Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux will participate in the first race of the season on Belgian soil this Saturday on the occasion of the Omloop het Nieuwsblad (1.UWT, 26/01). The traditional opening race is also the first classic on the World Tour calendar, containing nine cobble sections and thirteen climbs in the heart of the Flemish Ardennes.
The parcours connecting Ghent and Ninove in 204 kilometer is very similar to the previous editions, although the Molenberg, one of the strategical points, is absent because of road works. The serious work begins after 100 kilometer of racing in the neighborhood of Oudenaarde with the cobbles of the Katteberg and the Holleweg. With 58 kilometer to go, the peloton will cross the Holleweg in the other direction to start a difficult succession of difficulties such as the Haaghoek, Leberg, Berendries and Vossenhol. The duo Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg are again the last climbs of the day within the final 20 kilometer.
The two previous seasons, the colors of the Belgian World Team shone in the final thanks to an attack of Aimé De Gendtin 2020 and a strong collective presence around sprinter Andrea Pasqualon last year. Both riders are part of an experimented line up in support of Alexander Kristoff. His compatriot Sven Erik Bystrøm, Belgian rider Dimitri Claeys and Frenchman Adrien Petit participated at least six times in the opening classic. Loïc Vliegen, who took his first podium of the season on the gravel roads in Jaén two weeks ago, is the seventh rider in the selection directed by Aike Visbeek, Steven De Neef and Hilaire Van der Schueren.