Mitchelton-SCOTT women ready for a strong start to their classics campaign at Omloop Het NieuwsbladWed 27 Feb 2019
Mitchelton-SCOTT women begin racing in Europe this weekend in Belgium and after an incredible start to the season Down Under, the team are hoping to continue their successful run into Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and Omloop van het Hageland on Sunday.
With the one-day Belgium classics a big focus for the Australian outfit, these first two races are important to get back into the swing of things in the nervous, chaotic classic style races.
The team line-up boast strength and depth with world TT champion Annemiek van Vleuten making her return to racing after injury, plus multiple riders who have already picked up wins this season - Australian TT and TDU stage winner Grace Brown, SunTour winner Lucy Kennedy and New Zealand TT champion Georgia Williams.
Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is the main classic race of the weekend, 123km in length, starting in Gent and finishing in Ninove with 10climbs to take in including the famous Molenberg and the Muur. There’s also long stretches of cobble sections such as the 2.3km Paddestraat and 800m Rutterstraat, where good positioning as always will be crucial.
Sunday’s one-day race is another chance for the riders to test the legs in a Belgium classic. The race begins with an opening 57km loop before six finish laps of 15.4km which contains a short but steep climb and narrow roads that usually act as a launch pad for the race winning move, if it doesn’t all return back toegther for a bunch sprint which has happened in the past.
As the first Classic race of the 2019 season and the first race in Europe for many riders, the competition will be fierce with all the top teams and many big named riders taking to the start line. Last year’s winner Christine Siggard (Team Virtu) is on the start list, and the team expect a very anxious bunch.
The team has won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad two times before with former riders Loes Gungewijk in the team’s first European race back in 2012 and with Tiffany Cromwell in 2013. The squad has never managed to get things right for Omloop van het Hageland, with the best result being second place back in 2014 with former rider Emma Johansson.
"We are excited to continue on from our strong summer in Australia. We’ve done a lot of work since then so with the momentum and some new form in all of us, we will be lining up strong and ready for aggressive racing over both days of the opening weekend. Bring on some cobble action!"
Annemiek van Vleuten
“I have never missed one time Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, I have raced every edition since 2008 onwards. So it will be my 11th time and I am excited to go and support my teammates.
“For me personally being back in the bunch and doing my job for the team will be the most important thing and a success for me and to feel that my shape is coming back.
“It is a good opportunity for me to help my teammates, I don’t have or feel any pressure from the team so it is a good opportunity to race for the team, they all raced so hard for me last year so it is nice to give something back to them. They had an awesome Australian summer so I am excited to see how they will be at this race.”
Martin Vestby - Sport Director
“It is finally the start of the cobble classics and the season in Europea, I think it is going to be exciting with new teams on the start line and riders changing teams. I think this gives the races some new dynamics and can benefit us as a team aswell.
“We are starting with a really good team, the girls have been training well and if we can continue the momentum from Australian then it looks pretty good. I think our strength is we have more riders now who can win the races and so we have more cards to play. This will be our strength going into these first races and then we can see how the races develop and who is having a good day or not.
“It is also really cool to see Annemiek coming back from her injury very quickly and a lot sooner than expected, she’s been training really well so I am sure she can support the team very well. She’s not coming to the race to get a result for herself but more to see how she stands with the racing so we are looking forward to the classics now.”
Saturday, 2nd March: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 123km
Sunday, 3rd March: Omloop van het Hageland, 132km
Photo courtesy of Getty Images