Kristoff to Alaphilippe, Six Favorites For Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

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The spring classics kick off Saturday, February 27th with a strong field of cobbled specialists headlining the men's field at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. 

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The men's race fetures 13 "bergs" and 9 cobble sectors, with the infamous Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg lying in the final 20 kilometers of the 200 kilometer-long parcours.

Two notable absences from the startlist are are Jumbo-Visma’s Wout Van Aert, and Bora-Hansgrohe Peter Sagan

Van Aert initially planned to begin his road season this Saturday, but has opted for additional recovery following a winter of hard fought cyclo-cross racing. 

Sagan's final off-season preparations were derailed when he tested positive for Covid-19 in early February. Despite making a full recovery, the three-time world champion has chosen to begin his season at Strade Bianche on March 6. 

Read on for FloBikes' six favorites for the men's 2021 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

1. Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo)

Jasper Stuyven rebounded from a disappointing season at the 2020 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The Belgian out-powered Deceuninck-Quick Step's Yves Lampaert for the win after a hard fought battle beginning on the Muur. 

Watch Jasper Stuyven explain the mental games he used to win the 2020 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad HERE!

Stuyven will surely be challenged by Deceuninck-Quick Step once again, but the Trek-Segafredo lineup does not end with Stuyven. He will have former World Champion, Mads Pedersen, alongside him, a combination which proved to work quite well throughout the 2020 season.

2. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck - Quick Step)

Julian Alaphilippe, the current World Champion began his 2021 campaign at the Tour de la Provence last week and will soon line up for his first ever Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Despite a crash in the final kilometers of stage 2, the Frenchman finished an impressive second place overall after battling Egan Bernal and Ivan Sosa up Mont Ventoux.

The versatile Frenchman will now turn his attention to the cobbled classics supported by the ever-dominant Deceuninck - Quick Step classics squad. Alaphilippe will be backed by Kasper Asgreen, Zdenek Stybar and Lampaert this weekend.

3. Alexander Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff will lead a strong UAE Emirates team Saturday. Kristoff has been hit or miss in past seasons, but if he arrives with the form which saw him win podium at the Tour of Flanders and win a fourth stage of the Tour de France in 2020, the Norwegian sprinter will be an undisputed favorite at Omloop.

The team has added Matteo Trentin to the mix for 2021 after the folding of Team CCC last season. Kristoff has high hopes the Italian veteran will boost his chances for a first victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and a successful Classics campaign. 

4. Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën Team)

After a decade racing with BMC and what would then become the CCC Team, Greg Van Avermaet the 2016 Olympic Road Champion will make his debut in his new AG2R Citroën Team colors on Saturday.  

One of the most decorated riders in the Classics peloton, Van Avermaet will be hunting a third win in the opening Flemish Classic. He will have long-time and loyal teammate Michael Schär and Oliver Naesen racing alongside him as part of AG2R Citroën's revamped 2021 classics squad.

5. Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal)

At 38 years of age, Philippe Gilbert has won nearly every major Classics race in the season. This year, he’s starting the season unsure what opportunities he may have to fight for another victory. 

The Lotto Soudal rider crashed in the opening wet stage at last year’s Tour de France in Nice, breaking his kneecap. He has not recovered as quickly as he had hoped, struggling to regain his fitness over the shortened winter break. 

The early classics will be a test rather than a season goal, in order to see how well the knee has recovered. Despite these challenges, we would be amiss not to include him as an overall favorite. Another possibility for Lotto Soudal could be Tim Wellens. 

6. Arnaud Démare (Groupama FDJ)

Arnaud Demare began 2021 at the Tour de la Provence, finishing second in his first sprint of the season behind Davide Ballerini. He was the winner in the points classification at last years Giro d’Italia, winning an incredible five stages on his way to Milan. 

The final climbs up the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg may prove to be too much for the decorated sprinter, but his 2020 season suggests that the French fast man may be developing increased versatility at this stage in his career.

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