Cervelo TestTeam is sending squads to this weekend's cobbled races, the men's and women's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and the men's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday.
Despite nasty crashes at Algarve, RadioShack will start Gert Steegmans and Tomas Vaitkus at this weekend's cobbled races in Belgium. Milram, Liquigas and Quick Step also release their rosters.
Quick Step's Tom Boonen claimed his first big spring classics win of the season at the Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne semi-classic on Sunday. A former world champion, Boonen finished ahead of Columbia-High Road's sprinter Bernhard Eisel of Austria and Britain's Jeremy Hunt (Cervélo TestTeam ), who was third in a bunch sprint for the line. At Sunday's race, held over 194km, the 194-strong field stopped to pay tribute to Belgian racer Frederiek Nolf, 21, who died in his sleep at the Tour of Qatar on February 5.
Norwegian Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam) lived up to his promise to focus more on the classics this season by taking an important victory in Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad that officially opened the Belgian racing calendar. Formerly known as Het Volk, the semi-classic delivered a nail-biter to kick start the classics season as Hushovd steered clear of two late crashes to steer to victory ahead of Kevin Ista (Agritubel) with Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) coming through third.
Dominique Rollin is expected to start Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (ex-Het Volk) this weekend in Belgium, culminating a long road that’s taken him from Canada to the most important races in Europe. The 25-year-old Canadian will be a key member of Cervélo’s spring classics squad and he’s relishing the opportunity to race the events that he dreamed about as a boy back in Montreal. Rollin should know some of the circuits well. He raced three years as an amateur at VC Roubaix and lived at the storied velodrome where Paris-Roubaix finishes each year.
With so much racing going on in Europe at any one time, we start this new weekly feature previewing the upcoming racing action to help fans – and us – keep track of who’s going where. There’s the ProTour, the Historic calendar and the European Tour, not to mention women’s and amateur racing. For this space, we’ll keep our eye on "D," all of the above, minus the U23/amateur scene. It’s still late February, but there are plenty of races to keep things interesting. Het Volk – oops, we mean the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – opens the classics season in Belgium.
Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert (FDJeux) won Het Volk for the second time in three years in the best style possible: with a dramatic solo victory. Gilbert, winner of the Belgian season opener in 2006, attacked a lead group of favorites on the Eikenberg climb with about 60km to go in the 199km course across the Belgian heartland of Flanders. [nid:72951]He then reeled in the day’s main breakaway that included Mike Friedman (Slipstream-Chipotle) and before attacking again with a punishing acceleration with 22km to go to solo home to victory.