In Her Own Words: Loes Gunnewijk Previews Energiewacht Tour

Tue 8 Apr 2014

In the early part of the European season, the women’s UCI calendar is flush with one day races. Noticeably absent from the European calendar are any major tours. In the two months since the last stage race, the Tour of Qatar, the women of ORICA-AIS have been hard at work accumulating wins and podiums at one day races spread across Belgium, Holland and the single outlier in Italy.

For those keeping score, the Australian based squad has tallied six podiums, including two wins, in the last eight races in Europe. The team is eager to keep the momentum rolling in the first stage race of the European season as the women’s professional peloton rolls into the north of Holland at the Energiewacht Tour.

Loes Gunnewijk was the team’s best placed on general classification at Energiewacht Tour last year, finishing second to compatriot Ellen van Dijk (then Specialized-lululemon, now Boels-Dolmans). She returns to her homeland eager to see her team challenge for the top step on the general classification and individual stages. In her own words, Gunnewijk previews the five day, six stage tour that begins on Wednesday, April 9.

The Energiewacht Tour will be much different than what we have experienced in our most recent races. Energiewacht doesn’t have any long hills like the Binda World Cup or the steep, cobbled climbs like the Ronde van Vlaanderen. In the north of Holland, it will be five days of war on flat, narrow roads with wind coming at us from all directions. The few sections of cobbles we ride over insignificant, especially compared to what we saw at Flanders two days ago.

The most similar race to this one would have to be the Tour of Qatar. It’s another race where wind is the main attraction, but in Qatar the roads are really wide. It’s easier for riders to get into an echelon to stay protected from the wind. In Holland, the roads are much more narrow and twisty. It’s harder to find the protected spot, especially when the direction of the wind is changing constantly. You have to be focused from beginning to end. One small miscalculation and the entire race can change if you miss a break.

We have a strong team that knows how to put the field in the gutter if we want to blow the race apart or force a break. To do that, we need numbers at the front of the race. From the front of the race, we can better control how the race unfolds. If a break hasn’t stuck, we can more easily regroup to set ourselves up for the finale.

To win stage races in Holland, every second counts. Last year I was second overall because of my strong performance in the time trial and because I lost very little time in the other stages.

This year the organisers have changed the format slightly to include a team time trial instead of an individual one. I am excited about the TTT. We recently had a good training camp where we learned a lot about our team time trialing strengths and weaknesses. Now we get to test what we learned. I think it’s important to have a TTT early in the season. It’s always different testing things out in a race situation compared to a training situation, and it’s the only way we can really prepare well for the team time trial at World Championships.

It’s hard to predict now what the overall will look like at the end of the tour, but from day one we will go after stage wins. Mel [Melissa Hoskins] is back in the mix in European racing, so we have her for the sprints. We are capable of doing well in the TTT. We have a lot of cards to play. As the race unfolds, we will assess our chances at the overall.

Before I sign off, I want to give thanks to the organisers for making it easy for fans to follow the race. Each night, the race is shown on regional television channel RTL7. They also do a fantastic job with Twitter and Facebook updates in both Dutch and English.

ORICA-AIS for the Energiewacht Tour:

Carlee Taylor
Gracie Elvin
Jessie MacLean
Loes Gunnewijk
Melissa Hoskins
Shara Gillow