Melissa Hoskins Sprints to Sixth at Dwars door Westhoek

Mon 28 Apr 2014

Melissa Hoskins recorded another top ten finish for ORICA-AIS at Dwars door de Westhoek. Sprinting from a peloton of 114 riders, the track and sprint specialist crossed the line in sixth place. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) soloed to a surprise 12” victory over the peloton after having slipped away with ten kilometres to go. Jolien d’Hoore (Lotto Belisol) and Lucy Garner (Giant-Shimano) rounded out the podium.

The West Flanders race featured heavy climbs, including the Motenberg and Kemmelberg, in the first 60 kilometres of racing that repeatedly split and fractured the peloton. During the first half of the race, ORICA-AIS stuck together in prime position at the front of the race to try to whittle down the peloton.

“Our plan was to get to the Motenberg the second time with everyone on the front to then force a selection over the Kemmelberg,” said Sport Director Gene Bates. “We were able to do that to a certain degree as Emma [Johansson] made it over in a small group. We had good numbers in the chase group right behind her. It was a perfect scenario for us heading into the final circuits.”

Within the final 15 kilometres of racing, the field was back together and the racing action became extremely aggressive. Small groups would gain a slim advantange only to be brought back by the peloton. Counter-moves would jump to respond, and they, too, would be shut down by the bunch. With ten kilometres to go, van der Breggen struck gold with the race winning move.

“Our goal was to get to the circuits with as many riders as possible to be aggressive and force a small breakaway,” said Bates. “Our girls were right in the thick of it. Several moves went that we would have been happy with but the bigger teams would bring it back together again.”

“It was a strange move with van der Breggen,” said Bates. “She kind of popped off the front. Before anyone knew it, she had 30 seconds. We looked to Giant-Shimano to close it down for Kirsten Wild. They gave it a bit of a whack but it wasn’t quite good enough. Eventually everyone was thinking of a bunch sprint for second.”

Turning their attention to the final two podium places, ORICA-AIS went into leadout mode for Hoskins. Gracie Elvin and Loes Gunnewijk took the first two pulls. Johansson dropped of Hoskins 200 metres from the line. 

“The girls did a great leadout for Mel,” said Bates. “The last 500 metres to the finish was over rough cobbles, so it was quite technical. Mel gave it a good go, and she came up with sixth place.”

On paper, ORICA-AIS may have fallen short of ambitions over the weekend. In reality, the Australian outfit laid crucial groundwork for bigger objectives on the horizon. Bates is especially encouraged by the form shown by his young sprinter.

“We have seen a lot of good work from the team and from individual riders this weekend,” concluded Bates. “We are pleased with the way Mel is riding at the moment. Last year at this time she wouldn’t have gone so well over a lumpy race like this. Coming over the Kemmelberg in the second group was really good for her. I think we can expect a big result out of her just around the corner and some good stuff from the whole team in Luxembourg and Britain.”