ORICA-AIS searching for success in Strade BiancheTue 1 Mar 2016
This weekend the motivated Australian outfit will travel to Italy for the second edition of the iconic Strade Bianche. The race will be the opening event of the new UCI Women's WorldTour, which includes 15 different events throughout the 2016 season.
Last year's race was an unlucky one for the ORICA-AIS team, a day filled with punctures and misfortune which they are hoping put right this year. Having experienced how unforgiving the 'white roads' can be the riders return determined to take home a more deserving result.
"The team is really motivated at the moment," said sport director Gene Bates. "Like we saw over the weekend, the girls were all super keen to get stuck into the racing and they really want to get that result which was so close in the last races."
The six rider squad will include Australian champion Amanda Spratt, former world championship medalist Rachel Neylan and 32-year-old Lizzie Williams; all in form and ready to battle it out on gravel roads around Sienna. American Tayler Wiles and Gracie Elvin bring strength to the line up, after Elvin's recent display of aggressive riding in two breakaways last weekend.
Dutch rider Annemiek Van Vleuten rounds up the ORICA-AIS team for Strade Bianche, Van Vleuten is a welcomed addition to the team this year and her relentless determination in the final stages of Omloop Van Het Hageland brings confidence heading into such a tough race on Saturday.
"Annemiek is super motivated, her training has been going well, she's comfortable with the team and really happy to be back racing." Bates continued.
"Strade Bianche is one of those races, it’s in the same caliber as Roubaix or Tour of Flanders where if the fight is against you, you can have a shocker of a day and vice versa. If you have a bit of luck and avoid punctures or crashes then you can go a long way.
"Having the gravel dirt roads in the race makes it a little bit unpredictable but all the girls are in really great shape so that’s all we can ask for. I think we will see something good on Saturday."
With the introduction of WorldTour racing to women's cycling, the winner will mark history in what is an important step up for the sport. Strade Bianche starts and finishes in Siena after competing a 121km route, that includes numerous gravel sections and will prelude the men’s event.
ORICA-AIS in Strade Bianche (5 March):
Gracie Elvin (AUS, ACT, 27)
Rachel Neylan (AUS, NSW, 33)
Amanda Spratt (AUS, NSW, 28)
Annemiek van Vleuten (NED, 33)
Tayler Wiles (USA, 26)
Lizzie Williams (AUS, VIC, 32)
Whilst six of the ORICA-AIS squad will line up for the race in Italy, Australian time trial champion Katrin Garfoot and Queenslander Loren Rowney represent at the Oceania Championships over the weekend.