The season is still young, so it is hard to pinpoint absolute favourites. Quite a number of riders are beginning their 2021 campaign on the Flemish roads, so they’ll be uncertain about their form. Yet, the likes of Tim Wellens (stage and overall triumph Etoile de Bessèges) and Alaphilippe (who uncorked 2021 with a strong performance at the Tour de Provence) don’t have to worry.
As of 2018 the finale of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad revives the much-loved climax of the old Tour of Flanders. With the combination of the Wall of Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg inside the last 20 kilometres the focal point of the race favours the usual suspects in Flanders.
The iconic Wall is a cobbled speed breaker of 475 metres at 9.3% before the Bosberg serves a 980 metres climb at 5.8% (half of it cobbled). After the Bosberg there are 12.8 entirely flat kilometres left to race.
Strong winds marked last year’s edition. Yves Lampaert and Jasper Stuyven attacked on the Wall, while Søren Kragh Andersen made it across just before the Bosberg. The Dane couldn’t follow when Stuyven accelerated in the last kilometres and the homerider outsprinted his compatriot Lampaert on the home straight.
Still active former winners of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad are Philippe Gilbert (2006, 2008), Sebastian Langeveld (2011), Sep Vanmarcke (2012), and Greg Van Avermaet (2016, 2017), yet there are only three riders who won the opener of the Flemish Opening Weekend with the redrawn finale: Michael Valgren (2018), Zdenek Stybar (2019), and – as said – Jasper Stuyven (2020).
Favourites 2021 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
*** Julian Alaphilippe, Tim Wellens, Søren Kragh Andersen
** Jasper Stuyven, Oliver Naesen, Iván García, Matteo Trentin, Tiesj Benoot
* Mads Pedersen, Greg Van Avermaet, Yves Lampaert, Kasper Asgreen, Gianni Moscon