Johansson return boosts ORICA-AIS for Ronde van VlaanderenFri 3 Apr 2015
The inclusion of Swedish champion Emma Johansson, returning from injury, has boosted ORICA-AIS ahead of the third world cup and one of the biggest races for the year, Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday.
Johansson broke her collarbone in a crash in the final of the Novilon Eurocup just 19 days ago.
The epitome of professionalism, the 31-year-old has worked tirelessly with her support team before passing a fitness test on this weekend’s course mid-week and receiving the all clear on a final medical scan this morning.
"The Ronde is one of the most important races of the year to me," Johansson said. "I would have been devastated to miss it. I don't know exactly what to expect of myself in terms of how I'll compare to the rest, but it's a victory in a way that I even get to start."
"Everything I have done has been targeted at getting me back on the bike this Sunday.
"I'm really happy the hard work paid off and that I will be at the start this weekend."
Johansson will be joined by former Australian champions Gracie Elvin and Amanda Spratt, track world champion Melissa Hoskins, 2015 Santos Women’s Tour winner Valentina Scandolara and road captain Loes Gunnewijk.
Each starter has been a member of the team for multiple years, a significant advantage in such a difficult race according to sport director Gene Bates.
“It is really a race where experience counts for a lot and between Emma and Loes there is a huge amount of experience in the group now,” Bates said.
“With Emma coming back into the team, she has been really focused on this event for the spring and she is very keen to put up a good show. But we need to be realistic about where she is at. She has had three weeks out of racing now, at a pretty critical time of the year.
“Mel Hoskins is the only rider who has never raced this event and she will be guided a lot by the other girls. We are really excited to see how she handles her first monument at Flanders.”
Just like the men’s event held on the same day, the Ronde van Vlaanderen is not only one of the toughest, but also the biggest days on the women’s cycling calendar.
“There is something special about Flanders,” Bates said. “There is really nothing like it and being on Easter Sunday, it turns into something huge.”
“The riders get very excited and the atmosphere on the hills and just in general is exceptional. It really is the ‘world championships of spring’.
“It would have to be easily one of the toughest races of the year. Not only for the course in the cobbles and on the climbs, but also because there are certain points of the race that are critical you are in the front and there is 180 riders who realise that at the same time so you can imagine the stress.”
ORICA-AIS come into Sunday’s race with fond memories of the past, winning the monument in their first season with the now retired Judith Arndt and placing third in the previous two editions with Johansson, but the outfit are realistic about their expectations in 2015.
“I think if we can get a couple of our riders there in the final going into the Kwaremont, that will be a satisfying result for us,” Bates said. “After that point it really comes down to how well you have been prepared the last couple of weeks.”
“I like to think we can have someone in the top ten, that would be a realistic goal for us, and the team will look to have a really good outing and try to animate the race as much as possible as well.”
ORICA-AIS at Ronde van Vlaanderen WC (5 April):