Drentse 8: New Course, Same Plan

Wed 12 Mar 2014

The opening block of European racing has gotten off to a roaring start for ORICA-AIS as the team scored three podiums in its first three races. Making the move from the ‘hills’ of Belgium to the pan flat races in Holland, the Australian outfit wants nothing less than to leave its mark on the Dutch roads as well. The roster for Drentse 8, the first of three Dutch races, includes: Emma Johansson, Gracie Elvin, Jessie MacLean, Loes Gunnewijk, Shara Gillow and Valentina Scandolara.

This year the riders will face a completely revamped course for Drentse 8. As usual, the race will be fast and flat but it no longer forms the figure eight that originally gave the race its name. While the start town remains the same, the race will now travel 137 kilometres to the finish in Borger.

“The race starts with four, flat laps of a 6.5 kilometre circuit around Dwingeloo,” explained Sport Director Gene Bates. “The race finishes with five laps of an 11.6 kilometre circuit that is lined with the street furniture that is characteristic of the region. Between the two circuits, we will cross a lot of country roads that include two of the gnarliest cobbled sections I have ever seen. Unlike in Belgium where the cobbles are rough but unified, these two cobbled sections are no more than rocks thrown into the road.”

The characteristics of Dutch races are not too dissimilar from Belgian courses where the wind can wreak havoc and the cobbles can do damage, but it’s the hills that are noticeably absent in Holland.

“The biggest difference in Holland is there is not a hill in sight,” said Bates. “But add in the extremely narrow roads, cobbles, wide open countryside and wind, and the peloton can be blown to bits.”

As ORICA-AIS has proven time and again, it’s a unified team effort that will make or break the final result.

“To have a good result, we need numbers at the front, especially coming into the last 30-40 kilometres,” noted Bates. “Having the numbers and racing aggressively will make a major difference in what we can do in the finale.”

“As always we will line up with the aim to get the best possible result for the team,” Bates added. “We want a victory, but we can still be happy if the best ride we can put together is a podium.”

To date, Johansson has been the undeniable team leader with a win and two podiums in Belgium. However, with a target on her back, the opportunity for another ORICA-AIS rider to capitalize on a lack of attention is wide open.

“There’s no doubt Emma is in great form,” said Bates. “We are mindful of that and so are other teams. If the other teams focus on Emma, that opens a window for one of the other girls to have a go.”

“Loes is coming back from a bout of illness from the last race,” continued Bates. “She is always a rider we can count on, especially in her home country where she has honed her skill in tough conditions and on rough roads. I expect we could see her do something special this week.”

ORICA-AIS for Drentse 8:

Emma Johansson
Gracie Elvin
Jessie MacLean
Loes Gunnewijk
Shara Gillow
Valentina Scandolara.