It’s time for the Belgian cobblestones and I for one have been looking forward to this for quite some time now! Without much time on my hands I’ll go straight to it. Here are my favorites for the two races this weekend.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Favorite number 1 is without any doubt Tom Boonen. This is one of the few races Tornado Tom hasn’t won yet and with the condition he has been showing so far this year, he is the man to beat. On top of that he even has one of the strongest teams to back him up. Riders like Chavanel, Ciolek, Steegmans are all there to work for Boonen and except for BMC I can’t see any teams with a line up as strong as Quickstep’s for this race.
It would be easy to say Juan Antonio Flecha, but to spice it up a bit I’ll go with Greg Van Avemaet. It’s true that both Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd are there as well, but it’s not time for those two yet. Gilbert has RvV and the Ardennes on his mind while Hushovd has his mind fixed on Paris-Roubaix. This time Greg Van Avermaet has a rare chance to prove himself and with the shape he has proved to be in already, he is my best pick for a winner if not Tom Boonen takes it.
To stay with the outsiders, I’ll pick Marco Marcato. The Italian has recently made the cut for the Italian Olympic pre-selection and it seems like Marcato has started this season like he ended the last one – with style! Marcato has been working hard on his sprint during the winter and even though Vacansoleil also have Devolder on Leukemans on the roster for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, I think Marcato will be their designated leader. Look out for this in-shape Italian on Saturday!
Like last year I think it will end up in mass sprint this time as well and who is the best sprinter of 2012 so far? Andre Greipel! The Gorilla has been outstanding and been climbing very well too. If he is ready after Tour of Oman he will be the number 1 favorite, and that’s even with Mark Cavendish on the starting line as well – new world…
It’s too easy to say Mark Cavendish now and honestly I don’t know if he’s up for it already. I'll go with another outsider in Yauheni Hutarovich. The Belarus took second place last year and seems to be in good condition already as well this year. He has been just short of stage wins in both Tour Down Under and Tour Méditerranéen and normally he is good in the Belgian races. Have you practiced your spelling? If not, do it now, cause the name Yauheni Hutarovich is likely to be mentioned in the top3 Sunday…
There are a lot of riders who can surprise this weekend and being Danish and all I sure hope Matti Breschel is one of them. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is a very important race for Rabobank and it would be great to see Matti back in the mix with the best riders again. Also look out for Baden Cooke. The Australian has been great all season so far, and if he gets a chance it could take top3 in any of the two races.