The cobbled classics kick off this weekend with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. New in 2021, FloBikes is pleased to offer live coverage of the women's race in addition to the men's.
24 teams will be ready to go for the 16thedition of the women's Omloop het Nieuwsblad this Saturday, March 27. The new Jumbo-Visma women's team will make its debut at Omloop, but will do so without its marquee rider. Marianne Vos much like her teammate Wout Van Aert has decided to prolong her recovery from the recently concluded cyclocross season.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all fans have been asked to stay home, so the 120 kilometer course will look different this year. Despite the quiet roads, the women will still face five sections of pavé and 10 "bergs" including the infamous Muur van Geraardsbergen.
Read on for FloBikes five picks for the women's title at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Team Movistar)
Defending Champion Annemiek Van Vleuten was a notch above everyone else in the 2020 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. After attacking on the Muur, she would go on to earn a solo victory. She returned to the restart of the season in August, winning 4 out of the 5 races in her first week of racing.
Van Vleuten surprised many at the end of 2020 by signing for Team Movistar. Omloop will be her debut in the blue colors of the Spanish outfit, a team which has never fielded a rider of Van Vleuten's stature in the classics. Supporting Van Vleuten will be another recent signing, American Leah Thomas, along with French TT specialist, Aude Biannic, and sprinter, Jelena Erić.
2. Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx)
The double World Champion embarks on her final season of an illustrious career, returning to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad after skipping the race in 2020. One of the most versatile riders in the peloton, Van der Breggen won the opening classic in 2015. She announced her upcoming retirement last season, stating the Tokyo Olympics will be her final race should they take place as planned.
This will be Van der Breggen's seventh participation at Omloop. Racing in their new SD Worx colors, the team has listed Belgian Jolien D’hoore as their leader. Still, wearing the rainbow strips on her shoulders, Van der Breggen can never be counted out.
3. Grace Brown (Team BikeExchange)
Grace Brown, the 28-year-old Team BikeExchange rider had a stellar season in 2020, winning the Female Road Cyclist of the Year award in Australia after finishing second at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and winning her first European victory at Brabantse Pijl the following week. She often played a supporting role to Van Vleuten, but now has the opportunity to fly with Van Vleuten’s departure to Movistar.
Brown started her 2021 season strong, finishing second at the Australian Road National Championships behind her teammate, Sarah Roy. Roy will be alongside her, as will Amanda Spratt, Jessica Allen and making her debut, Teniel Campbell of Trinidad & Tobago. Saturday will be Brown’s third participation at the race.
4. Lizzie Deignan (Trek - Segafredo)
Deignan returned to racing in 2019 after a one-year hiatus, winning the OVO Energy Women’s Tour and earning a top ten overall finish at the Boels Ladies Tour. Following the restart last season, she continued to perform at the high level we have come to expect. Deignan won GP de Plouay, edged out Marianne Vos at La Course by Le Tour de France, earned a stunning solo victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
After a two-week Trek-Segafredo team training camp in Spain this January, Deignan is ready for the new season. Elisa Longo Borghini, Ellen van Dijk, and Trixi Worrack will be part of the experienced six-rider squad at the starting line.
5. Riejanne Markus (Team Jumbo Visma)
Hunting for her first WorldTour victory, Jumbo-Visma’s Riejanne Markus will be another rider to watch. Markus has proven herself to be a reliable domestique for Marianne Vos in recent years. With Jumbo Visma's team leader absent at from the opening weekend of the classics, Markus will be given a rare opportunity at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
After racing only a handful of events in 2020, the 26-year-old time trail and sprinting specialist will be given free reign to earn a result, not only for herself, but for her Jumbo Visma team in its debut race.