Christina Siggaard (Team Virtu Cycling) got off to a surprisingly impressive start to her 2018 season after winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February. A month on and she is looking to top that result with a win on the Women's WorldTour during the cobbled classics in Belgium, and there is no better place to start than at Driedaagse de Panne-Koksijde this weekend.
Driesdaagse de Panne-Koksijde makes its first appearance in the Women's WorldTour on March 25, and so it has the benefit of bringing in the top 15 teams in the world. Other classics in Belgium on the series are Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
At Driesdaagse de Panne-Koksijde expect the typical classics-style cobbled sectors and strong winds to set the tone for the one-day race. The women will compete for 151km from Bruges to De Panne. However, team director Carmen Small said that new races are usually tough to predict.
"It's hard to go into a new race, because you don't know how teams will race it. Normally you look at the history and get an idea of how the race will end, but doing a race for the first time, you don't know what will happen. You can look at the men's race, but we normally race so much different. It's hard to say how the race will unfold, but we will try to keep to our plan."
Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) won the opening round of the Women's WorldTour at Strade Bianche, while her teammate Amy Pieters won the second round at Ronde van Drenthe. Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) won the third round at Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio and is the current series leader.
Outside of winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Siggaard was eighth at Omloop van het Hageland. The heavy-hitting teams have enjoyed success on the Women's WorldTour and Team Virtu Cycling aim to be among those top results as the series hits the more traditional cobbled classics this week.
Siggaard will have a strong team to support her, including Mieke Kröger, Sara Penton, Kasia Pawlowska, Emilie Moberg and Barbara Guarischi. But Small believes the most important part of being successful in the classics is staying focussed on riding as a team and staying ahead of any crashed.
"We are taking a strong group to the race. But we still need to keep riding as a group, and as I also told the girls after Drenthe, sometimes bike racing happens and certain things as crashes you can't control, but as long as they are riding in the front they are safer, and then you are there at the key points and making the key selections. I think if we keep doing that, we will end up with a good result. Fortunately we have many cards to play, all of them can go in the break or do a sprint, so it depends on who feels best on the day and we will take it from there."
Team VIRTU Cycling roster for Driesdaagse de Panne-Koksijde: Mieke Kröger, Sara Penton, Christina Siggaard, Kasia Pawlowska, Emilie Moberg and Barbara Guarischi