Kicking off the 2023 classics season
‘I’m looking forward to our team getting into the weekend and being bold’
While the racing calendar is filled with dramatic stage races and exciting one day races, the classics have a special appeal to them.
It’s the passionate fans lining every inch of the route, the iconic climbs like the Kapelmuur, the unpredictability of the weather, and the relentless nature of the cobblestones that make the classics so compelling. The action gets underway in Belgium this weekend with the Omloop het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and the Omloop van het Hageland the following day.
“Belgians live and breathe cycling so when you do a race there, the fans are unlike any other place,” Alison Jackson says. “Also the races there have been on for such a long time and are so steeped in history and the excitement is the same for the women’s and the men’s races. The types of courses that you have and the different climbs and cobbled climbs and cobbled sections are just so famous for how they have made the action in the races so I’m really looking forward to racing with EF Education-TIBCO-SVB for this opening weekend.”
"I’m looking forward to our team getting into the weekend and being bold."
We’re bringing a strong roster to Belgium. Veteran Lauren Stephens, who started her season successfully supporting Georgia Williams at the Tour Down Under, has raced the Omloop het Nieuwsblad three times already. Coming off of a successful cyclocross season in which she took her first British elite title, Zoe Bäckstedt makes her WorldTour debut. Kathrin Hammes, Letizia Borghesi, Sara Poidevin, and Alison Jackson just wrapped up a block of Spanish racing last weekend that included two one-day races and the four-stage Setmana Ciclista Valenciana.
Letizia knows that the competition this weekend will be intense but she is confident the team is prepared, especially after spending the last few weeks training, racing, and living together in Spain.
“In Spain, we had the chance to know each other better, especially with AIison who has returned to the team this season,” says Letizia. “We can do really great things together because when I did the lead out for her at Clásica de Almería, she won the bunch sprint so if we work well together, we can achieve great results. It is important to do the same in these two races this weekend.”
Reflecting on the team’s most recent racing, Alison says, “We made some mistakes and learned a lot in Spain and now with that behind us, we can just tackle the weekend and really set ourselves up for the win. It’s going to be a really cold opening weekend and there’s always lots of action. The Omloop het Niuewsblad is a race that can be won so many different ways and it favors the bold so I’m looking forward to our team getting into the weekend and being bold.”
Covering 132 kilometers with five cobbled sectors and nine climbs, including two ascents of the Kapelmuur, the Omloop het Niuewsblad is a dynamic race. In the past, the winner has come from the breakaway, a solo attack, and a bunch sprint. Omloop van het Hageland, meanwhile, is similar in length at 124 kilometers but with a slightly less demanding route, it’s harder for a solo rider to escape and is likely to come down to a sprint.
How to watch: Tune in to Flobikes in North America and GCN+/Eurosport in Europe on Saturday for the Omloop het Niuewsblad. Follow the Omloop van het Hageland on Sunday on the race’s website where there will be a livestream.