Emma Johansson on Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: 'We Race to Win'

Wed 20 Feb 2013

ORICA-AIS will start Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as the pre-race favourites in large part due to the two former winners in its ranks. Loes Gunnewijk took a convincing win last year in what proved to be a spectacular start to the Australian outfit’s European racing campaign. Emma Johansson, new to the team this year, won the two previous editions of the race (2010, 2011). The Swede previewed the course last Saturday and gives you the scoop, in her own words, here.

This is an extremely important race for the team. It’s the first race in Europe and the first race in Belgium – that really says it all! The winters always feel long and cycling fans wait with excitement for this day to come. Finally, it’s ‘Classics Time’ and both the fans and teams are ready for this special period of racing.

For me, this race is extra significant because I live in the area. I feel like I’m racing on home soil here. Having all my supporters on the course cheering for me and the team gives extra motivation.

I would compare Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to a mini Ronde van Vlaanderen. The courses share similar features and a similar atmosphere. Having both the women and men race on the same day contributes to the passion on display out on the course.

Our objective is clear. We race to win – and we have the team to do it. Maybe there is a bit of extra pressure for the team on Saturday because, together, Loes and I have won the last three editions of the race, but the team knows how to use the pressure to motivate us. We’re ready.

The two years that I won this race, the winning break was decided over two hills: the Côte de Trieu and the Paterberg. With no big sprinters in the move, everyone was willing to work hard to stay away. Both times, there were some attacks towards the end with a few riders dropping off from the pace during the way. We arrived with a small group for the sprint, which I was able to win.

I had a good ride on the course over the weekend, and mostly, it’s the same as the course used last year. The most notable change is swapping out the Wolvenberg climb for the Kattenberg.

Taking the previous years of racing into consideration, I can say the race truly begins around the 50 kilometre mark when we reach the Kluisberg and shortly after head into both the Côte de Trieu and Paterberg. These three hard hills one after another are only the start. All the cobbles are still to follow!

The race has a great website where you can look at the course map and download a free app for your phone to follow the action. Check that out here if you want to know more:

ORICA-AIS for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad:
Amanda Spratt (@AmandaSpratt)
Emma Johansson (@emmaprocyclist)
Gracie Elvin (@gracieelvin)
Jessie MacLean (@aussiejessmac)
Loes Gunnewijk (@loesgunnewijk)
Sungeun Gu (@eun1709)