Barring a wild and unforeseen shift in the atmosphere, Omloop Her Nieuwsblad is going to be beautifully miserable. Mud and rain are common for European races in February, but this year the temperature will be a few notches cooler than the norm. Cobbled sections in icy wind and diagonal rain sounds like hell to the novice cyclist. But for many of the finishes on Saturday afternoon, it will be the best day of the year so far.
Just missed out – Matteo Trentin
Matteo Trentin is a very tough man. He’ll proudly fly the Italian flag round Flanders on Saturday smiling through the wind and rain and hoping to shake off his Harrogate heartache. Trentin is in the early stages of forming a partnership with Greg van Avermaet – the race’s second favourite – at CCC Team. It’s a partnership they have both have been desperate for during their wars with the might of Quick-Step. As much as we love Omloop, for the likes of van Avermaet it is a crucial preparation race for April’s “bigger fish”. Trentin was strong in the Algarve and will benefit from starting the race slightly off the enemy radar. Unfortunately, at 14/1, I just don’t find his price attractive.
The selections – Yves Lampaert & Dylan Teuns
Spoiler: Quick-Step will have a rider on the podium on Saturday. Zdenyk Stybar is ready to defend his title and Kasper Asgreen looks hungry to land his first classic. Bob Jungels is their third prong and is proving popular in the Twittersphere. But where does that leave Yves Lampaert? The 28-year old took a pair of top tens at Belgium’s opening weekend last year before finishing third at Roubaix. A lot depends on how Deceuninck spin their wheel of tactical options, but Lampaert has ten days of racing in his legs and looks ready to go. I’m on at 25/1.
Dylan Teuns has had a marvellous start to the year and will be one of the liveliest riders at the business end of the race. Not many of the race favourites could have danced up the Planche des Belles Filles at last year’s Tour, but Teuns is a rider who loathes to be categorized. Thankfully, he does have some Omloop form after a big performance twelve months ago. If he handles the conditions, 22/1 looks a good price.
The longshots – Nils Politt & Michael Valgren
After finishing seventh in a breakout performance at the 2018 Paris-Roubaix, I found Nils Politt to be horrendously short-priced for most of the 2019 classics season. Now – after a move to Israel Start-Up Nation – bookmakers have cruelly dismissed the German and are serving up a 66/1 price tag. If he delivers a big performance on Saturday, his odds will be cut for the rest of the spring.
Lastly, there’s Michael Valgren who I predicted to win Omloop back in January (in hope, rather than expectation). The Dane looks a little under-powered in a field this strong but did go well in horrendous conditions back in Harrogate. He’s 40/1 to take his second Omloop title.