Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: The first cycling race of the year in Northwestern Europe

20 January 2023 By shamim kordbache History

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, previously Omloop Het Volk is an iconic cycling race that has been held for over 80 years in Belgium. It is part of the UCI World Tour and takes place in late February each year. It is the opening event of the Belgian cycling season, as well as the first race of the year in Northwestern Europe. Given its early calendar date, it is often marked by cold weather, making it more thought-provoking and, without a doubt, more prestigious. The race starts in Gent and goes through the local Flanders region, covering over 200 kilometres of terrain.


Some interesting facts about the history of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

How the race's name has changed

The Omloop van Vlaanderen race was first held in 1945. The event was started by the Flemish newspaper Het Volk in response to the Tour of Flanders, which was started by rival newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. Het Volk, a famous publication, wanted to start a new cycling event in Flanders to compete with the Tour of Flanders' closeness to the Nazis during World War II. 

The Ronde's organisers protested that the name was too close to their own - there is little semantic difference between "Ronde" and "Omloop". The Belgian cycling federation demanded that the event's name be changed, prompting Het Volk to become the title sponsor of their own race. After the merger of former rival newspapers Het Volk and Het Nieuwsblad in 2009, the event was renamed Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for its 64th edition.


Wintry climate cancelled the race


As the new year begins in cold weather in Europe, the first cycling race of the year should indeed follow suit. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is held annually in late February, which means that the race has been occasionally affected by cold and wintry weather. In general this race is characterised by cold weather and short cobbled climbs. Two editions of this famous cycling race have been cancelled due to climate constraints.


The race was forced to be cancelled in 1986 and 2004 because snow and freezing temperatures made the route too dangerous and riders' safety could not be guaranteed. Due to snow, the 1971 race was also postponed and rescheduled three weeks later on Thursday 26 March. It's also interesting to know that Eddy Merckx, the famous Belgian cyclist, won his first Omloop Het Volk victory in 1971. Nowadays organisers rely heavily on weather forecasts and adjust the course if certain sectors are deemed unsafe.

Eddy Merckx, Omloop Het Volk 1971Eddy Merckx, Omloop Het Volk 1971

Record holders of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad


As a Belgian-originated cycling race, Belgian cyclists have dominated the race throughout its history, aided by large, supportive crowds. Belgians have won 56 editions, but in a sign of the race's growing international stature, they have only won four of the last ten.


The record for wins is three, shared by Joseph Bruyère, Ernest Sterckx and Peter van Petegem. For his 1975 victory, Bruyère has the fastest average (43.35 km/h). Eddy Merckx, the legendary Belgian cyclist, Roger De Vlaeminck, Freddy Maertens, Johan Museeuw, Philippe Gilbert, and Thor Hushovd are among the other notable winners. Fausto Coppi, an Italian cycling legend, won the race in 1948 but was disqualified for receiving an illegal wheel-change.


1974 Omloop Het Volk winner Joseph Bruyère

1974 Omloop Het Volk winner Joseph Bruyère

In our shop, we have a large selection of iconic cycling jerseys in a variety of styles that are suitable for cycling in any weather. Retro cycling jerseys are ideal choices  for sunny warm weather, and retro cycling jackets (fleece) are suitable for cold wintry climates. So, if you want to ride in the outfit of your favourite cycling hero, don't forget to check out our store.


Are you, like us, a big fan of cycling? Then be sure to keep an eye on our blog. We regularly post  new stories about cycling facts, remarkable events and updates of our product range which are definitely worth reading!

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