Confident ORICA-AIS for first 'white roads' encounter

Thu 5 Mar 2015

A confident ORICA-AIS outfit are on route to Italy, eagerly anticipating their first experience on the famous ‘white roads’ of Strada Bianche this Saturday.

For the first time, a women’s race will prelude the men’s at Strade Bianche and already in its inaugural edition the event has many with their eyes set on creating history as the first female champion.

“It’s the first edition for the women’s race this year and it’s really gathering a lot of momentum straight away,” sport director Gene Bates said. 

“A lot of the best teams in the world are going there and we are going to see a really world class field line up on Saturday morning.

“One good race really has a huge effect in our team. The girls are really upbeat and as a new race on the calendar in Italy in the springtime it’ll be a great day.”

Swedish champion Emma Johansson leads the team coming off their spirited performance in yesterday’s Le Samyn des Dames, hoping to go even better than her third place in Belgium.

The 31-year-old is joined by Gracie Elvin and Lizzie Williams, who were strong enough to back up their support roles on Wednesday to finish 11th and 19th respectively, along with former Australian champion Amanda Spratt.

The quartet are boosted by the return of Italian Valentina Scandolara and Katrin Garfoot who joins the team for the first time in 2015.

“My form is good, the team is racing a lot stronger now and it’s going to be exciting. It’s always nice with new races on the calendar,” Johansson said.

“I don’t really know what to expect, I have just seen photos from it.

“I think it is going to be about positioning and we have all Friday to go and check out the course to see what those sections look like and get a chance to ride over a couple of them to be a bit better prepared.”

Despite their obvious lack of experience on the famous ‘white road’ gravel sections of Strada Bianche, is it the same case across the board for the women’s peloton. Bates predicts it will instead be the unforgiving nature of the parcours is most likely to create the most difficulty.

“We know it’s going to be a tough circuit, hilly, not one particular hill, but just hill after hill after hill, which will really take its toll of the bunch,” Bates said. 

“Along with the dirt sections, it just adds that element of unpredictability.

“I think the cobble Classics up in northern Holland and Belgium are the closest thing we do to this kind of racing. The only difference is that the hills are probably a little bit longer so it will probably suit more of a climber or one day Classic rider.”

ORICA-AIS at Strade Bianche (7 March 2015):

Gracie Elvin
Katrin Garfoot
Emma Johansson
Valentina Scandolara
Amanda Spratt
Lizzie Williams