Having started the year by claiming overall victory in Australia at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic and a strong showing in Qatar, Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling will start its 2014 European racing season at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday as part of the traditional Belgian "Openingsweekend." With six of the squad’s riders currently in Cali, Colombia for the Track World Championships the orange and black team will start the race with limited expectations.
"Charlotte Becker will be the leader of the team as she brings a lot of experience to the team," said Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling directeur sportif Franky Van Haesebroucke. "My ambitions are not too high for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as it’s a 1.2 [UCI category] race. Our main performances should come from the Tour of Flanders on, after our training camp in Italy."
"We miss our top sprinter Giorgia Bronzini, who is at the World Championships, so we have to look for breakaways and try to finish on the podium from there," Van Haesebroucke said. "The weather will be okay so that’s good for a girl like Emily Collins, who we will play out for if it comes down to a big bunch near the end."
The 126.7km race starts and finishes in the city of Gent and features eight of the bergs that are covered in Flanders, including the steep Paterberg, as well as six sections of cobblestones.
New signing, Spanish time trial champion Anna Sanchis, will make her debut for the team at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad while Swedish road race champion Emilia Fahlin makes her European debut for the squad.
"I really want to start competing and, although I had planned to debut by the end of March, I will use this race as preparation," Sanchis said. "I'm very excited about my first race with Wiggle Honda, and I would like to stay near Lotte [Charlotte] Becker and help her all I can."
Wiggle Honda roster for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (1.2)
Charlotte Becker (Germany), Emily Collins (New Zealand), Emilia Fahlin (Sweden), Mayuko Hagiwara (Japan), Anna Sanchis (Spain) and Anna-Bianca Schnitzmeier (Germany)