Ellen van Dijk will be part of a two pronged attack for the Dutch Boels Dolmans team in the third round of the World Cup, at the Tour of Flanders. Van Dijk’s past performances there make her an ideal candidate for the win, but she believes that her teammate Lizzie Armitstead could be an equally strong prospect.
Armitstead is the current World Cup leader, after a strong start to the year, while Van Dijk is looking to kick start the season with her first victory. “I think that people will name me, but I think that they know I am not the fastest in a sprint. With my team, I have a really strong team and we have different cards to play. For sure Lizzie is in top shape at the moment and hopefully we can help her to a good result,” Van Dijk told Cyclingnews.
The reigning world time trial champion finished second last year, losing out to compatriot Marianne Vos in a sprint. Vos will not be defending her title this season, but Van Dijk is still expecting to have a big battle on her hands before the can step onto the top of the rostrum.
“Normally girls are looking at her, but she hasn’t been racing with us this spring. That won’t change so much. It means that, for other girls, there are more opportunities to win,” said Van Dijk. “There are lots of girls who can win this race and lots of girls who are targeting this race. You can feel it in the bunch that lots of people are excited about this race. It’s one of the biggest for us and that’s why everybody will be at their best.”
Van Dijk didn’t have the perfect build-up to the new season, after being forced to spend three weeks off the bike in January due to illness. She hasn’t enjoyed the same success in the early stages of the year, as she did in 2013 – perhaps an after effect of the big year she’s just had.
The Dutch rider took 20 victories throughout the season, including the team and individual world time trial titles, the national time trial title and overall victory in the Holland Ladies Tour. With such big victories to her name it was also hard to find the drive to push herself again, but things seem to be on target for the first of her big goals this season.
“After such a great season and the highlights of the world championships, I took some time off. I started training earlier but I found the motivation was a bit different than in other years. But I have a new team and I was very motivated for that. Once I got my sickness sorted I was really back in full motivation. Now I also notice that the form is coming back.”
Van Dijk moved to the Boels Dolmans team this winter, after five years on the road with the Specialized-Lululemon team. The Dutch outfit spent a long time trying to secure her signature and eventually succeeded, with Van Dijk ready to look for a new challenge. The addition of Van Dijk has bolstered the squad and they are now challenging with top teams and are currently sit third in the UCI rankings, thanks also to Armitstead’s stellar start to the year.
The change in teams means a small change in the racing programme, but ultimately Van Dijk’s targets remain the same. The Tour of Flanders this weekend will be the first of those before aiming for her fourth national time trial title and looking to add two more world titles to her list of victories, just for good measure. Attempting to take the team time trial title for the third year could prove a tricky prospect for Van Dijk. While her skills against the clock are almost second to none, the team will have to jump from their 10th place last season. Van Dijk is confident and says that they have already been working hard to do just that.
“We’ve already done some aerodynamic testing with Specialized. We have the best equipment and some very strong girls so I think that we can compete. I think the teams are a bit more spread out than last year, but we will see if we are good enough for victory. For sure we are a team that you can count on.”