The 26th of February.
Does this date sound familiar to you?
For cycling fans it is a very important day.
Most of them have probably marked this date on their calendar.
Of course, we already watched some races in 2011.
But to most cycling fans, the traditional opening of the cycling season
takes place in Belgium at the end of February or the beginning of March.
Name of the race: Omloop het Volk.
Though since 2009 we have to call it Omloop het Nieuwsblad.
This race has been around for quite some years now.
If you look at the list of winners, you will
see that most of them are from Belgium.
Since the first race held in 1945, only
9 non-Belgiums have achieved to win this race.
Some Belgium names are Sterckx, Maertens,
de Vlaeminck, van Petegem and Merckx.
All of them are mentally strong riders.
Peter van Petegem, a three-time winner of the race,
once said: “You have to love the stones.”
With the stones he obviously meant the cobblestones.
The Omloop is a hard race.
It combines the Flemish hills with strokes of those cobblestones.
If the weather is not on your side, it’s almost ‘a ride from hell’.
I can’t help but talk a bit more about the name of the race.
Lots of people are not happy with it.
With the fusion of the two newspapers Het Nieuwsblad and Het Volk,
the beautiful, short name changed into a long, boring name.
People in Belgium actually see it as a curse.
Since the change there hasn’t been one Belgium winner anymore.
In 2009 Thor Hushovd won, in 2010 it was Juan Antonio Flecha.
It might be a coincidence… or not?
Saturday is the day.
One of the riders could be the 10th non-Belgium winner
or a Belgium rider might show that there wasn’t a curse after all.