Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2022 Predictions
Ah, Classics’ season. In my part of the planet the snow’s (sort of) begun to recede, birds are twittering about, and smiles are abundant in the sunshine. Though our version of the Flandrian cobbles, washboard gravel, is glazed over with melting ice, I am no less excited for the opening weekend of World Tour racing in Europe.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is the first race and might be my favorite. Except for last year when the weather was merciful, every win has come from a small, cold, wind, and rain-battled group, with 13 climbs and nine flat cobbled stretches breaking the race apart. The race starts in Ghent, East Flanders, Belgium, and 56 of the 76 winners have come from the host country though 3 of the past 5 wins were from non-Belgians.
- 2021 Davide Ballerini (ITL)
- 2020 Jasper Stuyven (BEL)
- 2019 Zdenek Stybar (CZR)
- 2018 Michael Valgren (DEN)
- 2017 Greg Van Avermaet (BEL)
Last year the action happened on the Molenberg with Matteo Tretin and Julian Alaphilippe gapping the field. The Molenberg is unfortunately cut this year due to construction but taking its place are two new climbs which will more than likely prove just as decisive. Alaphilippe made a go of it alone but was eventually reeled back in via a massive front group that “sprinted” it out on the line. Sprinted in quotes because Quickstep was the only team with any sort of sprint train left so of course the Wolfpack howled home for the easy win.
Soren Kragh Andersen lit it up the Rekelberg to cause the main split that year. Tim Declercq, Yves Lampaert, Jasper Stuyven, Frederik Frison, Trentin, Jonas Rutsch, and Mike Teunissen eventually joined him in an 8-man front group. Up the 19% cobbled section on the Kapelmuur, Lampaert, Stuyven, and Andersen snuck away to form the podium. In a two-up sprint Stuyven was able to see the jump coming from his countryman and win from the front.
Jumbo Visma hammered the Molenberg for Wout Van Aert (who went up it at 656 watts for a couple minutes), catching the break and splintering the peloton thereafter. A big bunch of 17 took turns staying away till Tiesj Benoot went down in a wet 90 and ended up splitting the group for good. Daniel Oss, Trentin, GVA, Alexey Lutsenko, Dylan Tuens, Tim Wellens, and Stybar formed the front group of six just under 30km to go. They stayed together till the Kapelmuur where poor Oss was dropped like a rock. GVA throttled the last climb, the Bosberg, but wasn’t able to lose anyone. Wellens threw in one Hail Mary at 3km but was easily caught by GVA who dragged everyone else up, making it easy for Stybar to counter for the win.
The race stayed together till the ‘Muur’ (Kapelmuur) where Sep Vanmarcke ripped off the front up the steepest grade. A group of 10 eventually caught Vanmarcke at 13km to go with Astana having the numbers (3). Oliver Naesen made the first move with Astana closing the gap quickly. At 9km Astana’s Oscar Gatto rolled off the front when the pace slowed. He was chased down and the fast finishers took a few turns on the front. When the pace slowed again Michael Valgren took a dig off the front and was caught by Naesen. The gap to the chasers was holding despite how slow and twitchy the group became. Valgren had another dig and was caught again. The gap came down to 25 seconds. Vanmarcke launched and Stybar grabbed his wheel, just as the group came together again Valgren sent his third attack and this time no one jumped on his wheel and he took the win 10 seconds ahead of the charging peloton.
With this being the first major test of the year, no one, even the racers, are sure where their form is. This is part of the reason I love this race so much; everyone has a shot. Some of the favorites like Van Aert and Stuyven haven’t raced yet this year and others like Tim Wellens already have two wins. Lutsenko has also looked good, winning a one-day race in Spain and finishing behind Wellens at Stage 4 of Ruta del Sol. Stefan Kung is going well right now too though it’s been half a decade since he’s won anything other than a TT. Tom Pidcock and Magnus Sheffield will be fun to watch for Ineos. Sheffield won Stage 3 of la Ruta and Pidcock is on stellar form after dominating CX World Champs. Will this finally be the year for Matteo Trentin or will he be riding for his flying teammate Alessandro Covi?
1. Tom Pidcock (+800)
He’s really hard to bet against with how good he’s looked and how fast he’s progressed at road racing. Having some racing days in the legs helps with the technicality and thin width of the Belgian roads.
2. Matteo Trentin (+2000 to win)
He’s got 4 top tens but never cracked the podium at Omloop. With the weather looking good and the field faster than ever it might be another bigger bunch than usual.
3. Tim Wellens (+2200 to win)
The Belgian teams need somebody on the podium and Wellens has looked real good recently.