Elvin & Roy lead a motivated Mitchelton-SCOTT, looking to continue momentum at Drenthe weekendTue 12 Mar 2019
Fresh off a stunning victory at Strade Bianche, Mitchelton-SCOTT women are motivated to continue the momentum as their Classics season continues this weekend with Drentse Acht van Westerveld on Friday and the second UCI Women’s WorldTour race of the season, Ronde van Drenthe, on Sunday.
Having watched the success of their teammates last week from a Belgium-based camp, Australians Gracie Elvin and Sarah Roy will take the reins for the duo of races, thriving off the typically harsh and unpredictable conditions of Dutch racing.
In typical Dutch style, the two races are much more than paper would suggest, with wind and weather likely to cause more carnage than the parcours themselves – past results differing from bunch sprints, small groups and solo winners.
Both races feature the VAMberg, with Drentse Acht scaling the ascent twice and Ronde van Drenthe on three occasions, whilst Sunday’s WorldTour event has an extra 20km and 11sectors of cobbles to navigate.
Mitchelton-SCOTT has yet to grace the top step at either event, settling for second place on two occasions at Drentse Acht in 2015 and again last year, and second also at Ronde van Drenthe courtesy of Elvin in 2016.
“I’m really looking forward to the races in Drenthe this year. I’ve got good memories of these races, as well as plenty of war stories like everyone else.
“These races have a reputation for becoming epic days on the bike even if they look relatively simple on paper. Narrow roads, cross winds and aggressive racing always leads to an unpredictable and exciting finish, especially on Sunday’s race that crosses the famous VAMberg a few times.
“Sarah Roy and I have stayed in Belgium since the opening weekend getting some efforts and kilometres done on the roads we will be racing on in a couple of week’s time leading into Flanders. It’s been fun to push each other over the cobbles and climbs and make the most of a good block in one place. I think this preparation will really pay off and even for this weekend in Drenthe. We’re motivated to go for some big results.”
"I think both the races this weekend will be fast and fairly aggressive. So far, the European races have been faster than previous years (based off strava stalking) so I have a feeling there may be more of a select group coming into the finals but generally a similar trend to the years past with a bigger bunch on Friday than on Sunday.
"Both are flat race with a few climbs over the rubbish tip hill that's always an important section but a long way to the finish from there on both days. Drentse Acht has fewer and less challenging cobble sections whereas RvD has a number of long very rough sectors with narrow, technical lead ins.
"I planned last year to spend more time in Belgium this season to be better prepared for the classics and give myself the best opportunity going in. That's something Gracie has done over the last 2-3 years and I think the benefits have really shown in her performances. The team got behind this and provided both Gracie and I with training support for a solid block between our races.
"I've really enjoyed training with Gracie, we've pushed ourselves together and motivated each other through some insane weather conditions.
"I don't really know for sure how I'm going form wise, I've been putting in the hard work and having an awesome time doing it. My coach is really happy with where things are at now, I'm feeling good and everything is going well so we will have to see what happens on the day. We are going in with five riders, six is always better but not worth looking into. We will work well together and use each of us to the best of our abilities."
Martin Vestby – Sport Director:
“They are typical Dutch races. There’s a lot of wind, it doesn’t matter how it’s blowing, there will always be wind there. You also have quite a lot of narrow, small roads around the dykes and channels, so with wind and narrow roads, it’s all about positioning.
“In the WorldTour race on Sunday there’s quite a lot of cobbles as well, and they are different to the cobbles in Belgium. Most of them are in the forest so is quite a lot of mud and gravel, they are quite spectacular.
“We start with five, and it’s always difficult to be one down in races like that because you need to have riders who can help the team get in position and ride in the wind and protect the leaders. It’s not an ideal situation and it’s not something we like to do but the girls we do have are strong. You can’t really change the way you are racing, because you always have to fight for position anyway, so it doesn’t change our tactics, we just have to play a little bit more on the other teams and make sure we have riders there when we need them.
“They are races that suit Gracie Elvin and Sarah Roy really well. They have been here now for a week in Belgium doing a small camp, they have been out riding in the wind and the cobbles here, and they are conditions and courses that suit them.”
Photos courtesy of Getty Images.