Switching teams from Specialized-lululemon to Boels Dolmans at the start of 2015 gave Chantal Blaak a fresh start and there’s no denying that her newfound motivation pushed her toward a successful season. But the Dutchwoman is not satisfied with her distinction of past achievements and she vows to continue to look for new opportunities to shine in the new year.
“Yes, even better,” Blaak told Cyclingnews about her goals for the 2016 season, which will be her second year with Boels Dolmans. “I work hard and of course I aspire to have a good season again. I think 2015 was a successful year but it can always be better. There are always things to work on.”
Blaak’s performances with Specialized-lululemon in 2014 were the stuff of dreams with two World Cup victories at Vargarda’s team time trial and road race, and another win at Molecaten Drentse 8. With Boels Dolmans, this year, she raked in two more wins at Le Samyn des Dames and a stage win at the Euskal Emakumeen Bira and she was part of the Boels Dolmans team that finished second to Velocio-SRAM in the team time trial at the World Championships.
Blaak hopes to improve in the spring classics where this year she was top 10 at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Omloop van het Hageland - Tielt-Winge, Tour of Flanders, Ronde van Overijssel Women and Boels Rental Hills Classic.
“My first focus is on the spring classics, and my goal is to have some good results there,” Blaak said. “But in the end, I want to do every race well. That doesn't mean always targeting personal results. Being part of a team win is such a good feeling.
“I'm very happy in the team and the atmosphere in the group at Boels Dolmans is great. That's the key to winning races. Besides that it's not easy to win races. Everything has to be right at the big races, but I work hard and I'm very motivated to take opportunities to win and that makes it a little bit easier. We'll see how it goes.”
Blaak said her switch from Specialized-lululemon to Boels Dolmans didn’t feel like a big change because both teams had already become two of the best teams in the world by the time she signed contracts with them. But she noted the ease of working for a team from her home country.
“The biggest change is that Boels Dolmans is Dutch,” Blaak said. “It's always easier to work in your native language. My role in the team was the same as in 2014 [with Specialized-lululemon]. In a strong team you have to work for each other but you also get it back when you are in the right position to win.”
Blaak is not only a winner in her own right but also a consummate team player and she noted the importance of working together as a team to collectively win more races in 2016.
“In 2015 we had a really good year and the goal is to show again in every race how strong we are,” Blaak said. “It's unique that everyone stays in 2016. We know each others' qualities and weaknesses. That makes it easier to work as a team. I think our strength is the way we work as a unit.”
She recently joined Boels Dolmans for a team training camp this month, the first of three that will be held in Calpe, Spain, over the winter months. Also at the camp were newly crowned world champion Lizzie Armitstead, Ellen van Dijk, Christine Majerus, Amalie Dideriksen, Demi de Jong, Kasia Pawlowskia and Romy Kasper. Riders who could not make it to the first team camp were Nikki Harris, who is competing in a full cyclo-cross season, and North American riders Evelyn Stevens, Karol-Ann Canuel and Megan Guarnier.
“I saw some of my teammates already this year at the December camp, but I haven't seen my new teammates,” Blaak said. “We have two new strong riders and I'm sure they will only add to our strengths. I know Karol-Ann already and I'm looking forward to racing with her again.”