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Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2022: Who are the women's favourites?

Cyclist looks at potential contenders for the Opening Weekend delight: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Robyn Davidson
22 Feb 2022
  • Date: 26th February 2022
  • Route: Ghent to Ninove, 128km
  • Edition: 17th
  • Previous winner: Anna van der Breggen (2021)

Cyclists, contenders and cobbles, oh my! We’ve only gone and made it through another off season with the hotly anticipated opening weekend finally in sight.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad theoretically opens the curtains for the performance of the upcoming road season to unfold. Riders arrive on the start line after already participating in races such as the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and Santos Festival of Cycling.

Coronavirus’ unpredictable influence continues to impact the peloton. Le Col-Wahoo were forced to pull their riders from the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana peloton due to Covid cases and close contacts, instead now making their debut at Omloop.

The start presentation at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will be open to 4,000 cycling fans in ‘t Kuipke while the team zone will not be, due to Covid measures.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2022 women's teams

12 UCI Women’s World Tour teams, including heavyweights like SD Worx, Jumbo-Visma and Movistar, and 12 UCI Women’s Continental teams such as Valcar – Travel & Service and Le Col-Wahoo will be ready for the commencements of the classics.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2022 women's route and climbs

The peloton will scale nine climbs and seven cobbled sections over the 128.4km from Ghent to Ninove. Despite no official route reveal yet, it is unlikely to deviate from previous editions.

The race will likely finish with ascents of the legendary Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg before arriving in the finish town of Ninove.

But who are the favourites for the women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad? Let’s dive in…

Annemiek van Vleuten, Team Movistar

Of course. Annemiek Van Vleuten is an odds-on favourite for almost every race under the sun.

She labelled her 2021 season as ‘the best yet’, propelling to the top of the UCI rankings in the process, but endured a season-ending crash at Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

Van Vleuten is already off to a flying start this year however, victorious in the overall classification at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana.

She attacked on the mountainous Queen Stage on the category one Alto del Collao, holding her lead by over a minute until the finish and staying safe on the final day to defend her overall victory.

Van Vleuten will be aiming to replicate her 2020 success at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. She broke away on the Kapelmuur – 17km before the finish line – and won by 42 seconds ahead of Marta Bastianelli, Floortje Mackaij and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak. 

Elisa Balsamo, Trek-Segafredo

On the subject of early season wins, how about Elisa Balsamo?

There’s been no rainbow curse for the world champion, surging to first stage victory at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana thanks to a perfect leadout from Elisa Longo Borghini, who is also one to watch for Omloop.

Trek-Segafredo continued their success the following stage with a win for Ellen van Dijk.

The 23-year-old will be looking to capitalise on her early-season form throughout the Spring Classics towards the Tour de France Femmes and will no doubt be one to watch as the peloton rolls out from Ghent on Opening Weekend.

Lotte Kopecky, SD Worx

Death. Taxes. Lotte Kopecky at the pointy end of a race.

Her recent move to SD Worx lands the Belgian champion in a team packed with talent that will no doubt bolster her career to even greater heights.

Kopecky placed fourth at the last edition of Omloop behind Anna van der Breggen, who retired at the end of the 2021 season but remains in the sport as a directeur sportif with SD Worx.

Her first victory in the classics stems from Le Samyn des Dames in 2021. Kopecky clinched the win in a reduced bunch sprint after 'disappointment' from her fourth in Omloop, and will be looking for more cobbled success.

Demi Vollering, SD Worx

Kopecky’s teammate Demi Vollering needs little introduction. Her star has quickly risen, coinciding with her move to SD Worx in 2021, and her versatility is one of her biggest strengths.

Since then she has won the overall in The Women’s Tour and La Course, a stand-out moment also being her Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory in April last year in which she surged to victory ahead of van Vleuten and Longo Borghini in a five-up sprint.

Depending on how the race and unfolds and SD Worx’s tactics, you can be sure Vollering will be involved.

Grace Brown, FDJ-Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope

Speaking from the FDJ-Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope team presentation, new addition Brown stated her intentions for the upcoming season.

She was able to compete in the Santos Festival of Cycling at the beginning of the year, usually a staple season opener with the Tour Down Under that has been adjusted for Covid in recent years.

After winning the Australian time trial and finishing second in the road race, Brown reflected on the new team culture that FDJ would bring.

She’s recovered from her season-ending shoulder injury and is raring to go further, Belgian races such as Brabantse Pijl and Classic Brugge-De Panne already proving fruitful for the 29-year-old.

With teammates such as Marta Cavalli, FDJ-Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope will certainly have cards to play.

‘Like [Cecilie] mentioned, just having that ability to play in the finals… a lot of my races last year, I was alone in. It’ll be really cool to have fun at the pointy end of the races.’

The women's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad takes place on the 26th of February.

Photo credits: Team SD Worx (lead image), Luis Angel Gomez via ASO, BettiniPhoto via Trek-Segafredo, Fabien Boukla via ASO, Gautier Demouveaux via ASO, FDJ-Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope

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