The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is held over a challenging, hilly course, similar in style to the Tour of Flanders, one of the cycling monuments and the most important cycling race in Flanders. The Het Nieuwsblad is, however, significantly shorter at 200.2 km (124.4 mi). The races share many climbs in the race, such as the Taaienberg, the Valkenberg and the Molenberg; the Het Nieuwsblad also includes the Muur van Geraardsbergen, which was a decisive part of the Tour of Flanders until its removal in 2012. The race is normally won from a small group rather than from a bunch sprint because of the difficult route. The 2015 race included a new climb, the Kaperij, after 120 km (75 mi).
The race is also notable for the weather: it is frequently held in rain and cold conditions, which adds to the difficulty. The weather has caused the cancellation of the race − and also of Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne the following day − on several occasions, and the riders have to pay considerable attention to keeping warm during the race. This is especially true because many of the riders used hot-weather races in the Middle East (such as the Tour of Qatar, the Dubai Tour and the Tour of Oman) to prepare for the European classics season. The importance of this was demonstrated in 2014, when Ian Stannard (Team Sky) beat Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) in a sprint principally because he had managed to keep warmer through the race.
As the opening day of the Belgian cycling season, the Het Nieuwsblad has a particular prominence for Belgian cyclists. 54 of the 69 previous editions had been won by Belgian cyclists, though the victory of Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL–Jumbo) in 2012 was the only Belgian win in the past six years.
Pre-race favourites included Stannard, Vanmarcke, Niki Terpstra (Etixx–Quick-Step), and Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha). Tom Boonen (Etixx–Quick-Step) was also considered a favourite, despite the fact that the Het Nieuwsblad was the only cobbled classic that he had not won. Much pre-race coverage also focused on the participation of Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), the former champion of the Tour de France, who was participating in the event for the first time since 2006 as part of his preparation for the Paris–Roubaix.