ORICA-SCOTT women take confidence into Fleche Wallonne FeminineTue 18 Apr 2017
Riding high on a string of successful spring classics results ORICA-SCOTT women have set themselves up for a strong Ardennes week, with Wednesday’s La Fleche Wallonne Feminine up next.
After Gracie Elvin ran a close second at the recent Tour of Flanders, Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race was the turn of Annemiek van Vleuten, with the Dutch star sprinting to third place in her hometown classic.
The team is getting closer to the top step of the podium and although sport director Gene Bates believes they are not among the big favourites for Wednesday’s race the recent results have imbued the squad with confidence.
“There’s some changes to this years course, from the usual circuits around Huy,” explained Bates. “I think it will be a much harder race than we have seen in recent years, and I think we will see a much more reduced group get to the final two climbs.”
“Ultimately it is really about those last two climbs and who has the best legs when they arrive at the bottom of the Mur de Huy. At that point, it’s just about you and the climb, nobody else really matters then.”
Van Vleuten will lead a strong team alongside Australian national champion Katrin Garfoot and Santos Women’s Tour winner Amanda Spratt, with support coming from Australian national criterium champion Jess Allen, Jenelle Crooks and New Zealander Georgia Williams.
“The girls have seen the course and I think they know it is going to be a hard selective race,” continued Bates. “We have a strong team here, who will be riding with confidence after Annemiek’s recent results. Katrin is also in really good shape and we have more than one option for Wednesday.”
“We really aren’t the big favourites, I think that will rest on the shoulders of Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5). This allows our girls to fly a bit more under the radar, and hopefully to our benefit.”
The 20th edition of La Fleche Wallonne Feminine will cover 120kilometres and include seven sharp climbs and a testing finish atop the historic Mur de Huy.
Traditionally the site of the finale of the men’s race since 1984, the Mur de Huy reaches gradients of more than 20% with an average of 9.3% over 1.3kilometres and will be climbed twice in the 2017 race.
ORICA-SCOTT at La Fleche Wallonne Feminine (Wednesday 19th April):
Jess Allen (AUS, 24)
Jenelle Crooks (AUS, 22)
Katrin Garfoot (AUS, 35)
Amanda Spratt (AUS, 29)
Annemiek van Vleuten (NED, 34)
Georgia Williams (NZ, 23)
Photos courtesy of ©TDWsport.com