MCNALLY RARING TO GO FOR HET NIEUWSBLAD
For most riders, the Het Niuewsblad is, though the starting point of the cobbled Classics season, just another race. For AN Post-Sean Kelly rider Mark McNally, it carries considerably loftier meaning, as the biggest race of his fledgling career and the realisation of a childhood dream.
"Ever since I started cycling I've watched this race on the telly. I still can't believed that I'm going to be riding it," he enthused.
The Liverpudlian has had a steady start to his continental career. After finishing the GP Marseillaise outside of the time limit, he got in the break of the day on the fourth stage of the Etoile de Besseges.
However, McNally was afflicted by the nasty stomach bug that hit the bunch on the race's penultimate stage and was a non-starter the next day.
Despite the setback, McNally is confident that he's in good shape for Saturday's test. "I think I'm going similar if not better to how I was in Besseges - I'm in the best shape I've ever been this time of year."
Het Niuewsblad represents another considerable step up. McNally is expecting to work for seasoned veteran and team leader Nico Eeckhout.
The former GB Academy rider is at least no stranger to the cobbles. As a junior, he did training camps in Northern France and Belgium and has raced the junior Paris-Roubaix and U23 Tour of Flanders.
"We rode the last 170km of the course yesterday. There's not much respite, I think it'll be a war of attrition. I'll get stuck in, that's all I can do," he vowed.
WIGGINS SECOND IN RUTA DEL SOL TIME TRIAL
Bradley Wiggins finished second in the fourth stage of the Ruta del Sol, a 10km time trial around Malaga.
It was the Briton's first competitive individual time trial of the year and he clocked a time of 13-04, just five seconds down on stage-winner Alex Rasmussen of Saxo Bank.
It was also an opportunity for Wiggins to test his new time trial bike, a Pinarello machine designed in partnership with British Cycling.
Michael Rogers of Columbia took over the race lead with a time of 13-11 with one stage remaining.
DOWSETT GETS COLD IN HOT WEATHER
Alex Dowsett more than excelled himself when tackling his first professional stage race at the Tours of Qatar and Oman.
The Trek Livestrong rider was 70th overall at Qatar and 65th in Oman, throwing himself headfirst into some of the key breaks in both races.
But a punishing schedule of travelling to and from his base in the US to the Middle East and 1391km of racing took its took on the 21-year-old rider.
Dowsett and many of his team-mates fell ill upon their return to the US. "We've mostly just got normal colds," Dowsett explained to Cycling Weekly.
"Four flights home the night of the race and 31 hours of travelling after a two-week tour was kind of asking for it. I'm not sure about other teams though," he added.
Dowsett battling through the Tour of Oman
GB LINE UP FOR WOMEN'S NIEUWSBLAD
Eight British riders will line up for the national team in this Saturday's women's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Katie Colclough, Lucy Martin, Hannah Mayho, Jessica Allen, Annie Last, Nikki Harris, Lilly Matthews and Laura Trott will represent Great Britain in the cobbled Classic.
It will be the team's first competitive appearance of the year and the women will be joined by Olympic champion Nicole Cooke in March for the Trofeo Alfredo Binda.
STRONG FIELD FOR FIRST BIG SEASON SHOWDOWN
A strong field will line up for one of the big early season showdowns this weekend: the 43rd Clayton Velo Spring Classic.
Last year's winner Rob Hayles is otherwise occupied with his Endura team in the south of France but big favourite for the race has to be the Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta team.
Ian Bibby, Steven Burke, Ed Clancy and Malcolm Elliott will all represent the eight-man-strong Motorpoint team whilst Dean Downing and Chris Newton (supported by four team-mates) represent Rapha Condor Sharp.
Other names to look out for include Tom Barras (Raleigh) and Matt Stephens (Sigma Sport Specialized).
Clayton Velo Spring Classic, Sunday February 28.
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