Lizzie Armitstead will debut her new world champion's jersey at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium on Saturday. It will be the Briton's first race this year, and although she is unsure how her form compares to the rest of the field, she expects her Boels Dolmans team to rise to the occasion during the Belgian Classics kick off.
"I'm really excited [to] race in Het Nieuwsblad," Armitstead said in a team press release Wednesday. "It's been a good winter, and I'm curious to see how my form is against the rest of the peloton. I am confident that Boels-Dolmans will perform really well together and pull off a great result to start our European season."
Armitstead will lead a strong Classics team at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, confirmed by Boels Dolmans to also include Chantal Blaak, Megan Guarnier, Romy Kasper, Christine Majerus and Ellen van Dijk.
Boels Dolmans' team manager Danny Stam pointed out that he selected the strongest team possible for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. "It's simple. We have a really good team for the Classics. If you look at our Nieuwsblad team, it's the strongest team we could field for this course. It's our best mix of workers and leaders, and we have multiple riders that can win that race. All six girls can handle the course."
Last year Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) won the race ahead of Boels Dolmans' trio Van Dijk, Armitstead and Blaak. It was a losing scenario that Stam hopes his team will improve upon this year.
"You can say second, third, fourth – we were strong. We had the numbers," Stam said. "But if you have three or four in a small group and you don't win, it's strong but not smart. I think after that race everyone learnt a little bit from the mistakes. I hope we do better this year."
Boels Dolmans will also race Omloop van het Hageland on Sunday with a slightly different team that will include new riders Karol-Ann Canuel and Nikki Harris, along with Guarnier and Kasper, and Demi de Jong and Kasia Pawlowska.
"At Hageland, you'll see the other girls get freedom to do their own race," Stam said. "They won't be directly in the position where they have to work for a leader. There's more opportunities."