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Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, February 24, signals the start of the cobbled classics season in northern Europe.
The Belgian single-day race always generates a lot of attention among both fans and riders, offering a series of climbs and cobbled road sectors which shape the action.
The route features 13 ‘hellingen’ (climbs), three of which are on cobbles – and the intensity gradually increases.
The final two ‘walls’, 26km from the finish, are the iconic Muur van Geraardsbergen (475 metres, 9.3 per cent, max 19.8 per cent) and the partly-cobbled Bosberg (980m, 5.8 per cent, max 11 per cent).
Following the Bosberg, there will be a final 12km to go before the line.
Previous winners include some of the biggest names in Classics racing, including Greg Van Avermaet, Philippe Gilbert, Ian Stannard, Sep Vanmarcke, Peter Van Petegem, Johan Museuuw, Eddy Merckx, Freddy Maertens and Roger De Vlaeminck.
This year’s edition will feature Vanmarcke, Van Avermaet, Gilbert and a host of fresh classics talent who are hunting for a big win.
The race is followed by Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday, which follows a less hilly route and is traditionally one that suits sprinters more.