With four spots up for grabs on the Team GB squad for the women's road race at the London 2012 Olympics this summer, tomorrow's Women's Tour of Flanders is set to provide a host of clues as to which women are making the early running to for selection. Five of the six riders who are looking to make the grade for the summer will be on the start line: AA Drink–leontien.nl teammates Lizzie Armitstead, Emma Pooley, Lucy Martin and Sharon Laws; and Faren Honda's Nicole Cooke.
Armitstead has enjoyed a successful start to the season by claiming victories at Omloop van het Hageland and Gent-Wevelgem and has described tomorrow's race as her main early season target. Relations between her and Cooke had not been the most cordial since their spat in the wake of Team GB's below-par showing at the 2011 road world championships in Copenhagen, but the women buried the hatchet at a training camp last month.
National coach Chris Newton is confident that the focus will be on the road this weekend and that although there is still months of work to be done ahead of the summer, tomorrow's race is important as a fact-finding exercise.
“The riders are coming through from their winter training and early season prep and going into the racing season," Newton said. "We won’t have everyone on song straight away which is understandable. To be fair what we want is everyone to be on song come July and it will be a bit of a wave pattern – some riders going better than others at certain times but it will eventually become a peak for July.
“I’m out there at Tour of Flanders this weekend to oversee the race and get a bit more insight to them and to see how things are going - technically, tactically, on form, see how races are going and how riders are contributing to that – whether they are forcing it, reacting to it.”