Preview of the opening weekend of the classics, as top-level racing resumes in Europe

Having spent the early part of the year in far-flung places such as Australia, Oman, Qatar, Dubai and Argentina, the professional peloton will assemble in Belgium this coming weekend for the traditional European season kick off: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is the first of the cobbled classics, and takes place on Saturday February 27. The following day, Sunday February 28, many of the same riders will take part in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

For those riders arriving fresh from the Tours of Qatar and Oman it can be a major shock to the system. Gone are the high temperatures and swanky hotels, to be replaced by barely-above-zero-degrees conditions, rough roads and healthy helpings of frites.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2016

Taylor Phinney in the 2014 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Cobbles, climbs and bad weather: welcome to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

When: Saturday February 27
Distance: 200.8km
Start: Ghent
Finish: Ghent
Rank: UCI 1.HC
Official website: www.omloophetnieuwsblad.be

The race comprises everything you want and expect in a race hosted by Flanders: including cobbled sections and a series of punishing climbs. This year’s route includes 13 climbs, including the Boembekeberg introduced into the race to replace the Molenberg, which is closed due to roadworks.

The long-running men’s race was joined by a women’s edition in 2006, which uses a shortened version of the course and runs on the same day.

Winner for the past two years, British rider Ian Stannard (Sky) has elected to miss the race to concentrate on goals further into the spring classics leaving the way clear for a new winner. Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen won last year’s women’s race, with Brit Lizzie Armitstead in third.

>>> Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2016 start list

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Recent winners

2015 Ian Stannard
2014 Ian Stannard
2013 Luca Paolini
2012 Sep Vanmarcke
2011 Sebastian Langeveld
2010 Juan Antonio Flecha
2009 Thor Hushovd
2008 Philippe Gilbert
2007 Filippo Pozzato
2006 Philippe Gilbert

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: TV guide

The BIKE Channel (Sky 464 and Virgin 552) will be showing live coverage of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Saturday, February 27
13.15, LIVE Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, BIKE Channel
20.30, Full repeat of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, BIKE Channel

Monday, February 29
21.00, Highlights of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, BIKE Channel



Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2016

Mark Cavendish wins the 2015 Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (Watson)

Mark Cavendish wins the 2015 Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (Watson)

When: Sunday February 28
Distance: 200.7km
Start: Kuurne
Finish: Kuurne
Rank: UCI 1.1
Official website: www.kuurne-brussel-kuurne.be

With the final of the race’s 11 climbs encountered over 50km before the finish line, KBK has established itself as something of a sprinters’ classic. Mark Cavendish has won here twice in the past four years, and Tom Boonen has won the race on three occasions.

>>> Seven riders to watch at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

Cavendish is absent this year as he prepares for the Track World Championships, but Boonen returns with a typically strong Etixx-QuickStep team. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) is also scheduled to take part in both races, and cannot be ruled out of either one as he seeks to finally make his mark in the classics this year.

The winner of the race receives the legendary Kuurne cuddly donkey for their efforts.

>>> Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2016 start list

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Recent winners

2015 Mark Cavendish
2014 Tom Boonen
2013 Cancelled due to snow
2012 Mark Cavendish
2011 Chris Sutton
2010 Bobbie Traksel
2009 Tom Boonen
2008 Steven de Jongh
2007 Tom Boonen
2006 Nick Nuyens

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: TV guide

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne will be shown live on Eurosport.

Sunday, February 28
14.00, LIVE Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Eurosport 1 and HD
17.00, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne highlights, Eurosport 2 and HD
23.10, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne highlights, Eurosport 1 and HD