The Pro European Racing Season is on
ALLEZ - Jose Vicente ‘JV’ Araneta (The Freeman) - March 4, 2019 - 12:00am

Although the first professional racing for the 2019 season started early this year in the Land Down Under, the “real” racing started last Saturday. I’m not saying that the Tour Down Under, the Tour Colombia, and the rest of the early season races don’t mean anything but, they were just the early trimmings before Christmas.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, if there is a more tongue twister than that, opened up the 2019 European classic season. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, is a race sponsored by a newspaper called, what else, but the Het Nieuwsblad. “Omloop” is a Dutch word meaning, “to circulate” or to go around. The Omloop is one of the older races but it is not a monument like Paris-Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders. It is just 203km long, unlike the monuments which is between 250-270km. Therefore, in a strict sense, Omloop is not a classic but a semi-classic.

No matter what, a rose is still a rose and a one day race in Belgium is still classic. What I mean is that the weather is still cold and riders still wrapped themselves with warm clothes and the cobbles and the cobble climbs are still there and for me, it is a classic!

Zydenek Stybar, who rides for the winningest team last year, Deceuninck-QuickStep (formerly Quick Step) won after he bolted free from a 5-man breakaway with just under 2km to go (Hey, that’s two tongue twisters in one sentence!) I’m not a big fan of Stybar  because he is a rider who is ready to lose a race just so others can’t win, instead of racing to win, despite the potential to lose a race.

I am more excited in Stybars teammate, the sensational Belgian Remco Evenepoel, who at 19yo, turned pro this year, bypassing the U23 circuit. Remco remind me of another sensational Belgian, Frank Vandenbroucke, who also turned pro at age 19 in 1994 and won this race in 1999. His talent was immense but he was mentally fragile. He would commit suicide at age 34.

Another Belgian to watch is Jasper Philipsen, a sprinter who rides for UAE Emirates. He beat Caleb Ewan of Lotto-Soudal, already an established sprinter and twice a Grand Tour stage winner in the 5th stage of the Tour Down Under early this year.

Of course, the I saved the best for last- Peter Sagan. Everybody likes Sagan. Win or lose, he is still a likable individual and a great ambassador to the sport. There seems to be no air of arrogance or aloofness of this superstar and the great thing is that he is unpredictable in a nice and good way. I can’t wait to see Sagan on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix or Flanders. I think Sagan saved cycling from the post-Armstrong era. I’m sure the Cannondal executive who decided not to resign Sagan (who moved to Tinkoff and then to BORA) has been fired already. I even think Oakley made a colossal mistake of letting Sagan sign with a rival company, 100%. Me, i’ve never heard of 100% until  Sagan started wearing those half face shades in 2017. I have one of those btw!

So strapped in to your seats, the racing is on!

RACING
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