Can anyone bring SD Worx’s dominance to a halt at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad?

The Women’s WorldTour lands in Europe this weekend for the first of the cobbled Classics, but will it be the same story for SD Worx, or will we see a new narrative emerge on the roads of Belgium?

The Opening Weekend can be hard to predict – many riders are seemingly just getting back into the swing of racing or even making their season debut. Their racing form is often unknown, and they use a race like Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as a litmus test ahead of the upcoming Classics in the spring. But despite it only being February, there are a few riders in the Women’s WorldTour peloton already making a statement. Unsurprisingly, one team in particular has continued their winning streak from the end of last season, with SD Worx already achieving seven wins from four different riders in the UAE and Valencia. 

However, as the Women’s WorldTour makes its way to Belgium, where the skies are grey and bergs are brutal, for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this Saturday February 24, 2024, will the Dutch team’s dominance continue or will the winning streak come to an end? 

Last year, Lotte Kopecky won the opening Classics race by 11 seconds in front of her teammate Lorena Wiebes. The Belgian then dominated the rest of the early Classics races, as well as proving her prowess throughout the rest of the season, which she has taken into 2024. Only in early February did the world champion surprise everyone by winning the UAE Tour’s mountain stage atop Jebel Hafeet, making everyone question whether there was anything she couldn’t do. 

Going into Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this weekend, she’ll certainly be a favourite, and there are only a few riders who could rumble Kopecky in defending her title. Many of those come from her own SD Worx team, however. Demi Vollering, for one. The Dutch rider may have come 13th in last year’s race, but she went on to prove that the top step of the podium is where she belongs, with 17 wins in 2023. She’s an exceptional talent on all different terrains, and the punchy, cobbled climbs will only play to her many strengths. Vollering placed second at Omloop in 2022, only beaten by the now-retired Annemiek van Vleuten, so this may be the year we see her add this race to her already glittering palmarès. 

Lotte Kopecky won last year's race (Getty Images)

Marlen Reusser and Lorena Wiebes are also contenders who could win this opening race, proving both capable of such feats, with each having a win already under their belts this season. However, with both Kopecky and Vollering on the start line, they will most likely be working for either of those two to take home the win for the squad. But the fact that SD Worx has a roster boasting such talent for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, it is difficult to see if anyone can stop them in their tracks – a rarity last season. Nevertheless, this is bike racing, and there’s always room for an upset.

Alison Jackson (EF Education-Cannondale), for example, in last year’s Paris-Roubaix proved everyone wrong, and she’s a cyclist who could do the same in this race. She has proven that even the worst cobblestones she can conquer, and such a huge win will have given her confidence going into this year’s season. However, she isn’t as explosive on those punchy climbs as the other riders, and therefore, the likes of the Kaplemuur and the Bosberg may be where we see her miss out on contending for the race win. 

A team packed with firepower who could look to beat SD Worx this weekend are Lidl-Trek. Former winner Lizzie Deignan will be one of those wanting to make an early season mark, having last year returned to the peloton after giving birth to her second child. She slipped seamlessly back into racing and even secured herself a sixth-place finish at the 2023 World Championships, sticking with an elite select group of riders until the very end. Making her 2024 season debut at Omloop, we do not know her current form in comparison to how she rounded off the 2023 season, but she’ll now have a full off-season worth of training under her belt. 

Lizzie Deignan took sixth place in the 2023 Road World Championships (Image by

The Lidl-Trek team also have Elisa Longo Borghini and Elisa Balsamo, both of whom didn’t finish their seasons last year in the best way with injuries and illness. Nevertheless, they both have had top 10 finishes in this race before. Longo Borghini and Balsamo have already started their racing season, and the latter has already proved to be back on top form with two stage wins at Setmana Ciclista Volta Femenine de la Comunitat Valenciana. A number of those who rivalled Balsamo in Valencia are also racing at Omloop this weekend. Marianne Vos (Visma-Lease a Bike) proved to be in good shape during the race, just missing out on a stage win to Balsamo. Surprisingly, despite her long career, this will be the first time Vos has ever raced Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. But given her experience and success on similar parcours at the Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem, she could thrive on the punchy climbs here if she’s on top form. 

Movistar’s Emma Norsgaard could also be a rider to watch during this race, with three previous top-10 finishes. She demonstrated her strength last year at the Tour de France Femmes with a stage win but has stated that she is aiming for a Classics title and could be a prospect for the podium at this year’s race. Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM) is also another rider who could possibly win here, as could Christina Schweinberger, Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM-Fermenich PostNL), Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez), Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ), or Soraya Paladin (Canyon//SRAM). 

Emma Norsgaard won a Tour de France Femmes stage in 2023 (ASO)

As the anticipation builds for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this weekend, the question looms large: Can any team halt SD Worx's relentless march to victory? Kopecky seems primed to take victory in the upcoming Classics on her home turf, having reaffirmed just how strong she is as a rider last year and early this year. But there are plenty of riders ready to challenge the status quo, and with a diverse field of talent from teams like Lidl-Trek and Movistar, the race could come down to a nail-biting showdown. 


Continuing her run of good form from last season, we think that Lotte Kopecky will defend her title for a second year running. 

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