The Bigla Pro Cycling Team will line up for the third round of the UCI Women's World Cup, the Tour of Flanders, with Annemiek van Vleuten as their protected rider for one of the most prestigious races of the season, and at her side will be five strong riders including Canadian Joelle Numainville, who was third in 2012.
The Dutch rider won the race in 2011, and is eager to show she can repeat that effort. “For me it’s always special to race Flanders with all the crowds. I miss every year the goose bump moment I always had until 2011 when we did the Muur of Geraardsbergen with all the people that were watching," Van Vleuten said of the famed climb that is no longer part of the course. "2011 was the last time it was in, now there is final loop that is different but still a hard final with Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Kruisberg.”
Now that the race has shifted to a circuit around Oudenaarde, with the difficult climbs of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg in the last 15km, van Vleuten has only managed to finish fifth in 2013 and 2014. She hopes that she is stronger than in the past two years, where she finished well, but in a chase group behind those battling for victory.
“The Oude Kwaremont is the place where last year the split happened. The pave sectors in the last years have not been my favourites, but this spring I feel stronger so I hope I will like it this year. Oude Kwaremont is a very hard long cobbled climb, but there is a lot more in Flanders to worry about. So much can happen before then. You have to be in front all the time, especially if it is raining.
“It is all about positioning. And that makes the race very nervous in the beginning and so hard for your mind also. It is very useful to know how you approach the hard parts. Not only the pave or climbs, for me I like the narrow roads, pave sections, climbs, they are all important. Where can you move to be in front at the right moment? It's always very nervous.”
The 145km race begins at 11AM CET, ahead of the men's Monument.
Bigla for the Tour of Flanders: Annemiek van Vleuten, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Iris Slappendel, Joëlle Numainville, Lotta Lepisto and Lisa Klein.