Q&A with Sport Director Dave McPartland on Lotto Belisol Tour Stage One

Fri 23 Aug 2013

ORICA-AIS opened the Lotto Belisol Tour with a podium place on the stage one team time trial. Having raced their first team time trial since April only last week at the Vårgårda World Cup, the Australian outfit was keen to test out changes made after reviewing their effort in Sweden.

By all accounts, the new strategies proved successful. Nearly 90” behind Team Time Trial World Champions Specialized-lululemon last Friday, ORICA-AIS closed the gap to 35” in the span of a week, finishing second on the stage. Adding to the excitement, Nettie Edmondson earned the best young rider’s jersey.

Sport Director Dave McPartland answers questions about the first of four stages at the Belgian Tour.

Q: Can you please describe the course?

The whole course was technical with lots of road furniture and different road conditions at various points of the race. There were climbs, descents, cobbles, road furniture, twists and turns. The most technical bits came during the first 3km. From there, it was downhill to a sharp nearly 180° right-hand turn at the bottom.

Immediately after the turn, the road went back up for about 2.5km. It was quite open at the top on exposed, wide concrete roads. This section gave way to a drop off on a cobbled descent. From there, it was weaving left and right all the way to the finish, which was uphill for the last 700m or so.

Q: How did the team approach the effort?

Technically, this time trial had a very different approach to the one we had in Sweden last week and the one we hope to have at the World Championships next month. Obviously, we wanted to do well because our result sets up for the next three days of racing, but I was also concerned with using today as a way to assess fitness, technique and skill to help with our selection for the Worlds. It was impossible to strive to have a similar run to what we’d like to see at the Worlds given the nature of the course, but with so many obstacles on the road, it became quite easy to gain insight on the information we need for selection.

Q: What went right today?  

We had some difficulties in Sweden making turns and using our riders in the right way. We had girls taking equal pulls when the stronger riders needed to take longer turns. That’s where we really saw improvements today. We handled the corners much more seamlessly, and the girls that needed to take shorter turns to get more recovery remembered to do that. The ones with enough legs took longer turns. The girls commented as soon as they got off the bikes that they had managed this a lot better. In my opinion, that’s the main thing that went right. We saw huge gains since last week in Sweden.

Q: Did anything go wrong today?

We lost Gu earlier than we would have liked. That was a bit of a bummer, but she put in 100% while she was there. Beyond that, no – no mechanicals or anything.  That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement; there’s always room for improvement.

Q: The team seemed awfully disappointed after the third place finish in Sweden. How was the result and time gap received today?

Everyone was much, much happier today. Specialized-lululemon had seven riders to our six, and I think we could have closed the gap even more had we brought a seventh rider with us to the tour. Given that we essentially made up one minute over Specialized in a course that was about half the distance of the World Cup, the girls were super happy with their ride.

What it boils down to for me is this: Sweden was our first team time trial since April, and we hadn’t had a single camp between April and the Swedish World Cup, so we’re really learning how to race the team time trial again after four months without. In the space of one week, even though we’ve changed our roster – keeping Loes [Gunnewijk], Emma [Johansson] and Jessie [MacLean] and bringing in Nettie, Gu and Gracie [Elvin], we’ve seen major improvements. There was a positive vibe after the race today because we’re happy with the gains but also because we saw that there’s still room to grow. We can see places to improve, and with how easily we improved this week after making some fairly minor adjustments, we’re confident that we can get a lot more out of ourselves with more tweaks still to come.