ORICA-AIS back racing at Boels Rental Hills Classic & Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik

Tue 26 May 2015

After a mid-season spell from racing and a successful team training camp in Tuscany, ORICA-AIS is firing on all cylinders for the next phases of their 2015 season.

The Australian outfit returns for the Boels Rental Hills Classic and Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik this Friday and Sunday. Sport director Martin Barras gives us a preview of what to expect.

This is always a great weekend of racing. We are resolutely in the stage-racing season but this weekend brings forward a couple more Dutch-Belgian classics.

The first race, on Friday, is the Boels Rental Hills Classic. It starts in Sittard in my beloved Dutch Limburg. At 131km it is already a bit of a challenge but the course meanders through the Dutch hills to offer 15 bergs along the way. Once you start going into the hills, it’s a succession of short, nasty climbs on narrow roads and your pecking order gets established very quickly. The finale goes over the famed Cauberg twice and the finish is up the Geulhemmerweg in Berg en Terblijt (don’t worry, you will not be tested on your spelling later!).

Emma Johansson has a great record in this area, being the defending champion and having won a few races on these climbs. Friday will certainly see us busy.

After a rest day spent in West Flanders, we then tackle Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik on Sunday. It is made of six laps of three various circuits around the town of Gooik and covers 137 km over the usual concrete roads, traffic furniture, cobbles, potholes and cow patties but adding the climb of the iconic Muur de Geraardsbergen.

All the racing before the Muur is about setting up for what is to come after: there is a further the bergs leading into three laps of a final circuit that balances attacking opportunities with high power riding.

Last year I chastised Loes for spending only the last 123 km in a breakaway: she missed the first 15 km!!! As this weekend will mark our first ever without Loes on the ORICA-AIS roster, we have brought Melissa Hoskins, Chloe McConville and Gracie Elvin with the goal of animating this race. Johansson, Katrin Garfoot and Rachel Neylan will target Friday’s race more specifically.

For me, I look forward to two things: an involved and aggressive couple of races from our girls would meet my first objective. And there is also a butcher in Gooik who sells the best black pudding sandwich I have ever come across!

One way or the other, it will be a great weekend!

Until then,

Marin Barras

ORICA-AIS at Boels Rental Hills Classic and Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik (29 and 31 May):

Gracie Elvin
Katrin Garfoot
Melissa Hoskins
Emma Johansson
Chloe McConville
Rachel Neylan