Cobble Queen Loes Gunnweijk Previews Novilon Euregio Cup

Sat 9 Mar 2013

The Novilon Euregio Cup is the third of three races in the Drenthe region of Holland. Borrowing parts of the course used in the previous day’s World Cup, Novilon is a fairly flat affair featuring typical Dutch race characteristics. In her own words, Loes Gunnewijk previews the race with which she is intimately familiar.

We’re ready for a hard race. As the lone token Dutch rider on the team, I’m always happy to race in my country with my teammates. By Sunday, with two Dutch races already done, everyone will have a sense of what makes a real Holland race. I expect it to be another nervous and chaotic day – a bit like Drentse 8. We have the club riders and the UCI riders racing together, so it’s a big field racing on narrow roads.

The route includes two out-and-back sections before a circuit finish. Early on, we have the VAMberg and cobbles. Later in the race, we have lots of corners and the usual road furniture. There are certain moments that are historically decisive, but when we race in Holland, really any moment can be decisive. With the weather forecast for this weekend (more on that in a bit), it’s especially true.

This is probably the tenth time or more that I’m doing this race. I didn’t do it as a club rider, but I’ve done it every year as a UCI rider. In the beginning, Novilon was part of a three-day stage race in Drenthe. It’s changed in the last year to the three single day races we have now.

In the past, I won a few times the title of ‘Cobble Queen’ and earned the cobble jersey. I won the World Cup three years ago. I love the hard racing, the cobbles, the VAMberg and the unpredictable spring weather. It was a good race as a stage race, and it’s good now as a one day race. I have really good memories here.

My family will come watch us race. My mom and dad will be here this weekend. One uncle and aunt live close to here, so they’ll probably come watch us, too. I grew up only half an hour by car from where we will race, so I know these roads very well. Everyone and everything is close together in Holland compared to Australia!

If you haven’t had a chance to look at the weather forecast in Holland yet, take a look. After spring at the beginning of the week, winter returns. We’ll see a temperature drop of 15°C from Wednesday to Saturday. They’re saying we’ll have wet snow on Saturday and maybe on Sunday, too. Some teams mind the bad weather, but you can’t change it. We know we’re good in every condition, and bad weather always makes the race harder. A hard race is good for us.

As usual, I’ll assume the role of road captain. During the World Cup on Saturday, we can use race radios. That’s not allowed on Sunday. Without race radios, I take the responsibility of making the decisions about tactics. We like to race on the front, and that makes the communication easier. We talk to each other often. Sometimes it’s just ‘C’mon’ as a word of encouragement. Maybe other times I say something that has more fire in it.

I enjoy racing as road captain. I think about the way we raced in Qatar. We did a really good attack at a moment that we were organised really well, and it was obvious that our tactics and communication worked. We had five riders in the break, and I was really proud of that. Everybody was proud. We all had big smiles on the bike. We can win or lose races with the way we communicate.

Emma [Johansson] was third here in 2009. She’s the only one of us who has finished on the podium at Novilon. Several of us have a chance for the podium on Sunday. We’re focused on Saturday at the moment. The World Cup is the big goal. It’s hard to think beyond that race until it’s done, but when we line up on Sunday, we’ll be racing for that top step – like we always do.


Amanda Spratt (@amandaspratt)
Emma Johansson (@emmaprocyclist)
Gracie Elvin (@gracieelvin)
Jessie MacLean (@aussiejessmac)
Loes Gunnewijk (@loesgunnewijk)
Shara Gillow (@sharagillow)