Belgium, 1-day Road Race, 122.3km
Although we've had a number of events outside Europe (Qatar, Costa Rica, El Salvador) by this point in the year, as far as many fans are concerned the season hasn't really got going until the European - and specifically in the case of women's cycling Belgian, and in the case of Belgian cycling specifically Flemish - season is underway. The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad took place in February, now the Omloop van het Hageland is the second big Flanders race: the racing season has well and truly begun.
|55.3km parcours - click to enlarge|
Last year, Lizzie Armitstead became the first British rider to win when she completed the parcours in 3h17'49", beating Pauline Ferrand-Prévot by 2" and Elisa Longo-Borghini by 4" while the tough Dutch sprinter Kirsten Wild led a group that came in 43" later. No start list has been published at the time of writing but, having gone on to enjoy enormous success throughout last year, we can expect to see Lizzie going for a second victory if she takes part this year.
As is usually the case, there will be three competitions taking place in the race. The first is the General Classification, for which the winner will be awarded €326 and 40 UCI points, second €217 and 30 points, third €164 and 16 points (4th-8th will receive 12, 10, 8, 7 and 3 points respectively) and the next 17 across the line various sums down to €22 for 16th-20th - rather paltry amounts, reflecting the realities of professional women's cycling. There will also be a GPM or hill climbing competition with hill sprints on Kerkstraat in the 55.3km route and on Roeselberg during the first, second, third and fourth laps of the circuit - the first rider to the top receives 5 points, second 3 points and third 1 point; at the end of the race the rider with the most climbing points wins €75, second €50, third €25. Intermediate sprints will be contested at 55.3km as the riders enter the circuit and then at 68.7km, 82.1km and 95.5km as they begin the second, third and fourth laps. The intermediate sprint points system and prizes are the same as the GPM.
|13.4km circuit - click to enlarge|
Kerkstraat, beginning 50.7km into the race (highest point: 57.2km), is a mere 697m in length and has an average gradient of 4%, which doesn't sound difficult - even the maximum 10.5%, for approximately 20m starting 300m from the start of the road, isn't particularly hard compared to the insane gradients of Paterberg and the infamous Koppenberg. However, conditions on the road are extremely tricky - there is ample opportunity for an unfortunate rider to lose significant time here.
Kerkstraat View Larger Map
It doesn't look like much at the beginning - just a left turn between a grey barn and some modern red-brick houses, leading through some trees toward the church that gives it its name, and despite the cobbles and a low wall on the right during the first hundred metres or so it's straightforward, though too narrow to allow riders to change position much. Then, suddenly, a hazard: on the left, there's a deep, stone-lined ditch running right along the side of the road for 45m - unless they're near the back of the peloton, any rider who gets in there is going to have a long wait for the mechanic to get through with the spare bike at best and at worst will be out of the race with fractured bones.
|Kerkstraat altimetry profile - click to enlarge|
Located 7.6km into the circuit, Roeselberg is shorter at 200m and, despite being steeper (the average gradient is 7.5%) would be a far less daunting prospect than Kerkstraat due to the wider and smoother road - if the riders didn't have to climb it five times, of course.
Roeselberg View Larger Map
The climb begins from a left turn out of Kriebekestraat; there's a bank on the right for the entire climb (and for 100m after it), but it looks stable and is unlikely to cause slippery conditions unless rain has been exceptionally heavy. As the bank ends, the road becomes Motbroekstraat and there are 4.1km to the beginning of the next lap.
Not yet available
More details nearer to the date