Tomorrow marks the real start of the European professional calendar: Omloop. The less Eurocentric audience may fall into the amateurish and immature habit of referring to this Belgian Classic as Ompoop, which, though funny, is an insult to a great race that demands respect. I would caution against ompooping around more familiar cycling fans. Ompoop.
This great video from 2011 shows what Omloop is all about; a tough, unforgiving course in tough and unforgiving weather. The riders put in effort just to stay on the wheel ahead of them, and there is no hiding from the ‘bergs, cobbles and other racers.
The final kilometers were a blur, sparked initially by an attack from Frenchman Yoann Offredo. Ironically, Offredo received a one year ban Thursday morning for failure to report his whereabouts three times in 18 months and failing to undergo a surprise drug test. Almost exactly one year from his ban, Offredo was at the head of the bunch at Omloop battling Juan Antonio Flecha and Sebastian Langeveld on the wet and muddy roads of Belgium. After a flurry of attacks, Offredo and the rest of the lead bunch fell away behind the might of Flecha and Langeveld. The pair deftly balanced the need to mark each other and to stay away from the chasers. As they neared the line, Langaveld held back, forcing Flecha to the front for longer turns and making the Spaniard look nervously for an attack. The race went mano y mano until the last few meters of the race, with Langeveld just barely edging out Flecha by no more than an inch.