Double weekend for ORICA-AIS as they begin their 2016 classics campaignWed 24 Feb 2016
ORICA-AIS are looking to carry their successful momentum into the opening weekend of the European classics. The racing kicks off on Saturday 27th with the 11th edition of Omloop het Nieuwsblad-Vrouwen, followed by Omloop van het Hageland on Sunday 28th.
The six rider squad head into the busy weekend beaming with confidence after already achieving ten wins this year. The four in-form Australians; Gracie Elvin, Sarah Roy, Lizzie Williams and Australian champion Amanda Spratt will be joined by American Tayler Wiles and Dutch rider Annemiek Van Vlueten boosting the team for the classics period.
Sport director Gene Bates is looking forward to seeing what the squad can produce back on European soil.
"Most of the girls have been at altitude or warmer climates to try and keep that momentum and good training going throughout February," said Bates. "Its been a really good January and February for us especially Qatar."
"We are confident, however it's almost like a new beginning. You can never be too sure how people will be going when you hit the cold roads and cobbles in Belgium, its a totally different thing.
"I think we have prepared well and we have a strong game plan going into the race on Saturday, so we'll see what happens."
33-year-old Van Vlueten, a former Tour of Flanders winner, is no stranger to the brutal Belgian classics. Bringing with her experience and knowledge of this style of racing, Bates believes it will be a huge benefit having her onboard.
"These are the kind of races that suit Van Vlueten," continued Bates. "She's done well in them in the past, so she's definitely motivated for Saturday."
"I think we will see her in good shape now and looking to be in the front group."
The second race of the weekend Omloop van het Hageland, is set to be an interesting one. With a mixture of tired bodies from the previous days racing and eager fresh legs looking to take advantage, a challenging race awaits the riders. Former world championship medalist Rachel Neylan will be joining the team on Sunday to kick off her European season.
First up the 1.HC category Omloop Het Nieuwsblad starts and finishes in Gent following a 123,8km route. Sunday's Omloop van het Hageland a category UCI 1.1, completes 128km including a 52km loop then four 15km finishing circuits.
ORICA-AIS riders in Omloop het Nieuwsblad (27th) and Omloop van het Hageland (28th):
Gracie Elvin (AUS, ACT, 27)
Rachel Neylan (AUS, NSW, 33) (Van Het Hageland only)
Sarah Roy (AUS, NSW, 29)
Amanda Spratt (AUS, NSW, 28)
Annemiek van Vleuten (NED, 33)
Tayler Wiles (USA, 26)
Lizzie Williams (AUS, VIC, 32) (Het Nieuwsblad only)