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by Mark Zalewski
February 24, 2017
In today’s CyclingTips Daily News Digest: Cavendish takes first 2017 win at Abu Dhabi Tour; McCabe wins second stage of Tour de Langkawi, Gibbons into lead; Dennis wins Tour de La Provence as Mattia Cattaneo takes final stage; Ariesen wins second stage of Volta ao Alentejo; Cycling Australia poaches Sky’s Simon Jones to head high performance; Van Avermaet heads into Spring Classics with confidence of an Olympic champion; Owain Doull claims disc rotor sliced his shoe in sprint crash on Abu Dhabi stage; Women’s Amstel Gold Race will use traditional Cauberg finish; Belgians Boonen, Vanmarcke ready to start Classics season at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne; Baloise Belgium Tour announces 2017 route; Laura Kenny awarded 2016 FT Bidlake Memorial Prize; Trial date set for Armstrong federal whistleblower case; Highlights: Abu Dhabi Tour, stage 1; Highlights: Volta ao Alentejo, stage 1.
This weekend will kick off the spring European road season of one-day races, from semi-Classics to Monuments. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, upgraded to the UCI WorldTour this year, is the first race on Saturday — a 198.3km course that features 13 climbs, like the legendary Muur-Kapelmuur, and 10 pavé sectors. Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne follows on Sunday with 200.7km that includes the Oude Kwaremont, one of Flanders’ iconic climbs.
This year will be the final time Belgian Tom Boonen starts any of these races, with a retirement date set for Paris-Roubaix in April. Boonen holds the record for the most wins at Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne.
“I’m happy to start racing in Belgium,” said Boonen. “Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is always a special event, an important moment in Flanders: the first race, the first time people come out to watch the race, the first time we race in Belgium, the first time on the cobbles.”
“Saturday and Sunday they’ll have to get used to riding on the cobbles again and the rider who finds the easiest way to adjust will get the best results,” said sport director Wilfried Peeters. “In both Omloop and Kuurne we start with our typical Classics team, who are strong on the Belgian roads.
Another favourite is fellow Belgian Sep Vanmarcke, who returns to the Cannondale-Drapac team of the Slipstream organisation, the team he was on when he won the 2012 edition of Omloop.
“I’m not nervous,” Vanmarcke said. “I’m really looking forward. The last weeks in Valencia and Algarve were a nice to start racing with the guys. The next period is very important, so I’m really motivated to do well. I already have experience in these races, so no reason to get nervous anymore. I think I’m not at my top level yet. We plan to have a big month, when the biggest Classics are on the menu. But my form should be already pretty good, so I will play my role in the final.”