In Her Own Words: Loes Gunnewijk Previews Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Fri 28 Feb 2014

Spring is in the air and ORICA-AIS is ready to make the transition from the sun soaked Tour of Qatar to the more dubious and typically harsh conditions of the Spring Classics – the start of the European season. The Australian outfit will line up for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as the clear pre-race favourite as the team has a legacy of riders who have won the last four editions.

Tiffany Cromwell, now with Specialized-lululemon, crossed the line solo in 2013. Loes Gunnewijk used her tactical prowess to claim victory in 2012. Before Gunnewijk grabbed the first European win for the GreenEDGE family, Emma Johansson took back-to-back victories in 2010 and 2011. A natural in tough and heavy conditions, Gunnewijk walks us through the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad parcours.

It’s the first European race and that alone will make things interesting. Everybody is always excited and eager to start racing. We will start with a big peloton, but on the narrow roads and steep climbs the peloton will begin to split early. Nervous energy will play a big factor in the peloton as riders settle into the race.

The first two climbs, the Nokereberg and Tiegemberg, will serve as a warm-up for the more threatening Côte de Trieu. Different from previous years, we will not climb the Kluisberg because of road works. Typically the Kluisberg helps stretch out the peloton and the Côte de Trieu breaks the race apart. Still, the real racing will begin here. Positioning, good legs and keen awareness will be important on this climb.

From the Côte de Trieu, the course is like a roller coaster – the Paterberg, Kortekeer, Ladeuze and Wolvenberg all come one right after another. The Molenberg is the final major climb of the day before we tackle the cobble sections in the last 30km.

This team loves the Spring Classics. We know this race suits us. There is no doubt teams will be watching us as we have more cards to play than most other teams.

Last year, [Spratty [Amanda Spratt], Gracie [Elvin], Emma and I were all in breaks. Valentina [Scandolara] and Jessie MacLean [are] always aggressive riders so we can count on them to make it hard from the start or on the climbs. With Carlee [Taylor] we have another good climber. With these seven riders, we will have numbers in the front to play with. Just like last year, we will make it hard in the beginning and then attack in the final – one after another after another. Tiff won the race last year due to a really strong team effort.

We don’t have a clear leader because we have a lot of girls who can win this race. We know we can win, but it’s still racing. Anything can happen with crashes and nerves from the start. It’s never easy to win a race, but it is definitely our goal to start the European season with another win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

The riders and the fans are excited for the first Spring Classic. It’s a nice area, and the Belgians love this race. The race is in the same area as the Tour of Flanders, so it’s already popular. It’s special here. It’s special for the whole team. We have good memories here on the cobbles, which are in complete contrast to our last race in the dessert in Qatar.

ORICA-AIS for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad:

Amanda Spratt 
Carlee Taylor 
Emma Johansson 
Gracie Elvin 
Jessie MacLean
Loes Gunnewijk 
Valentina Scandolara