Canyon-SRAM head to Sunday's Tour of Flanders women's race "in excellent shape", according to Kasia Niewiadoma, who led the team home with her ninth place at the 2018 race. The team is all-in for the win this year, fielding a strong squad in which everyone has a role to play.
"We're completely prepared and ready for the crazy battle on Sunday," said Niewiadoma in a press release.
"We're in excellent shape and we have the best equipment. Our team is incredibly strong, and everyone is willing to go out there, do their job properly and race their hearts out for our team's success. It’s going to hurt, but we're good at dealing with suffering and accepting pain," she said.
While Niewiadoma was the team's best-placed finisher last year, this year's squad is made up of riders who can all be expected to be up at the front of the race as it reaches its conclusion.
The team's road captain will be the experienced Tiffany Cromwell, who loves the cobbles and won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2013. She finished ninth at Flanders in 2014, and knows exactly what's required to record a top result at the race, and just how key having a strong team is.
"To win Flanders, your whole team needs to have a strong course knowledge, and you need to have a strong team behind you – a team that is willing to take risks," she said. "You need to be able to deal with any weather conditions, be mentally strong, have a little bit of luck, and as a team be willing to suffer like you've never suffered before.
"We have a strong and well-balanced team for Flanders this year, with a number of different cards that can be played," she continued. "Kasia and Alena Amialiusik bring the climbing strength, to make it hard over those leg-stinging, punchy climbs at the business end of the race.
"Alexis Ryan and Lisa Klein are the power riders who can ride the wind for us, and both have a fast finish if it happens to be a bunch sprint.
"Elena Cecchini is the all-round 'complete package', who has been in strong form for all the Classics so far. She can climb well, knows how to position herself, and has a fast finish – especially from a reduced field," said Cromwell of a rider whose results this spring have included 12th at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, eighth at Gent-Wevelgem and fourth at Dwars door Vlaanderen.
"And then you have me, who brings the tactical knowledge and can hopefully keep everyone together to help execute the perfect race plan," Cromwell said.
The riders face a tough 159km course, starting and finishing in Oudenaarde, but with a different finish to previous years. Out goes the climb of the Pottelberg, and in comes the Taaienberg, from where the race picks up the same finish as the men's race, going over the Kruisberg before the final, likely decisive, cobbled climbs of the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg.
"There's no hiding in Flanders," added Cromwell. "Everyone knows how difficult it is to win this race; cyclists and fans alike recognise it. Those who win are remembered as warriors and legends.
"You need to be a complete bike rider to win, but, more importantly, you need to be a complete team."
Canyon-SRAM for the 2019 Tour of Flanders: Alena Amialiusik, Elena Cecchini, Tiffany Cromwell, Lisa Klein, Kasia Niewiadoma, Alexis Ryan