This past weekend, what is arguably the most exciting portion of the cycling season got under way. With Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and Kuurne – Bruxelles – Kuurne on Sunday, the spring classics are officially upon us once again.
With a big classic taking place just about every weekend from now until the end of April, it is a very exciting time to be a cycling fan. Part of the excitement that comes at the beginning of the spring classics is that any number of riders could grab a career-defining victory in the coming weeks.
We have already been treated to three phenomenal races. The men’s and women’s versions of Omloop and KBK all lived up to the hype.
Now that the opening weekend is behind us, let us take a moment to reflect on a few things that the first three races demonstrated.
SD Worx is the team to beat
— Team SD Worx (@teamsdworx) February 27, 2021
On the women’s side of things, Team SD Worx used Omloop to signal their intentions for the 2021 classics season. From a tactical perspective, SD Worx were brilliant on Saturday. They used the strength of their team to effectively dictate proceedings.
In the end, the hard work paid off for the Dutch team. SD Worx managed to land two riders on the podium. They even had an additional two in the top 15 for good measure.
Anna van der Breggen deserves a lot of credit for capitalizing on the team’s work and claiming victory. However, 24-year-old Demi Vollering was equally impressive. Vollering utilized plenty of exciting attacking racing to soften things up for her team leader.
With the wealth of talent that SD Worx has at their disposal, they should certainly be considered a team to watch for the remainder of the spring classics.
Don’t count out the youngsters
INCROYABLE 2ème PLACE DE JAKE STEWART !
Il est seulement devancé par Davide Ballerini sur le Het Nieuwsblad ! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/vfgPS17C6o
— Équipe Cycliste Groupama-FDJ (@GroupamaFDJ) February 27, 2021
Several young riders used the races over the weekend to show the cycling world exactly what they are capable of. In particular, three different 21-year-olds grabbed podium spots throughout the weekend’s racing.
Jake Stewart of Great Britain and Groupama – FDJ started the trend on Saturday with a surprise second place at Omloop. What makes the result even more impressive is that this is Stewart’s first full season at the WorldTour level.
Movistar’s Danish rider Emma Norsgaard replicated Stewart’s feat on Saturday by also finishing second at Omloop. Norsgaard established herself as a rider to watch last season with some impressive results. This second place is another big step forward in her development.
At KBK on Sunday, Ineos rider Tom Pidcock grabbed a third place to continue the podium parade. The young Brit, who is probably the most talked about cycling prospect not named Remco Evenepoel for quite some time, has already made an impressive start to his first WorldTour season.
Anna van der Breggen will be leaving cycling at the top
— Team SD Worx (@teamsdworx) February 27, 2021
It has been well documented in the press that Anna van der Breggen plans to retire at the conclusion of this season. If that is indeed the case, she will have the rare opportunity to end her career as one of the sport’s very best.
Van der Breggen was dominant a season ago. She picked up huge victories at the Giro Rosa and the World Championships. Her win on Saturday shows that she has started 2021 right where she left off in 2020.
With her current form, the 30-year-old simply must be mentioned as a contender in every single race she starts.
Mads Pedersen continues to quietly win bike races
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) March 2, 2021
After a disappointing showing at Omloop on Saturday, Mads Pedersen and the Trek boys bounced back in a big way at KBK on Sunday. After winning Gent-Wevelgem a season ago, Pedersen’s victory at KBK makes it two seasons in a row that the Dane has won a Belgian cobbled classic.
The 2019 World Champion is part of a very solid classics triumvirate at Trek. Jasper Stuyven and Edward Theuns make three riders who are capable of getting over the cobbles and finishing things off with a strong sprint. Additionally, they seem to work together extremely well and genuinely enjoy helping each other win.
Pedersen may not quite have the star power of the likes of Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert. However, do not be surprised if he continues to add a cobbled race or two to his palmares every season for the foreseeable future.
Up next for the riders is Strade Bianche. For my money, it is one of the two best race days of the cycling season, alongside Paris-Roubaix.
In the men’s race, we will get to see the first Strade installment of the Mathieu van der Poel – Wout van Aert rivalry.
On the women’s side of things, we will find out whether Annemiek van Vleuten can replicate her epic win of a season ago for her new team.
Bring on the White Roads of Tuscany!
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– Andrew Fasciano (@afasc573)