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Analysis: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winners rarely win monuments in same season

Strong Belgian opening weekend bodes well for the monuments, but Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winners don't often come out on top at Flanders or Roubaix.

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Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is one of Belgium’s “big six” one-day races, and any racer worth their weight in cobblestones wants to have that trophy.

The traditional Belgian calendar-opener features some of the elite men’s peloton’s biggest names on its palmarés. Everyone from Eddy Merckx to Johan Museeuw has won the race since its inception in 1945.

Going well at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad — which changed its name from Omloop Het Volk to its current title in 2009 — is typically a harbinger of success for the spring classics. That’s intuitive, especially since the route traces over many of the same bergs featured in Tour of Flanders. In fact, today’s modern Omloop Het Nieuwsblad course largely mimics the traditional Flanders route.

If a rider is going strong in late February, that naturally means they’re on the right track for success across March and April for the major spring monuments and one-day classics.

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Yet it is somewhat surprising after digging into the statistics that winning at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad doesn’t necessarily lead to success in the two major spring monuments that fit the same style of rider at Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Of course, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winners typically go well that spring, and several Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winners have also won such races as E3 Harelbeke or Amstel Gold in the same season, but following it up with victory at one of the two northern monuments is as rare as a rainy day at Paris-Roubaix.

Since 2000, only two riders — Museeuw and Greg Van Avermaet — have won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and then gone on to win either Flanders or Roubaix in the same season. Museeuw did it in 2000, when he won Roubaix for a second time. Van Avermaet pulled off the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad-Roubaix double in 2017.

Surprisingly, at least since 2000, no rider has won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Flanders in the same season.

What does that anecdote reveal? First, it confirms that winning any one of the prestigious, one-day northern classics in Belgium is extremely competitive. Every top rider wants to have them on their CV.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad ranks as one of Belgium’s “big six” one-day races, which also includes Gent-Wevelgem, E3-Harelbeke, Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Flèche Wallonne. These races are the most highly contested of the season, and teams and stars bring their full weight to winning these marquee events during their respective careers.

So the chances of coming out on top of the highly condensed, high-stakes spring classics calendar is already a big ask. And it’s during the all-in, nothing-t0-lose ethos at the classics where crashes, mechanicals, or punctures also play a decisive factor. Doubling up at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and at a monument later in the season only compounds the odds.

And second, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad comes quite early on the calendar. With its traditional date in late February — which can cause weather cancelations as it did in 2004 due to snow — many riders targeting April’s major dates are still not at full boil. Many winners at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad have also won Flanders and Roubaix during their respective careers — seven riders since 2000 have won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and at least once at Flanders or Roubaix — but it’s rare that the magic comes together all in the same season.

Van Avermaet, for example, had a dream-like run in 2017, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, followed by victories at Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, and Roubaix. He was in position to contest Flanders as well, only to crash on Oude Kwaremont with Peter Sagan.

And third, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is highly prestigious in its own right. Only the rare rider like Philippe Gilbert is capable of winning across varied terrain of Flanders and Roubaix as well as in the Ardennes. For riders who thrive on the cobblestones and pavé of northern Europe, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is one of the cobbled crown jewels, slotted in behind Roubaix, Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem and E3 Harelbeke.

That all adds up to make Omloop Het Nieuwsblad one of the most highly contested and dynamic races of the season. What plays out in the peloton this weekend will have implications across the entire spring campaign. The winner Saturday probably won’t win at Flanders or Roubaix, at least based on recent trends. If someone does, they would join a very elite club.

Greg Van Avermaet is one of only two riders since 2000 who won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and later won Paris-Roubaix in the same season. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)