boonen BEL 2007, 2009

Most wins - Countries

50 Belgium

8 Netherlands

1 West Germany

1 Germany

1 France

1 Denmark

1 Estonia

1 United States

1 Australia

Last 10 podiums

2011 Chris Sutton (AUS) Yauheni Hutarovich (BLR) André Greipel (GER)

2010 Bobbie Traksel (NED) Rick Flens (NED) Ian Stannard (GBR)

2009 Tom Boonen (BEL) Bernhard Eisel (AUT) Jeremy Hunt (GBR)

2008 Steven de Jongh (NED) Sebastian Langeveld (NED) Matthew Goss (AUS)

2007 Tom Boonen (BEL) Marcel Sieberg (GER) Iljo Keisse (BEL)

2006 Nick Nuyens (BEL) Leif Hoste (BEL) Tom Boonen (BEL)

2005 George Hincapie (USA) Kevin Van Impe (BEL) Bert Roesems (BEL)

2004 Steven de Jongh (NED) Paolo Bettini (ITA) Gerben Löwik (NED)

2003 Roy Sentjens (NED) Leif Hoste (BEL) Volker Ordowski (GER)

2002 Jann Kirsipuu (EST) Serge Baguet (BEL) Enrico Cassani (ITA)

Lee Walker - Follow on Twitter: @Lee_Eurosport / Eurosport

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