Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Jolien D’hoore begins the next phase of her Spring Classics season at today’s Dwars door Vlaanderen. The former Belgian Champion has had a different winter programme to previous years, with a focus on road training instead of her usual international track programme, and so is expecting different sensations in the big races of her home region.
“I’m really looking forward to racing all those Classics in Belgium,” she smiled. “It really means a lot to me. I’ve worked really hard all winter, just for these races. I’m confident and I’m feeling good, so I’m ready for what’s coming.”
A seventh place in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, winning the sprint behind the winning breakaway group (that contained teammate Elisa Longo Borghini) was a best ever result in the Flemish season-opener for D’hoore, and was followed by a second victory in the Omloop van het Hageland the next day.
Sixth in the Ronde van Drenthe – again behind a group containing Longo Borghini – confirmed that the 27-year-old has some of her best ever spring form.
“There was a bit of a question about how my form would be, after what was an easy winter for me,” D’hoore explained. “I did nothing on the track, so I wasn’t used to doing that, but I was quite surprised that my shape was really good at the start of the season.
:Since the first race I did, it gets better each day,” she smiled. “I’m close to my top form right now, and I think it’s right on time for Flanders.”
With the WorldTour leader’s jersey on her back, Longo Borghini will join D’hoore in the Gent-Wevelgem team on Sunday, along with former two-time World Champion Giorgia Bronzini, French time trial Champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot, and former Swedish and Danish Champions Emilia Fahlin and Julie Leth.
“We have a strong team, especially for the WorldTour races like Gent-Wevelgem and Flanders,” D’hoore confirmed. “Of course Elisa is the WorldTour leader now, and the team is looking good and confident for the races. I’m glad I can join them, and hopefully we can celebrate a few times!”
D’hoore is well aware of who her main rivals will be, in what are many riders’ big targets for the spring. The Flemish star is more concerned with her own form, however, and is looking to herself and her teammates to make the races.
“You always have to keep your eyes open, of course, but I’m just confident in myself,” she said. “I know I’ve got a good sprint at the end of each race, and I’m feeling stronger than a few years ago, so I can handle a hard race as well right now.
“In the past I just had to hang on, and to struggle through the race and then sprint, but right now I think I can endure a much harder race than before. I’m a lot stronger now, so now I’m hoping for wind, and echelons and hard racing!”
Without her usual track programme, D’hoore has spent much of the winter riding the roads around her Ghent home, which she will be racing on in the coming weeks. The focus on road training, along with a lifetime of riding over the famous cobblestones of the region, mean that she feels ready for the challenges to come.
“Maybe it’s a different type of racing, but I’m always used to the cobbles,” she laughed. “I grew up with it so I can never lose that feeling. This is a different type of racing though; in the past I did a lot of short efforts, on the track, and now it’s been a bit different.
“So I’m feeling like a different rider, and more like a roadie!”
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghini is officially the World’s Number One female cyclist, as confirmed by the rankings released by the International Cycling Union (UCI) today. The Italian Time Trial Champion also leads the 2017 UCI Women’s WorldTour however the UCI ranking is a more accurate indication of who is the current World’s best cyclist, as it totals up all UCI results of all cyclist from a constant rolling calendar, and ranks the consistency of an athlete at any moment over the previous 12 months.
A top 10 result in yesterday’s World Tour event, Trofeo Alfredo Binda in Italy gained Longo Borghini the required points to overtake 2016 WorldTour series winner Megan Guarnier and become the new World Number One.
“Today the team was strong, and I tried to escape but the other team’s tactics had the better of the individuals, but next time we will see,” Longo Borghini smiled.
“I’m very happy to have kept the WorldTour jersey, and of course it’s nice to be World Number One!” she laughed. “To be the World Number One you need to prove, every day, through the season, that you deserve that spot, and I would like to be able to win more races.
“Of course I would not be able to achieve this without my fantastic teammates, who support me really well in all the races, and the excellent staff and sponsors of Wiggle High5,” Longo Borghini added. “Without my team I would just be one individual rider, and not able to perform so well, so I hope that I can be as good a teammate for them this season also.”
The Italian’s WorldTour lead comes thanks to her victory in Strade Bianche, fourth place in the Ronde van Drenthe along with yesterday’s seventh place, but the UCI ranking includes results from all categories of UCI events. In addition to this year’s results – which have seen Longo Borghini as the outstanding rider in every race she has started – victory in last year’s Giro delle Emilia, an Olympic Bronze Medal, second place in the Philadelphia Classic and fifth places in la Flèche Wallonne, the Tour of Flanders and the Olympic Time Trial all added to the points total which clearly indicate that Longo Borghini is currently the most consistent rider in the peloton.
“I’m delighted for Elisa!” Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling General Manager exclaimed. “To reach World Number One in such a demanding and competitive sport, or any sport for that matter is a huge career achievement. This achievement for Elisa has been well earned and is a result of her all-round talent and consistency, however it takes much more than just that to reach the top. It’s as much due to her mental approach to her sport, and life in general. She’s a very grounded athlete and person who has a well-balanced life and she surrounds herself with professional and experienced people.
“Elisa doesn’t sweat the small stuff, she just stays focused on the things that she can control and she goes about her objectives quietly,” Gilmore explained. “It for sure helps both genetically and mentally/emotionally that her parents were both Olympians, plus, her brother was a pro cyclist and they all know how to best support Elisa during the toughest moments of being an elite athlete. In saying this, at the end of the day, no one but Elisa can take the credit for the position she is in today, World Number One.
“This World Number One achievement for Elisa is especially significant and satisfying for me personally as I was very clear with Elisa when she first joined our team (then Wiggle Honda) that our team could take her to World Number One. At that moment of trying to convince Elisa that World No.1 was a realistic possibility, I’m not sure if she 100% believed it – I certainly did. There is no doubt in my mind that she could have achieved this result with any team however I was determined to work with such a talented athlete and loveable person. Amongst many elements, Elisa will credit this achievement to her close and committed teammates and staff at Wiggle High5, who she also calls ‘friends’.
“In my opinion, the final steps Elisa has made to achieve this ultimate status of UCI World Number One was the result of her own self-belief and confidence. Words cannot describe my admiration for this unique, quiet achiever.”
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghini will lead the black and orange team in Sunday’s Trofeo Alfredo Binda – Comune di Cittiglio, just a few kilometres from her own home town. The 131km race will be the third event in the UCI Women’s WorldTour, which Longo Borghini leads after her victory in Strade Bianche and fourth place in the Ronde van Drenthe.
“It’s a nice race of course, and everybody knows I like it because it’s almost on my home soil,” Longo Borghini said. “This year I will have the Women’s WorldTour jersey, which is a plus for me, and it’s very important to be in Italy with the jersey that I actually conquered in Italy. So it will be extra motivation.”
Longo Borghini won the 2013 edition of the Trofeo Binda, on roads just across Lago Maggiore from her hometown of Verbania, under genuinely epic conditions as she rode away from the rest of the peloton in heavy rain and low temperatures. Sunday’s edition promises to be raced in far better weather, however.
“Normally it’s a good course for me,” she explained. “It’s pretty hard. I’m actually very happy that it’s not going to be such bad weather as it was in 2013, because there it was a bit extreme.
“Even though I won, I don’t really jump from happiness when it’s rainy and cold!” she laughed.
The Italian WorldTour leader will be supported by an almost identical Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling team that which helped to her stunning Strade Bianche victory. Longo Borghini will be able to call upon the considerable strength and experience of compatriot, former two-time Road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini and French Time Trial Champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot, as well as the power of Welsh talent Amy Roberts.
The team will be completed by former new signings, Swedish Champion Emilia Fahlin, who returns to the black and orange team in 2017, and German all-rounder Claudia Lichtenberg.
“We have such a strong team, and with the new entry of Claudia it’s even stronger,” said Longo Borghini. “She’s a climber, she’s a girl that can perform very well on that kind of terrain, and Binda suits her very well.”
With her home just a few kilometres away, across the lake, Longo Borghini will be able to count on even more support than usual at the side of the road as her friends and family will be there to cheer on the local rider and her team.
“It’s always a bit special in Cittiglio because of that,” she smiled. “I will have my family there – my parents, my brother, my nieces and my sister-in-law, and it’s just nice.”
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling team for the Trofeo Alfredo Binda – Comune di Cittiglio
Giorgia Bronzini (Italy), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (France), Emilia Fahlin (Sweden), Claudia Lichtenberg (Germany), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), Amy Roberts (Great Britain)
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghini makes a change to her race schedule this weekend, to take the start of the Ronde van Drenthe, in Hoogeveen, Netherlands, to honour the Women’s WorldTour leader’s jersey that she took after her victory in the Strade Bianche last week. The 26-year-old Italian will not be racing for herself, however, on a course that favours a sprint finish, but will be riding in support of 2015 winner Jolien D’hoore.
Both D’hoore and Longo Borghini have reached the top step of the podium this season, with the Belgian winning February’s Omloop van het Hageland. Longo Borghini was instrumental in that result, with a late attack allowing D’hoore to save herself in the peloton, and it was that attacking form that saw the Italian Time Trial Champion win the biggest race of the spring so far.
“I realised what I had done already, I realised in the evening!” she laughed. “I’m pretty happy how the team raced, and how we faced all the troubles that the race gave us. I think we were pretty strong, and we were cool in our decisions, so it was a very good day.”
Longo Borghini’s race might have finished at around halfway, however, as a crash on the longest section of Strade Bianche broke her bike. Thankfully, with teammates in support, the Italian was able to continue the race, which she was to go on to win.
“Luckily Audrey [Cordon-Ragot] was there,” Longo Borghini said. “But there was Gio [Bronzini] all ready to give me her bike – even though it would have been like going on a tricycle! But at least I would have managed to finish that gravel section.
“But luckily I had Audrey there, and I’m really, really thankful to her.”
The five riders in the group that had formed late in the race, thanks to the acceleration of Longo Borghini on one of the toughest gravel sections, looked like they was to contest the finish between themselves until a late counterattack from Lucinda Brand (Sunweb) and Shara Gillow (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine) took the lead before the final climb into Siena.
Thanks to her confidence in her own form, however, Longo Borghini was able to calmly reel them back in, before making her own move on the steep, flagstoned streets.
“I was cool about those moves because it’s exactly what I would have done if I was coming back on the breakaway from the peloton behind,” she explained. “It’s a move you make when you risk everything, because you don’t have the legs to face your opponents. You just pass them, and you go full gas, and yo just try everything to try to win the race.
“But I knew the final didn’t suit them, and I know I could bridge across.”
Longo Borghini’s current form has come as a surprise to the Italian, since her main targets come later in the spring. As arguably the strongest rider in all three races she has started, however, she is enjoying being able to race as she really wants to.
“I’m still not 100% because I didn’t really plan to be in good form for this part of the season,” she explained. “Because I want to start a bit cooler and try to peak for the Ardennes. But I found myself in such a form… I’m not winning so often, so every time I have the opportunity to do this, I just do it. I think it’s normal.
“I’m having such fun in the races,” the Italian smiled. “I’m just happy to be at the races, to enjoy the atmosphere there. Also because in our squad there is a very good atmosphere. We love to race together, and to stay together. It’s just very nice. It’s like having the 2015 atmosphere back; when we won Drenthe.”
Longo Borghini was originally set to race at the Semana Valenciana this week. Having taken the lead in the Women’s WorldTour though, she will be honouring the competition by lining up in Drenthe instead.
“I will be there because it’s a very well organised race and I can be useful for Jolien,” she said. “I will try to honour my jersey because I think the leader of the WorldTour needs to be at the WorldTour races, even if the race is not suited for her. It’s a way of honouring the calendar, and honouring the challenge. I think it’s a kind of duty that you have if you are the leader.”
D’hoore’s 2015 victory in Drenthe came after the Belgian sprinter was able to shelter in the peloton while Longo Borghini was in a break up ahead; much as happened in last month’s Omloop van het Hageland. This role, she believes, could play a role in forging another result in the race for her teammate.
“I think I can be part of a good team that can go for the victory,” she said. “Not for myself, but Jolien has so many chances and I’m looking forward to work for her.”
Although she has taken the lead in the Women’s WorldTour for the first time, Longo Borghini is not yet looking at the series classification as a season goal. Targets later in the spring are in her focus beforehand, and some of the new events in particular.
The new Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, along with the well-established Flèche Wallonne, will be her main focus for rest of this phase of the season.
“I’m not looking at the GC to be honest,” Longo Borghini confirmed. “I don’t think that I would be able to keep the leader’s jersey until the end because there are many races coming up, and a lot of races are not for me. I’m just taking it race by race, and I will try to be as good as I can for the periods that I marked.
“I’m just looking for the Ardennes. Flanders this year will be for Jolien, and I’m pretty happy to be there supporting her.”
Alongside Longo Borghini and D’hoore in Saturday’s race will be former double Track World Champion Nettie Edmondson, former Danish Champion Julie Leth, with sisters Grace and Lucy Garner racing together for the second time this season.
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling team for the Ronde van Drenthe
Jolien D’hoore (Belgium), Annette Edmondson (Australia), Grace Garner (Great Britain), Lucy Garner (Great Britain), Julie Leth (Denmark), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy)
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghini has won the Strade Bianche, in the spectacular renaissance city of Siena, in the most exciting finale to the modern Tuscan Classic yet. After seizing the lead on the steep climb into the city, the Italian Time Trial Champion held off the attentions of Polish Champion Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) on the wet, winding, flagstoned streets, to take the victory on the iconic Piazza del Campo, with last year’s winner Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans) coming over in third.
“The team just rode amazingly, and this victory is for my team, because today the girls and the staff worked so well.
“For me this is such a prestigious victory, and I think I will remember this for all my life!” she added.
The first half of the 127km race saw the peloton largely stay together, with the rolling roads of Tuscany causing numbers of riders to be dropped out of the back of the peloton, rather than riders attacking off the front. At the midway point, however, came the potentially race-ending catastrophe, when a crash on the long San Martino in Grania section of white road meant she needed to change her bike.
A quick exchange with Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling teammate Cordon-Ragot meant that Longo Borghini was able to quickly rejoin the front of the race – and was able to take her own spare bike from the team car soon afterwards – but it meant that the Italian was to be without her French teammate in the latter stages of the race.
Finally, a breakaway did escape, with three riders managing to get more than a minute clear. As they were caught on the steep, gravelled climb at Vico d’Arbia, with just over 20km to go, however, Longo Borghini accelerated and pulled what was to become the winning group clear.
With her were Niewiadoma, Deignan, and Annemiek van Vleuten and Katrin Garfoot (Orica-Scott), and working together they were able to pull out a lead of around 30 seconds on the remains of the peloton.
With a seemingly race-winning lead in the final 5km the break was suddenly caught and passed by a counterattack from Shara Gillow (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine) and Lucinda Brand (Sunweb), who had chased across from the following group. Suddenly, it was Brand who looked to be heading to victory as she passed under the final kilometre banner and began the final climb to the finish.
“I was sure I was one of the strongest among those girls,” Longo Borghini explained. “And I know that normally when you attack like this it’s because you are finished, and you just want to gain a small gap for getting the best position on the climb; but then you bounce back.”
Longo Borghini was biding her time, however, and an acceleration on the steep Siena streets saw the Italian take the lead. She was closely followed by Niewiadoma but, as the two of them swept into the Piazza del Campo, the Polish Champion was unable to come around the Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling rider.
“I went full. I knew that the first on the right hand corner would be the first to the finish line, and I just went full,” Longo Borghini smiled.
“Between Flanders and the Olympics this is one of the most beautiful victories, because this is such an amazing place, and such an amazing race.”
The Strade Bianche was the first event in the 2017 UCI Women’s WorldTour, so Longo Borghini takes the first cyclamen-coloured leaders jersey of the season-long competition.
1. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
2. Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling)
3. Elizabeth Deignan (Boels-Dolmans)
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghini will lead the black and orange team in Saturday’s third edition of the Strade Bianche, which will be the first race in the 2017 UCI Women’s World Tour. Having finished third in the 2015 edition, then fourth last year as she raced in defence of teammate Emma Johansson – who finished third as part of the race-winning break – Longo Borghini will be among the top favourites for the race across the famous, iconic White Roads of Tuscany.
“I’m looking forward to the Strade Bianche,” Longo Borghini said. “I feel fine, and I just want to enjoy the race because it’s in Italy. It’s in one of the nicest regions of Italy; in Tuscany. I didn’t really plan to be in shape for this race, because I’m more looking for the middle of April, but since I feel fine I just want to race and enjoy it.”
Longo Borghini was the outstanding rider of the opening races of the Belgium season last weekend. She was part of the race winning break in Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, that escaped on the steep, cobbled climb of the Paterberg; while her late attack in Sunday’s Omloop van het Hageland – having been up the road for most of the race – allowed teammate Jolien D’hoore to sit in and take the sprint victory.
Having travelled south to Tuscany immediately after the Belgian races, the Italian Time Trial Champion has been training on the Strade Bianche course with her teammates for Saturday’s race.
“The team is looking strong,” she said. “Today we did around three hours on the last part of the race, and every girl looked very well.
“So let’s see what happens on Saturday!”
With Longo Borghini in the Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling team on Saturday will be new German signing Claudia Lichtenberg, whose own prowess on the hilly Tuscan roads saw her finish eighth last year, along with the climbing support of former Japanese Champion Mayuko Hagiwara and French Time Trial Champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot.
Welsh talent Amy Roberts will bring her considerable power to the team, while two-time former road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini will get her own season under way in the first classic race of the Italian season.
The race will start and finish in the Tuscan city of Siena, with the finish line on the iconic Piazza del Campo, with the 127km course including 30.5km of Tuscany’s White Roads.
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling team for the Strade Bianche
Giorgia Bronzini (Italy), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (France), Mayuko Hagiwara (Japan), Claudia Lichtenberg(Germany), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), Amy Roberts (Great Britain)
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Amy Cure took the Gold Medal in the Madison race in the final round of the Track World Cup, in Los Angeles, California. Riding with compatriot Alexandra Manly in the white, green and gold colours of Australia, the duo held on to their overall lead thanks to their second place finish in the final sprint, as the duo from New Zealand threatened to take the victory.
“It was a very close race,” Cure told Cycling Australia. “We managed to fight it out in the sprints each time and get some points. But it really came down to the last sprint.”
Coming into the final sprint with 14 points to New Zealand’s nine, the ten points on the line could have seen the team in all-black steal the victory. Cure took second place behind them, however, with the six points taking the final Australian total up to 20 points to New Zealand’s 19.
Cure and Manly’s victory was all the more remarkable for the fact that the Australian team’s bikes were delayed in their journey from Cali, Colombia, where last week’s previous round of the World Cup was held. The Australians were forced to miss out on the Team Pursuit – which they had won in California – and were only just able to compete in the final day’s events.
“It has not been the best preparation only just receiving our bikes yesterday,” Cure explained. “But we have had great help from Canada, New Zealand and USA for lending our team some bikes the last few days as well as Zwift cycling for inviting us into their headquarters for some good training before racing.”
The Madison is new to the women’s programme in the 2016/17 World Cup series, but having had it as part of the Australian Championships means that Cure was far from a novice in what can be one of track cycling’s most complicated events.
“We have a lot to learn out of that race and it was great experience for us moving forward,” Cure said. “It’s awesome that the Madison is going in the right direction. We are very lucky in Australia that we have had it as a national championship for three or so years now. But it’s always different when you race with someone new.”
Jolien D’hoore has taken Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s first road victory of the 2017 season at the Omloop van het Hageland, in Tielt-Winge, in Flemish-Brabant, Belgium. The former Belgian champion was the fastest in a bunch sprint, at the end of the fast, rolling 126km race, after a final lap attack from black and orange teammate Elisa Longo Borghini was caught inside the last few hundred metres.
D’hoore beat former Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling teammate Chloe Hosking in a tight sprint for the line, ahead of Sarah Roy (Orica-Scott).
“It was a really good day,” D’hoore laughed. “I felt really good today, and the team was really strong. I was a little bit surprised by it, because of the race yesterday, but we went into the race with a plan. Elisa was on the attack, and I was in a breakaway once, and the other girls helped us amazingly, and in the end it all worked out.
“Elisa was going for the win,” D’hoore added. “The plan was that she attacked on the last climb of the last lap. She would go for the win, definitely, and I had to be there just in case we caught her back before the finish.”
The race, which was made up of one long, 56km loop, followed by four laps of a 17.5km circuit that included the climb of the Roeselberg, was characterised by several breakaway groups; most of which featured Longo Borghini. At the end of the long loop, the Italian was clear in a group of five, which included former Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling rider Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans), and Longo Borghini’s breakaway companion from the previous day’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb).
Once this break had been caught, D’hoore herself escaped in an eight-rider break, which again included Pieters, as well as fellow sprinters Barbara Guarischi (Canyon-SRAM) and Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb).
D’hoore’s break was caught on the penultimate lap, only for Longo Borghini to get away again; again with van Dijk, Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) and van Dijk’s teammate, sprinter Coryn Rivera. This group was 20 seconds clear of the peloton as they took the bell with just one 17.5km lap to go. With neither Longo Borghini or Blaak warning to take Rivera to the line, it was closed down as they approached the foot of the final ascent of the Roeselberg.
Just as the break was caught with just over 5km to go, however, Longo Borghini attacked yet again, and was alone and clear as she crested the Roeselberg. Into the descent the Italian Time Trial Champion had a nine second advantage but, with so many sprinters in the bunch behind her, their teams gradually closed her down as the line approached.
With just over 500 metres to go, Longo Borghini was caught. Her teammate D’hoore was lurking in an ideal spot, however, and launched her sprint almost immediately; the former Belgian Champion managed to hold off her former lead-out rider in the lunge for the line to take her second Omloop van het Hageland in three years.
“I was riding in the way of the other teams a bit, just to try and give her a few extra seconds,” D’hoore explained. “But then we caught her with about – I don’t know – six, or five hundred metres to go, and I thought ‘Oh s**t, now I have to sprint!’
“Luckily I was in the front, and I started my sprint a bit too early actually. I was there so I just had to go. If it’s a downhill finish with a back wind then you shouldn’t hesitate. You just have to go for it, and that’s what I did.
“The last corner is about 1km from the finish, and then it’s a really steep downhill. You come in with such a high speed.
“Actually, I didn’t do a perfect sprint,” she admitted. “If I could do it again I would come from a bit further away, just to get a bit of shelter, and then come out in the last few metres. But I was there in the front, so I had no option.
“Luckily I won!
“My form is really good. I’m not 100%, but it’s still early in the season,” D’hoore concluded. “I’m happy that we won as a team. It’s always nice to win on the first weekend of racing, it takes a lot of pressure off the team. Now we can enjoy ourselves and have some fun racing [Le Samyn] on Wednesday.”
1. Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
2. Chloe Hosking (Alé-Cipollini)
3. Sarah Roy (Orica-Scott)
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Elisa Longo Borghini finished in fifth place in today’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the opening event of the Belgian road season, after having been away in a two-rider break from the race’s halfway point. The Italian Time Trial Champion got away over the steep, cobbled climb of the Paterberg, along with Dutch rider Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb) and the two riders were clear until they were caught by a five-rider chase with just over 20km to go.
Van Dijk’s teammate Lucinda Brand managed to escape the group to take the victory, with Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) sprinting for second and third behind her.
“For me it was a big day today,” Longo Borghini said at the finish. “I was already alone with van Dijk after the Paterberg. I tried to drop her on the Molenberg – and I could – but she came back on the flat. I tried again on the Paddestraat, but she was strong. She’s a specialist in these races, and for me the finish is way too flat here.”
While they were alone in the lead, with their advantage stretching out to more than a minute, Longo Borghini repeatedly tried to escape her Dutch rival. The flatter race finale meant that, not only was the Italian unable to break free, but the five-rider chase group was able to catch up.
Although she missed out on the race podium, however, Longo Borghini’s obvious good form over the cobbles and climbs of Flanders augurs well for the tough spring season to come.
“There were several attacks; Sunweb had two riders, and they could play the game,” Longo Borghini explained. “I tried what I could, I tried an attack, but in the end I have to admit I was pretty tired. It’s my first race of the season here, and I really couldn’t expect to be so good.
“So I’m jut happy about my result, even though we didn’t get what we wanted to achieve today, which was the victory.
“Hopefully for April I will be fine.”
While Longo Borghini was in the lead group, her Wiggle High5 team teammates were sat poised in the main peloton behind her. Former Belgian Champion, and Ghent native, Jolien D’hoore took the sprint for seventh place as the bunch crossed the line, 1’47” behind the winner.
1. Lucinda Brand (Sunweb)
2. Chantal Blaal (Boels-Dolmans)
3. Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott)
5. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
7. Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling will start Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as one of the top teams to watch, as the European racing season gets under way on the cobbled roads of Flanders. The race is the first event of what the locals refer to as the “openingsweekend,” will start and finish in the East Flanders city of Ghent, and includes several of the steep climbs and cobbled roads that make the region’s cycling so special.
The black and orange team will be led by Ghent native Jolien D’hoore, who approaches the race after her first track-free winter in several years. The former Belgian Champion has instead spent the cold, wet months riding and training over the very roads that the race will follow on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a really big day,” D’hoore said. “It’s the first Classic race in Belgium, and everybody’s looking forward to it. Also me; I’m riding on my home roads, and I’m really excited to get the season started in Belgium.
“I’m feeling good, but we’ll have to wait and see because this is my first race,” she added. “It has been quite a different winter for me, this year, in not doing the track. So I don’t know how it will go in my first road race, but I’m confident and I’m feeling good. So, yeah, we’ll have to see.”
Alongside D’hoore will be 2015 Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Elisa Longo Borghini, whose own history in the race means she will be out to make things difficult for her rivals. The Italian first came to international prominence – as a 19-year-old – as she finished fifth in the wet, cold conditions of the 2011 edition.
“I’m always playing the same role, and I like it!” D’hoore laughed. “I just have to hang on; I have to struggle during the race, and then I hope to be there in the end. But then we have Elisa to make it a hard race. She can go solo, or in a small group.”
The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will see the Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling debut for new signing Claudia Lichtenberg. Despite her diminutive climber’s build, the 31-year-old German has continually proved herself to be as strong as any over the cobbles of Belgium.
“Claudia is really small, but she’s so strong,” said D’hoore. “She can do everything, apparently. She’s supposed to be a climber, and she can climb, and she can do cobbles; she can ride in the wind. She’s so useful for the team; we’re going to need her, I think, from race one until the end of the season!
“Also Audrey [Cordon-Ragot] is looking very, very strong. Together with Claudia, they can race hard and I know they’re strong enough to keep it to the finish. It’s up to me to try to follow them!
“We have many options now!” D’hoore added.
The black and orange team will be completed in Saturday’s race by British two-time Junior World Champion Lucy Garner and former Danish Champion Julie Leth.
Following Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling will travel to the east of Brussels for the Omloop van het Hageland. The 1.1-ranked race is a special one in the history of the black and orange squad, as it was where New Zealander Emily Collins took the team’s first ever victory in 2013; it was D’hoore’s first win for Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling, in 2015, in an incredible season that saw her take a total of 13 victories.
“I really like the course in Hageland,” D’hoore smiled. “It’s a tough course, and if there’s wind… Of course, you know, there’s also a hill in it. We can make it a hard race I always love to race over there. We just have to see how the race will evolve, with the race tactics and everything, but I’m pretty confident we can also pull off a result there.”
D’hoore will once again be joined by Longo Borghini and Leth, in a changed team that will include 19-year-old Grace Garner, Mayuko Hagiwara and Amy Roberts; all of whom – along with Leth – took part in Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s successful Australian summer campaign.
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling team for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Audrey Cordon-Ragot (France), Jolien D’hoore (Belgium), Lucy Garner (Great Britain), Julie Leth(Denmark), Claudia Lichtenberg (Germany), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy)
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling team for the Omloop van het Hageland
Jolien D’hoore (Belgium), Grace Garner (Great Britain), Mayuko Hagiwara (Japan), Julie Leth (Denmark), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), Amy Roberts (Great Britain)