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The Australian summer of racing is done, the Middle Eastern races are complete — it’s now late February and the European season is officially underway.
Over this past weekend, in the Flanders region of Belgium, riders took to the cobbles for the first time in 2017 at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. These tough one-day races constitute the Belgian ‘opening weekend’ and set the scene for what is always an exciting few months of racing in cycling’s heartland.
The 2017 Spring Classics are sure to be full of engaging storylines and already, in just two days of racing, we’ve seen some of those threads teased out. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) showed he’s again in great form at this time of year, defending his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad title on Saturday by getting the better of world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) and perennial almost-man Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac). And then on Sunday, after four second-place finishes in his first nine races of the year, Peter Sagan finally won his first race for Bora-Hansgrohe: Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
Alongside Van Avermaet, Vanmarcke and the soon-to-be-retired Tom Boonen (QuickStep Floors), Sagan will be one of the riders to watch as the Spring Classics unfold. Can he add to his Tour of Flanders win from last year? Could he win Paris-Roubaix? He’ll have no shortage of competition, of course, and regardless of the results, we’re sure to be entertained over the next couple months.
In the meantime though, here’s a selection of images from Belgian opening weekend, from photographers Kristof Ramon and Jered & Ashley Gruber.