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Every cycling article you'll read over the next few days will begin like so: 'The opening weekend in Belgium is upon us and that means the start of the proper cycling season'.
What it also means, however, is that the bookmakers can breathe a huge sigh of relief. No longer do they have to depend on punters putting on ridiculous football accas every weekend to keep them bouyant. Now the true cash cow of cycling fans putting £2 each way on the likes of Oliver Naesen and Nils Politt will fill their coffers and ensure no gambling firms fall on hard times this year.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is on Saturday February 29, with Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne the following day. A number of Classics specialists will take the start line, hoping to open their account this spring with a win.
Alpecin-Fenix's Mathieu van der Poel lines up for his first full Classics season, with the veterans Greg Van Avermaet and Zdeněk Štybar, who is the defending champion, also hoping to add another victory to their palmarès.
But which rider is the favourite? Who better to give us some insight than our benevolent gambling industrial complex overlords.
Mathieu van der Poel is the clear favourite at 2/1, the 2019 Amstel Gold Race winner continued his road form last season with overall victories at the Arctic Race of Norway and the Tour of Britain before defending his cyclo-cross world championship title during a strong winter campaign. Now back on the road and primed for his first full Classics calendar, the Dutchman is the heavy favourite to get his spring off to a winning start.
Second favourite is CCC's Greg Van Avermaet at 8/1, who has won the race twice before in 2016 and 2017 and also finished runner-up in the 2019 edition. He concluded his 2019 season strongly with a top 10 at the Yorkshire Worlds as well as a victory at the GP de Montréal and third place at GP de Québec. In the final year of his contract with the Polish squad, the 34-year-old will be determined to get back to winning ways after a lean few years.
The defending champion is Deceuninck - Quick-Step's Zdeněk Štybar and the Czech rider is given odds of 12/1 to retain his title. The 34-year-old already has a win in 2020, taking stage six of the Vuelta a San Juan in January.
Wout Van Aert will return to road racing for the first time since his Tour de France TT crash at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad ahead of a busy spring schedule. The Jumbo-Visma rider will be hoping to improve on his 13th place in last year's race and is 12/1 to take home the win. Judging by his Strava, Van Aert is back in form after the injury, having taken a KoM off Chris Froome in Tenerife.
Is Matteo Trentin still hurting after losing the rainbow bands to Mads Pedersen in Yorkshire? The Italian has his first opportunity to register a significant result and put the world road race behind him at Omloop in what will be his first race Classics campaign for CCC. He's valued at 17/1.
Bob Jungels (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) and Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) are both offered at 18/1. Jungels won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne the day after finishing 16th in last year's Omloop, while Naesen managed to sneak into the top 10. Jungels' team-mate Yves Lampaert is ninth favourite at 23/1 and finished inside the top seven places of both opening weekend races.
Rounding out the top 10 of favourites are Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) at 25/1 and Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-McLaren) at 28/1. Stuyven finished fourth at the 2018 race before a 40th place finish last year, where Teuns came fifth in his first appearance at the Belgian race.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2020: Winner odds (oddschecker)
Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix - 2/1
Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC - 8/1
Zdeněk Štybar (Cze) Deceuninck - Quick-Step - 12/1
Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma - 12/1
Matteo Trentin (Ita) CCC - 17/1
Bob Jungels (Lux) Deceuninck - Quick-Step - 18/1
Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale - 18/1
Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck - Quick-Step - 23/1
Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo - 25/1
Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-McLaren - 28/1
All odds are correct at time of publication
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