Jolien D'hoore will return to racing at the OVO Energy Women's Tour that starts on Wednesday in Great Britain. She was sidelined from racing after breaking her collarbone in May but says she that she has fully recovered and is ready to support her teammates at the 13th round of the Women's WorldTour.
"I'm already happy and relieved to be back so quickly. I could do some long rides over the last week but no intensity yet so I'm a bit in the dark with where I am with my shape," D'hoore said.
"For sure it will be hard for me racing such a high-level race with riders on form, but I have to realise that I need this to come back even stronger after my injury and I am looking forward to it."
The Belgian road champion had a strong spring campaign, winning the inaugural Driedaagse de Panne, before coming second at Gent-Wevelgem, and she briefly led the WorldTour overall standings.
D'hoore crashed while racing in the Madison on the track at the Vier-Bahnen-Tournee in Dudenhofen, Germany several weeks ago. Doctors confirmed that she had broken her collarbone and required surgery to correct the fracture. She said that she has been able to ride her bike, and although she missed a three-week block of racing, is ready to join her teammates Gracie Elvin and Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik winner Sarah Roy. The team will also include Jessica Allen, Alex Manly and Georgia Williams.
"We have a strong team with many options for what the race may throw at us, we aren't going in with an outright leader, but I am confident that by the end of the second stage a lot will be settled, and we will also know who is going well out of the rest of the field," said the team's director Martin Vestby.
The team has had success at the event as Roy claimed victory during stage 4 on the cobblestoned city centre in Chesterfield last year, after holding off a frantic chase by the peloton. Elvin finished ninth overall in the 2016 edition. Retired rider, Emma Johansson, achieved the team's best-ever GC result with second at the inaugural edition in 2014.
"Jolien has recovered well, but still has some discomfort with her ankle and with it being her first race back we will see how she handles it. Both Gracie and Sarah are in great shape and good form at the moment and we are fortunate to have such strong and versatile options in the team and good cards to play," Vestby said.
"Georgia has reached another level this season with her climbing and she will be important for us to get into and mark the breakaway moves and along with Alex and Jess we have some very solid support for our three protected riders."
It is the second year that the OVO Energy Women's Tour is part of the WWT. This year, organisers SweetSpot promised an increased prize purse by three-fold to €90,000. As for the route, overall, the parcours is hillier but has a mix of terrain that could favour punchy sprinters.
"As with previous editions of this race the stages look to be super hard, often the terrain is much more challenging than the profiles suggest, with plenty of rolling country roads to contend with, and much like the classics, lots of short but very steep climbs," Vestby said.
"There are a few stages that could suit the breakaway and we will need to make sure that we are represented in those moves, but as we have seen before here very often a reduced peloton brings those breaks back before the finish and having riders who can climb, and sprint will be crucial."
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