Emma Johansson Previews Drentse 8

Wed 6 Mar 2013

ORICA-AIS has migrated from Belgium to Holland for the next three spring classics. Drentse 8 on Thursday serves as a prelude to Ronde van Drenthe, the opening round of the World Cup on Saturday. Novilion on Sunday borrows elements from the previous day’s World Cup course. In her own words, Emma Johansson, who has twice finished on the podium at Drentse 8, previews the first of the three Dutch races for you.

Every country has certain road features that we come to associate with racing in that particular country. In Belgium the roads have what we term “death valley”  (read: crack down the middle of the road). Holland is the land of the “form f*#@%rs” (read: traffic islands and poles everywhere).

Both countries share certain elements when it comes to single day races. The racing in both Belgium and Holland is fast and hectic. The battle for good position is constant. Roads in both countries have cobblestones although the cobbles are different. Here in Drenthe, it looks like someone has just spread stones out at random on a forest road not meant for use by cars. In Belgium we race on roads where cars travel, so the cobbles are more uniform in size and are mostly quite organized. It’s a bit more difficult to navigate over the random cobble sections than the organized ones.

Drentse 8 van Dwingeloo is a very fast, appropriately named race. The circuit itself is in the shape of a figure eight around a town called Dwingeloo. It is 47 kilometers long, and we race the circuit three times in its entirety.

The course features a single cobble section that makes an appearance six times throughout the race. The last time over the cobble section is two kilometres before the finish line, and I consider this the most crucial point of the day’s race.

Most of the race features narrow roads full of what we politely call ‘traffic furniture’, so positioning is paramount. Riders must be at the front to stay out of trouble and have the chance to take control of the race. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of positioning. Much of this race (much of racing in Holland!) is about being in the right place at the right time. The decisive move can happen at any moment, so we need to be up near the front and ready for anything all the time.

I have twice stood on the podium in this race. In 2010. I finished second to Ina Teutenberg (Specialized-lululemon). In 2011, I was third to Marianne Vos (Rabobank) and Shelley Olds (TIBCO / To the Top). Both years, the race was active from start to finish with a split over the last cobble section. With everyone strung out in the crosswinds over the finishing straight, it was every rider for herself. There was no real organisation from any team. It was more like a very long, two kilometre sprint.

The course has changed slightly from those two years to last year, and the course change makes it a bit more easy to get organised although we still have that last cobble section only two kilometres from the finish line.

While Drentse 8 is an important race in its own right, it can also be thought of as a build-up to the World Cup on Saturday. It’s a good opportunity to get used to the Dutch roads again and to get the speed back in the legs after some easier days.

Today we spent time taking a look at the cobbled section, so the riders that are here for the first time will know what to expect. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the VAM berg (more on this climb in my World Cup preview) on the Ronde Van Drenthe circuit.

We came to Holland from Belgium with one big victory from Tiffany Cromwell at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and three-in-a-row third place finishes from me at Het Nieuwsblad, Le Samyn, and Hageland. My frustration over the weekend was reserved entirely for myself. I was annoyed that I couldn’t pull off the win for the team!

It should go without saying at this point that we have a single objective for Thursday’s race. We want to win. With no hesitations during the race on Thursday, I’m confident we can. The team is doing so many things right at the moment, so we need to keep believing that what we are doing will land us on the top step again soon.

ORICA-AIS for Drentse 8:

Emma Johansson (@emmaprocyclist)
Gracie Elvin (@gracieelvin)
Jessie MacLean (@aussiejessmac)
Loes Gunnewijk (@loesgunnewijk)
Shara Gillow (@sharagillow)
Tiffany Cromwell (@tiffanycromwell