ORICA-AIS looking forward to their first outing in Gent-WevelgemThu 24 Mar 2016
The 2016 edition of the iconic Belgian classic- Gent Wevelgem takes place this weekend on Easter Sunday.
It will be the 5th year that the event has held a women's race which will prelude the men's event and the first time ORICA-AIS will line up. The previous editions of the race clashed with a World Cup race in Italy, so the Australian outfit are excited to finally have the opportunity to showcase themselves at an additional Belgian Classic.
"In the past we have always raced Binda with it being on our home turf, our Italian base." said sport director Martin Barras. "So it's a first for us in Gent Wevelgem and we very much welcome the race as it's a very prestigious race for women's cycling."
"To be afforded the chance to have it on our schedule, we are very much looking forward to that. It's a fantastic opportunity, it has it's own challenges. It's not too different from the men's race that looks predominately like a sprinters race despite the difficult middle section."
The race covers a 115km route starting in the historic town of Ieper, home to many battlefields during World War I with memorials and war museums scattered throughout the West Flanders town.
After 50km the riders will complete two circuits which takes in ascents of the Monteberg and the gnarly cobble climb of the Kemmelberg on both laps. In previous editions it has proven to be the most important section of the race, likely to create significant splits within the peloton. However, from the top of the climb to the finish, 35 kilometres of racing remains and therefore a lot can happen in the closing stages.
"We believe we have a very good shot," Barras continued. "Particularly with Annemiek Van Vleuten and Gracie Elvin who have been been really strong throughout the spring racing."
"The rider we are watching who has quietly been racing strongly without any stella results, and has been very consistent since the beginning of the year is Sarah Roy. She had a good ride in Binda which indicates she is going very well, so for Gent Wevelgem she is coming back to her favourite terrain. If we add her to the mix in the finale then she has a chance of coming out with a very good result."
Boosting the team on Sunday will be Michelton Bay Cycling Classic stage winner Lizzie Williams along with 27-year-old Loren Rowney. Rounding up the strong six rider team is Australian champion Amanda Spratt who is coming back to join the team after missing out in last weekend's race after sustaining an injury.
Like all the classic races in Belgium the weather and particularly the wind direction can be a big contributor to how the race pans out. Either way, the riders will take to the start line prepared for a tough battle right to the very end.
ORICA-AIS riders for Gent Wevelgem (27th March):
Gracie Elvin (AUS, ACT, 27)
Loren Rowney (AUS, QLD, 27)
Sarah Roy (AUS, NSW, 29)
Amanda Spratt (AUS, NSW, 28)
Annemiek van Vleuten (NED, 33)
Lizzie Williams (AUS, VIC, 32)