Jolien D’hoore is relishing the start of the new season since making the move from Wiggle-High5 to Mitchelton-Scott in 2018. The Belgian national champion will scale down her track programme in favour of a road season that is tailor-made for the spring Classics, and she is taking aim at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Tour of Flanders.
"I will still have the combination of track and road, but it will be about 80 per cent road focussed," D’hoore told Cyclingnews from a national team training camp in Spain.
"In general, I’d like to do well in the spring Classics, especially in my first race at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and then hopefully I can do well at the Tour of Flanders. I want to keep good form during the whole spring Classics season."
D'hoore had three successful years with Wiggle-High5, arguably the best three of her career so far. She notably won the BeNe Ladies Tour twice, consecutive Madrid Challenges, Flanders Diamond Tour, Tour of Chongming Island, Crescent Vargarda World Cup, Ronde van Drenthe and Omloop van het Hageland twice.
"I had good fun on Wiggle and I learned a lot," D'hoore said. "I'm really thankful for everything that I experienced over there. But I was looking for something new - a new adventure, some new goals and new surroundings. I think I have found the right team for me in Mitchelton-Scott."
D'hoore's move to Mitchelton-Scott was one of the top transfers of the season. She had her first taste of her new surroundings at an opening training camp in December and said she immediately connected with her new teammates, Annemiek Van Vleuten, Jessica Allen, Jenelle Crooks, Gracie Elvin, Lucy Kennedy, Alexandra Manly, Sarah Roy, Amanda Spratt, and Georgia Williams.
"It is quite a big change," D’hoore said. "I didn't know what I was heading into because it is a new team for me and the riders are mainly Australian, except for Annemiek. I joined them for a first training camp in December and it was a super nice, warm welcome, and really fun."
Mitchelton-Scott has already experienced their first overall victory of the season at the Santos Women’s Tour. Spratt won the overall title for a second consecutive season, this time ahead of Lauren Stephens (Cylance) and Katrin Garfoot (UniSA-Australia). Alhough D'hoore wasn't able to attend the season opener, she followed the race daily in the news and said she expected her team to do well.
"I followed the results at the Santos Women's Tour every day," D'hoore said. "I woke up every day here keen to see what was happening. They were super strong. I could feel how strong they were during our training camp in December. They were just flying. They were amazing. I was confident that they would do well in Australia."
D'hoore said her team is versatile, with riders who can win sprints, climbs and time trials. She expects to slot in well with the sprinters and the one-day racers, and hopes to bring the team a victory or two this spring.
"I think I fit in quite well," D'hoore said. "I'm a sprinter and more for the Classic races. I think we have a very strong team for the Classics with Van Vleuten, Roy, Elvin and Spratt.
"It is a good combination of strength, climbing ability and sprinting - a bit of everything. I think we will be able to play a role in every kind of race from climbing races to Classics to the sprints. I'm really looking forward to this season."
Looking ahead, she has already opted out of competing in the UCI Road World Championships in Austria from September 23-30 because of the difficulty of the course.
"I will not race the World Championships," she said. "It will be too hard for me. It's a no-go for me. I will switch my focus back to the track in early October."
Although D’hoore has reduced her track season compared to previous years, she is a strong contender in the Omnium events and the Madison, and will continue training for the Madison with her partner Lotte Kopecky.
She will compete at the UCI Track World Championships in Apeldoorn from February 28 to March 4, where she hopes to defend her Madison world title, before turning her attention to the road. She will get back on the track in October or November as she looks ahead to the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.
"I will increase my track programme again over the next couple of years, more as we get closer to the 2020 Olympics," D'hoore said. "The main goal is to go to the Olympics for the Madison with my partner Kopecky. Hopefully we can compete together in Tokyo. You never know what can happen with injuries, but fingers crossed nothing happens and we will ride together."