Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Road

Belgian spring kicks off with Het Volk

Major changes are in store for the unofficial kick off of the classics season with Saturday’s running of the 63rd Omloop Het Volk in Belgium. Narrower roads, more cobblestones and tougher climbs are on tap for the 199km Belgian season opener in what’s always one of the most anticipated races of the year among that rare breed of racer who loves to bash the pavé.

Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.

By Andrew Hood

2007 Het Volk winner Filippo Pozzato will not toe the line on Saturday

2007 Het Volk winner Filippo Pozzato will not toe the line on Saturday

Photo: Graham Watson

Major changes are in store for the unofficial kick off of the classics season with Saturday’s running of the 63rd Omloop Het Volk in Belgium.

Narrower roads, more cobblestones and tougher climbs are on tap for the 199km Belgian season opener in what’s always one of the most anticipated races of the year among that rare breed of racer who loves to bash the pavé.

“It will be a completely different Het Volk than in previous years,” Silence-Lotto’s Robbie McEwen said in a press conference last week. “It’s especially difficult. There is a succession of hills and cobbles will require constant shifting. Moreover, the addition of narrower roads will make it much more technical.”

The 199km features 11 climbs, some 16km of cobblestones and traces over narrower roads that could have a major impact on the race.

This year’s sees the finish return to Ghent for the first time since 1995. The race traditionally started and finished in the bustling college town in the heart of Belgium’s Flanders region. In 1995, the arrival was moved to Lokeren, about 20km northeast of Ghent.

The route opens up with a relatively flat opening 70km before hostilities begin with the first climb at Grotenberge at 73km. Four more climbs — or “hellingen” in Flemish – come thick and fast in a 15km stretch beginning at Leberg at 91km.

Three more decisive climbs come with the Taaienberg, Elkenberg and Wolvenberg hills in a nine-kilometer stretch beginning at 143km. In between are the difficult Donderij and Hof ter Fiennestraat cobblestone sections. The peloton tackles the final climb, one less than in 2007, at the Molenberg, which features ramps as steep as 10 percent, with 40km to go.

“Het Volk is like a mini-Tour of Flanders,” said Walter Planckaert, sport director of Topsport Vlaanderen. “It has all the ingredients of a big event.”

Because of its early date, typically falling on the last Saturday of February or the first in March, the race can sometimes be marred by foul weather. Heavy snow forced the cancellation in 2004.

Forecasters are calling for cloudy skies, with an early chance of rain, but with moderate temperatures in the low 50s and light northerly winds. In other words, perfect Belgian racing weather.

There will be no shortage of candidates for victory as most of the top squads roll out their A-teams for the unofficial kickoff of the classics calendar. Some 25, eight-man teams will be on the start line.

Quick Step brings the strongest team with Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen along with such solid wild-cards as Stijn Devolder and Gert Steegmans.

Nick Nuyens, winner in 2005, headlines a revamped Cofidis classics squad that also includes a healthy Rik Verbrugge and Sylvain Chavanel.

Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) will be a force to contend with while Astana is hoping for big things from rising prospects Koen de Kort, Aaron Kemps and Tomas Vaitkus.

Slipstream-Chipotle will see Tyler Farrar racing in his European hometown of Ghent, with Will Frischkorn and the rest of the team anxious to prove it deserves a place in the northern classics.

Roger Hammond and Bernhard Eisel will carry the colors for High Road while the always-reliable Team CSC will be its big guns with Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O’Grady, winners of the past two editions of Paris-Roubaix.

Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) and Jimmy Casper (Agritubel) will be factors if it comes down to a bunch sprint.

Last year’s winner, Filippo Pozzato, is not listed by his Liquigas team. Another notable missing name is Frank Vandenbroucke (Mitsubishi-Jartazi), who’s come down with a cold.

The racing continues Sunday with the 61st Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Start List

LIQUIGAS
Director – SCIREA Mario
1. CURTOLO Alberto
2. KUSCHYNSKI Aleksandr
3. DA DALTO Mauro
4. FISCHER Murilo Antonio
5. FRANZOI Enrico
6. PETITO Roberto
7. QUINZIATO Manuel
8. WILLEMS Frederik

QUICK STEP
Director – PEETERS Wilfried
11. BETTINI Paolo
12. BOONEN Tom
13. CRETSKENS Wilfried
14. DE JONGH Steven
15. DEVOLDER Stijn
16. HULSMANS Kevin
17. STEEGMANS Gert
18. WEYLANDT Wouter

SILENCE-LOTTO
Director – FRISON Herman
21. MCEWEN Robbie
22. GARDEYN Gorik
23. ROELANDTS Jurgen
24. HOSTE Leif
25. SENTJENS Roy
26. TJALLINGII Maarten
27. VAN SUMMEREN Johan
28. VANSEVENANT Wim

ASTANA
Director – YATES Sean
31. JOACHIM Benoît
32. DE KORT Koen
33. IVANOV Serguei
34. KEMPS Aaron
35. MURAVYEV Dmitriy
36. RAST Grégory
37. SCHÄR Michael
38. VAITKUS Tomas

BOUYGUES TELECOM
Director – ARNOULD Dominique
41. CLERC Aurélien
42. GESLIN Anthony
43. JEROME Vincent
44. LABBE Arnaud
45. MARTIAS Rony
46. PICHOT Alexandre
47. PÜTSEP Erki
48. CLAUDE Mathieu

COFIDIS, LE CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE
Director – DELOEUIL Alain
51. CHAVANEL Sylvain
52. DE WEERT Kevin
53. HEIJBOER Mathieu
54. HOJ Frank
55. MINARD Sébastien
56. NUYENS Nick
57. SCHEIRLINCKX Staf
58. VERBRUGGHE Rik

HIGH ROAD
Director – HOFFMAN Tristan
61. GREIPEL André
62. EISEL Bernhard
63. GRABSCH Bert
64. HAMMOND Roger
65. KLIER Andreas
66. KNAVEN Servais
67. REYNES MIMO Vicente
68. SIEBERG Marcel

AG2R LA MONDIALE
Director – MAS Gilles
71. DION Renaud
72. ELMIGER Martin
73. KRIVTSOV Yuriy
74. MONDORY Lloyd
75. NAZON Jean-Patrick
76. POULHIES Stéphane
77. USOV Alexandre
78. VANDENBERGH Stijn

CREDIT AGRICOLE
Director – BEUCHERIE Serge
81. BODROGI Laszlo
82. BONNET William
83. ENGOULVENT Jimmy
84. HINAULT Sébastien
85. HUNT Jeremy
86. HUSHOVD Thor
87. RASCH Gabriel
88. RENSHAW Mark

FRANÇAISE DES JEUX
Director – MADIOT Marc
91. CHAVANEL Sébastien
92. DELAGE Mickael
93. GERARD Arnaud
94. GILBERT Philippe
95. GUESDON Frédéric
96. LADAGNOUS Matthieu
97. MEERSMAN Gianni
98. STUBBE Tom

GEROLSTEINER
Director – WEGMANN Christian
101. FOTHEN Markus
102. GATTO Oscar
103. KRAUSS Sven
104. LANG Sebastian
105. HAUSSLER Heinrich
106. SCHRECK Stephan
107. STAMSNIJDER Tom
108. WESTPHAL Carlo

RABOBANK
Director – DEKKER Erik
111. DE MAAR Marc
112. MARTENS Paul
113. FLECHA GIANNONI Juan Antonio
114. HAYMAN Mathew
115. LANGEVELD Sebastian
116. LÖWIK Gerben
117. POSTHUMA Joost
118. TANKINK Bram

TEAM CSC
Director – SUNDERLAND Scott
121. ARVESEN Kurt-Asle
122. BAK Lars Ytting
123. BRESCHEL Matti
124. CANCELLARA Fabian
125. JOHANSEN Marcus
126. LJUNGQVIST Marcus
127. LUND Anders
128. O’GRADY Stuart

TEAM MILRAM
Director – HAHN Jochen
131. EICHLER Markus
132. GAJEK Artur
133. GRABSCH Ralf
134. MÜLLER Martin
135. POITSCHKE Enrico
136. ROELS Dominik
137. TERPSTRA Niki
138. VELITS Martin

LANDBOUWKREDIET – TONISSTEINER
Director – VANCOILLIE Claude
141. NEIRYNCK Kevin
142. BOUCHER David
143. CAPPELLE Andy
144. DE WAELE Bert
145. KUYCKX Jan
146. MEIRHAEGHE Filip
147. SIJMENS Nico
148. STEELS Tom

TOPSPORT VLAANDEREN
Director – PLANCKAERT Walter
151. BARBE Koen
152. EECKHOUT Niko
153. VEUCHELEN Frederik
154. HOVELYNCK Kurt
155. VANHEULE Bart
156. RENDERS Sven
157. VAN HECKE Preben
158. VERBIST Evert

MITSUBISHI-JARTAZI
Director – BRAECKEVELT Joseph
161. CRIQUIELION Mathieu
162. MIKHAILOV Guennadi
163. NEVENS Sven
164. KAUPAS Vytautas
165. VAN DIJK Stefan
166. VAN MINGEROET Jarno
167. MOURIS Jens
168. VERHEYEN Geert

PSK WHIRLPOOL – AUTHOR
Director –
171. BENCIK Petr
172. KOZUBEK Stanislav
173. BUCHACEK Tomas
174. MARES Martin
175. DLOUHY Vojtech
176. KUBIAS Petr
177. KLOUCEK Frantisek
178. KONIG Leopold

SLIPSTREAM CHIPOTLE PRESENTED BY H3
Director – WELTZ Johnny
181. DONALD Jason
182. COZZA Steven
183. DUYN Huub
184. FARRAR Tyler
185. FRIEDMAN Michael
186. FRISCHKORN William
187. MAASKANT Martijn
188. LAURENT Christophe

TEAM VOLKSBANK
Director – GUT Gregor
191. BENETSEDER Josef
192. GLOMSER Gerrit
193. KORFF André
194. LUDESCHER Philipp
195. MUSIOL Daniel
196. POLLACK Olaf
197. PRESSLAUER Peter
198. WEISSINGER Rene

CYCLE COLLSTROP
Director – VAN DER SCHUEREN Hilaire
201. GILING Bastiaan
202. BOZIC Borut
203. KOLESNIKOV Sergey
204. KOPP David
205. LAGUTIN Sergey
206. MARCATO Marco
207. PRONK Matheus
208. WESEMANN Steffen

AGRITUBEL
Director – LEPROUX Denis
211. BERGES Emilien Benoit
212. CAETHOVEN Steven
213. CASPER Jimmy
214. COUTOULY Cedric
215. GAZTANAGA ECHEVERRIA Mike
216. ISTA Kevin
217. LEQUATRE Geoffroy
218. SINNER Benoît

ELK HAUS – SIMPLON
Director – WISIAK Harald
221. FANKHAUSER Clemens
222. MURER Wolfgang
223. RADOCHLA Steffen
224. RUCKER Stefan
225. STARZENGRUBER Harald
226. SUMMER Jochen
227. THURAU Bjorn
228. VALACH Jan

SKIL-SHIMANO
Director –
231. BEPPU Fumiyuki
232. CURVERS Roy
233. DEN BAKKER Maarten
234. GOESINNEN Floris
235. SIEDLER Sebastian
236. TIMMER Albert
237. VEELERS Tom
238. WAGNER Robert

WILLEMS VERANDA CONTINENTAL CY
Director – VAN IMPE Lucien
241. CAPPELLE Dieter
242. DE WILDE Sjef
243. DE ZUTTER Kristof
244. ENNEKENS Stijn
245. MEEUSEN Tim
246. VAN BRAECKEL Kenny
247. VAN HEESWIJK Max
248. VAN LOOCKE Jurgen