In his own words: Martin Barras previews the Energiewacht TourMon 6 Apr 2015
The Energiewacht Tour, starting in Holland on Wednesday, is the first European stage race of 2015 for the women’s peloton.
It has been over two months since the last stage race at the Ladies Tour of Qatar, the early European season instead dominated by one-day races.
The five-day tour features a 2.5km prologue and four road stages whilst the middle day of racing becomes a double-header with a morning team time trial before stage two.
By the profiles all stages are flat and on paper look to be simple sprint opportunities, but in reality are anything but.
Wind and narrow roads play into the hands of the strong riders and a momentary loss of concentration can cost you the race as echelons take over.
Road captain Loes Gunnewijk has finished in the top ten overall in each year she has race for ORICA-AIS, her best effort a second in 2013 and, along with former Australian champion Gracie Elvin, will look to have another strong outing.
A notable inclusion is two-time 2014 junior track world champion Alexandra Manly, the young 19-year-old making her debut for the Australian road outfit at the Dutch race.
Our sport director Martin Barras previews the Energiewacht Tour for ORICA-AIS is his own words:
The official story will have it that the EnergieWacht Tour takes place in the Province of Groningen, in the upper North East of Holland.
The area has a long history (dating back to the 8th century) that involved switching allegiances between Dutch and German bishopric until it became part of what would become the Netherlands in the 16th century. This trade off between Germany and Holland is evident to this day, particularly in the local dialect and in the very thick accent the inhabitants of the region have.
Our take on the story is that it’s a pancake flat race so far up in Northern Holland we often call it “Denmark” and is characterized by daily echelon action in cold western wind.
We are accommodated in a holiday park, but trust me in early April it’s no holiday.
Normally the temperature dips below zero overnight so that very early in the morning, when the mechanics walk to the mud pit that is their work area, they pass an iced duck pond on their way to a few hours of frozen fingers and ears. We eat our chow in a gymnasium and by the third or fourth day the repetitive nature of the meals has everybody on edge!
But if truth be told, it’s great racing! The flat nature of the terrain means intense hard fought positioning races and only the strong and assertive succeed in this environment.
These are hard won bike races. And this year we have the added bonus of having both a short (2.5km) prologue as well as a 15km team time trial mid-race, which will no doubt re-shuffle the classification every time one thinks she has worked herself into a strong position. Otherwise, it’s four stages of the expected trench warfare.
A novelty this year is that the last stage will be raced on Borkum, a German island off the north coast.
We take a mixed team in this race.
On one hand, we will be lead by Loes Gunnewijk, who is not only Dutch but over the years has mastered this style of racing. She will be ably supported by Gracie Elvin. Both riders have the skills and size required for this terrain.
Melissa Hoskins will face the music for the second time here and will fulfill sprint duties.
Alexandra Manly and Lizzie Williams will feel to cold wind on their face for the first time at this race and, finally, spare a thought for Katrin Garfoot, who actually started the race last year but crashed within 2km of the start, which brought her race to an abrupt end. She is certainly up for improvement this season!
ORICA-AIS at Energiewacht Tour (8 – 12 April):