Marianne Vos led her CCC-Liv teammates for Sunday's Tour of Flanders on a reconnaissance ride of the full course on Monday, paying particular attention to the new final section of the race, which now includes the climb of the Taaienberg and the same run-in to the finish as the men's race.
Only one member of the squad was missing, a team press release noted: Riejanne Markus, who is still at a training camp in Spain, but will return this week ahead of the race.
Besides Vos, the team also boasts Cyclingnewsblogger Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, who finished fourth at Flanders last year while still riding for Cervélo-Bigla, but a move to CCC-Liv across the winter has paired the South African up with 2013 Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Vos.
"I saw how easily Ashleigh was riding here [on the reconnaissance ride]," said Vos. "I hope to end up with her in the final and to fight for the highest achievable place.
"In previous years, we've also done recons of the course, but this year we did it earlier in the week," she continued. "It was nice to be able to push through on the climbs. The course is now memorised, which gives peace of mind during the rest of the week.
"Tyre pressure is certainly important in the Ronde, because the cobblestone climbs are on the really decisive parts," Vos said, with CCC_LIv's performance manager Hidde Bekhuis adding that tyre pressure for the cobbled climb had been a key consideration during the ride.
"It's personal for each rider," he said. "Some prefer to race with a higher or lower pressure. Weight plays a role as well."
The team gathered with Bekhuis and sports director Jeroen Blijlevens to ride the course, with all bar the absent Markus taking part, whether they'd ridden the race before or not.
"Most of the riders that we've selected for Sunday also competed in the race last year," said Blijlevens. "But it is important to be reminded again, so that you know exactly what is to come. It won't be the first time that the race has been decided on the cobblestone climbs. A recon determines whether or not you will be successful on Sunday.
"We have the Taaienberg after the Kanarieberg, where the final more or less starts," he said of the new part of the course, which, besides the addition of the Taaienberg, has also seen the Pottelberg dropped from the women's 159km race.
"The Taaienberg will make the race heavier and is expected to make it more attractive," said Blijlevens, with the course then featuring the Kruisberg and the cobbled climbs of the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg, using the same course as the men's race en route to the finish in Oudenaarde.