The traditional first WorldTour race on European soil is set to kick-off on Saturday. The 18th edition of the women’s elite race is celebrating its new status as part of the Women’s WorldTour in 2023. The finale with the Muur-Bosberg duo has become a fan favorite in the opening classic where exciting battles have taken place, after facing the Flemish Ardennes as a prelude.
The first cobbled Classic of the season will once again finish in the city center of Ninove. The finish line itself will be moved to Elisabethlaan, from the previous finish line in Onderwijslaan. Organizers are hoping the new finish will bring a more attractive finale with a wider and also slightly uphill run-in to the line. The women will begin in the afternoon at 1:30 local time, following the men’s departure earlier in the morning shortly before 11.
The women will face 8 hills and 5 cobblestone sections within the 132km course set for Saturday. Few changes have been made from the 2022 edition. The Lomenberg and Lange Munte make their return in 2023, after road repair kept them out from last year. After the pro women surpass the Molenberg, they will face the Flemish Ardennes that include Haaghoek-Leberg duo before reaching the Berendries and Elverenberg-Vossenhol. 12km from the finish, the final Muur van Geraardsbergen – Bosberg are the remaining obstacles before the 2023 hopeful will go on to be crowned the new champion.
Last year, the winning break was established within the first hour of racing and before the peloton reached the first cobbled section. The return of the Molenberg is expected to animate the race earlier in the day should a break want to make a successful escape.
Riders to Watch
24 teams will take the start of the 18th edition, each consisting of 6 riders. This will be Annemiek van Vleuten’s first major objective of the year, racing her 14th Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. After proving her strength in stage races like the Giro Rossa, and Le Tour, van Vleuten has also shown her dominance in the one-day Classics. The Dutch superstar is the defending champion going for a record third win, having also won the race in 2020. Her rivals will be eager to challenge her, including Demi Vollering and Lorena Wiebes, who are now racing together on Team SD Worx.
Several new teams for 2023, including the UAE Team ADQ, Israel Premier Tech Roland and Uno-X team, will be eager to light up the race as they continue to hone their team structure in their inaugural racing season. Marta Bastianelli (UAE) is a 2X runner-up, itching to reach that top step of the podium for her new team.
Other riders to watch include Megan Jastrab racing for Team DSM. The young sprinting American talent recently finished third in a tough sprint in Spain behind Elisa Balsamo. The 21-year-old American will be making her debut at the opening Classic. German National Road Champion, Liane Lippert (Movistar) and Grace Brown (FDJ) have both started off the season strong
Elisa Longo Borghini is hot off her win at the UAE Tour racing for Trek. It is likely the Italian will be racing for her compatriot, Elisa Balsamo, however should something happen with Balsamo, the team will have several other options to play.
‘Watch the Femmes’ TV Coverage: Eurosport 2, FloBikes, GCN+, ESPN+
When: Saturday, 25 February
What: 1-day Spring Classic
Riders to Watch:
Annemiek van Vleuten *****
Demi Vollering ****
Lorena Wiebes ***
Marta Bastianelli ***
Elisa Balsamo **
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By Rebecca Reza