Trek-Segafredo will be the only team lining up at the Tour of Flanders with two former winners in Ellen van Dijk and Elisa Longo Broghini, and both were available to answer questions at a pre-race conference in Bruges, in Belgium, on Thursday.
Van Dijk has shown winning form this spring and could potentially lead the team to victory in Oudenaarde on Sunday. She won the 'warm-up' to Flanders on Wednesday at the Dwars door Vlaanderen from a 15km solo breakaway. She attacked out of a small lead group that included teammate Longo Borghini and many of the race favourites, and finished 32 seconds ahead of Marta Bastianelli (Virtu) and Lucinda Brand (Sunweb).
"We kind of hope for a similar scenario on Sunday: a smaller group in the front with not too many riders there, and we definitely want to race it aggressively, too," Van Dijk said.
Longo Borghini agreed and said, "It would be better to have a small breakaway. It’s always easier to control and it’s nicer to play the game, so yeah, a breakaway would indeed be the best option for us."
The Italian spoke about the team's recent preview of the course and she said the key point of the race would be over the Kanarieberg “because the final of the race is a little bit different now as compared to previous years."
The women's 159km race starts and finishes in Oudenaarde. It includes four cobbled sectors and 10 sharp climbs: Achterberg (55km), Leberg (64km), Berendries (68km), Tenbosse (76km), Muur-Kapelmuur (86km), Kanarieberg (114km), the newly added Taaienberg (118km), Kruisberg/Hotond (133km) and the final two climbs over the Oude Kwaremont (143km) and Paterberg (146km).
Race organisers created a tougher finale with the addition of the Taaienberg climb, making the final 40 kilometres of the race the same as the men's edition. “We also have the Taaienberg closer to the final now, so that will make absolutely make a difference in how the race unfolds," Van Dijk added.
Longo Borghini and Van Dijk will have support from teammates Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Lotta Lepistö, Ruth Winder and Trixi Worrack.