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Omloop Het Volk/Nieuwsblad
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Written by DZI (2009-02-25 17:01)
Translated by DZI (2009-02-25 17:01:02)

At the end of February - beginning of March is the unofficial start of the cycling season for Europe. The Omloop Het Volk is seen that way because it is the official opening of the Belgian road-season. Mostly because of that fact Het Volk is acknowledged as the kick-off in Europe. In 2009 the race gets a new name: the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will break with the traditional name for the first time ever since its inception on the 1945 road cycling calendar.

The race is organised yearly and only three editions haven't been raced because of bad weather. That can hardly be called strange in itself, the early date often has its bad share of sleet and snow. The last cancellation was in 2004 as snow on the roads made the situation too hazardous for the riders. The 1960 and 1986 editions also couldn't be raced due to the same circumstances.

Ever since 1950, the hills of the Flemish Ardennes were added to the route, even when the Oude Kwaremont had already been part of the race earlier. As from that year the following hills became an integral part of this race: Tiegemberg, Kwaremont, Kruisberg, Edelareberg, Bosberg, Parikeberg and the well-known Muur van Geraardsbergen. The many cobbled stretches are legendary and often enough split the peloton.

Jean Bogaerts is the first to be crowned king of The Omloop Het Volk 1945 and will win it again in 1951. Big names from Belgian cycling and around the world can be found on the race's palmares. Eddy Merckx obviously can be found on the winners list, besides some mutiple winners like Eddy Plankaert, Freddy Maertens en Roger De Vlaeminck. These names emphasise the importance of this race in Belgium, the true reason it has become a real classic. Only every now and again an outside winner can be found on the highest podium step: Jan Raas, Franco Ballerini, Jo De Roo and Michele Bartoli are amongst the very exclusive list of non-Belgian winners.

Het Volk is an institute in Flanders and far beyond, that's what the palmares tells us. As from this moment every year, the Belgians wake up from hibernation; the warm-up to 'Flanders most beautiful' race starts, their highlight in spring. Triple winner Peter van Petegem is now the race-director and will organise "Omloop Het Nieuwsblad" for years to come. If the crowds will ever call it that is doubtful. "Het Volk" will always remain to be the opening classic of the season to them.

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