The 2022 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad kicks off the World Tour classics’ season tomorrow. Traditionally one of the hardest races to predict due to its early position on the calendar, the route usually favors a solo escapee or a small breakaway. Despite that, last year’s race ended in a bunch sprint won by Davide Ballerini, who won’t take part this year.
Honorable mentions: Jasper Stuyven, Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet, Sep Vanmarcke, Soren Kragh Andersen.
- Tim Wellens
I know that the route doesn’t really suit the Belgian rider, but the fact is that he is the only one amongst the favorites that has already shown his form this season. Lotto Soudal’s team also includes veteran Philippe Gilbert and youngster Florian Vermeersch, 2nd in the Paris Roubaix last year. All of them are a decent shout and will likely be cards that the Belgian team will play at different points of the race. Based on history, the race will likely go back to being decided by a solo effort or a small breakaway, and Wellens’ form makes me believe he can have something to say under those conditions.
- Yves Lampaert
As always, Quick Step’s options are just so vast that it is tough to pick just one. For last year’s Paris Roubaix I picked Zdenek Stybar, only to be highly disappointed, hence, now I will go with Lampaert. Like Wellens, he is one of the favorites if the race does not end in a bunch sprint. He is one of Quick Step’s riders with the most competition days in 2022, along with Senechal. I give the edge to the Belgian here even though it’s difficult to pick between Quick Step’s four top-quality options: Lampaert, Senechal, Stybar, and Asgreen.
- Sonny Colbrelli
Despite not having yet raced in 2022, I must give some respect to the Italian. With the unpredictability of this race and the lack of a clear-cut favorite it is not outside of the realm of possibility that the Italian will do what he does best: hang on to the leading group and then make use of his sprinting ability to come away with the victory. The Bahraini team also brought Matej Mohorič and Luis Leon Sanchez to the race. Both rode well in the Vuelta a Comunidad Valenciana earlier this season and Mohoric I certainly not to be underestimated especially in a race that’s likely to be decided in a breakaway. I will give the edge to Colbrelli within the team because of the route and his sprinting ability.
- Thomas Pidcock
Speaking of fast riders that can win in breakaways, Thomas Pidcock is certainly one of them. The 2022 cyclo-cross world champion (a title won less a month ago) has all the tools to build upon a great 2021 season with a win in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Ineos’ team isn’t a match for the other favorites’ teams (Quick Step, Jumbo Visma, Lotto Soudal, etc.). Ben Swift is likely his best domestique in this race. I don’t believe in Ethan Hayter yet for a route like this. He is a fantastic young rider but will have to prove his ability in the Belgian spring classics before I consider him an asset for Pidcock. The comparably weaker team certainly isn’t a plus for the British rider but, unless he gets caught out of place early in the race, probably won’t hinder him too much. There are plenty of strong teams interested in controlling the race until their leaders can make a difference. Pidcock has all the tools to not only follow the moves but to come out on top in the end.
- Wout Van Aert
The inevitable one. Much like Pidcock, Van Aert is also coming off a successful cyclo-cross season where he won almost every race he took part in. Pidcock won the only race the Belgian participated in but didn’t win. There’s not much to say about Wout Van Aert: everybody knows his skill, everybody knows why he’s the favorite, and everybody knows that him being so good always creates unlikely alliances to take him down. Quite frankly everything rests on the shoulders of the team. Not only in this race but also in the upcoming classics’ season.
If Van Aert had a Quick Step level team it would be hard for anybody else to beat him. Inside Jumbo-Visma the story is different. I will say that the acquisition of Tiesj Benoot to pair with Mike Teunissen makes for an incredible supporting pairing for the prodigy Van Aert. Will they be enough, however? Their leader is so dangerous that other teams will for alliances just to take him out of the race. It’s up to his own team to get a grip on the race to allow Van Aert to finish it off for them. Do they have the firepower to do it? I would say they have a better chance than last year, for sure. Will that be enough, though? That we’ll have to wait and see.