Strong start to the classics for ORICA-AIS in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Sun 28 Feb 2016

Two-time Australian champion Gracie Elvin had gutsy ride today in classics opener Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Elvin made a big effort escaping with Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) at the 20km to go mark as the duo rode out to a 40second advantage.

Armitstead went on solo to take the honours as ORICA-AIS finished the day with former Australian Criterium champion Sarah Roy the highest placed finisher in eighth.

Sport director Gene Bates was pleased with the team's overall performance in their first race of the European classics.

"We had really promising signs from today," Bates said. "Obviously it would have been nice to get on the podium or that top step, that's what we go for but I think it was a great start to the classics for us."

"The girls rode really well together so I was really pleased with their performance. They were always together at the front and in good position coming into the main sections. We probably lacked a little bit on the Molenberg, as we got a little bit caught out there."

Elvin and Armitstead jumped clear in the closing stages, leaving ORICA-AIS in a good position having numbers in the chase group. Roy, Lizzie Williams and Annemiek Van Vlueten closely watched for any moves trying to get across to the leaders.

"When Gracie got away with Armitstead we still had three girls behind in the chase group if it came back together," continued Bates. "Out on the road they spoke together and decided to look after Roy for the finish, and I think she did a really good sprint in the end."

How it happened:

As the riders set off from Gent on a cold but dry day, the nervous bunch marked the opening of the European classics season. Like many previous edition the peloton stayed together throughout the first half of the race as riders bided their time before the key sections. 

Between the first few climbs of the day, one by one riders started to drift off the back and it wasn't until the ascent of the Côte de Trieu and the famous Paterberg in close proximity of one another, that the action really started. Ten riders went clear over the top of the cobbled climb including Elvin and Van Vlueten, however the group was soon swallowed up to make it a lead group of 36 riders with 50km to go. 

Jessie Daams (Lotto Soudal Ladies) tried her luck for a number of kilometres in the approach to the Molenberg, but she quickly caught after a dangerous attack from Ellen Van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) with only 35km remaining. 

The race began to heat up over the knarly cobble sections, as Elvin proved her early season form and rode away from the group alongwith the current world champion Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans). The duo rapidly rode to a 40second advantage with less than 20km to go. 

Armitstead proved her class as she took off solo with 10km remaining, as the chase group raced for the remaining podium spots.

Tomorrow the ORICA-AIS are back in action to try again in Omloop Het Van Hageland.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad results:

1. Lizzie Armitstead (BDM) 3:25:03
2. Chantal Blaak (BDM) +29
3. Tiffany Cromwell (CSR) st
8. Sarah Roy (OGE) st