Boels Dolmans are heading into this week's Ovo Energy Women's Tour with defending champion Lizzie Deignan and WorldTour leader Anna van der Breggen, who is coming off a spring campaign that saw her pull off an Ardennes hat trick and take the overall at the Amgen Women's Race in California.
The world's top team is bringing a wealth of talent to the June 7-11 WorldTour race, but the first obstacle they'll face is figuring out who they'll be riding for when the race rolls out of Daventry on Wednesday.
"We'll just have to fight for it, I think," Deignan said when asked who will be the team's protected GC rider. "I'm joking, we're not going to fight for it. We haven't had our team meeting yet."
Deignan's humour eased the tension, but the question remains as to who will pick up the team general classification hopes this week.
With almost every major rider in the women's peloton on the start list, the competition for stage victories and the overall classification will be tough, and at the pre-race press conference on Tuesday both Boels Dolmans riders seemed to play down their own ambitions, saying they were simply hoping to come out of the race with good condition.
"Pretty good," was Deignan's response when asked about her current form. "I went back to basics in May – I didn't race and I did a load of base miles again. In terms of speed I may not be the fastest here, but I'm looking to use this race as preparation for the nationals."
Deignan was second to Van der Breggen in each of the Ardennes races and went on to claim her first win of the season on home soil at the Tour de Yorkshire at the start of May.
Van der Breggen, meanwhile, has taken a brief break since seizing the overall lead on the final day in California, where she also took the WorldTour lead. Another solid week of racing would help consolidate her lead in the season-long competition, although she said Tuesday the WorldTour was not a priority.
"I'm not really working on that," she said. "I pick the races that I want to do. I had some rest after California, which was not easy, but I've done some good training. I want to have some fun here, I want to do good for the team and make myself ready for the nationals."
This year's route adds an additional 35 kilometres over the five days racing, with the longest stages stacked in the opening days and then countered by a short final stage in London. The hilly route on the penultimate day will likely be the most decisive for the general classification.
Both Deignan and Van der Breggen said they were expecting a challenging week.
"Last year I was really surprised by the roads," Van der Breggen said. "There are almost no straight roads here. I don't know if you've been to Holland but there are only straight roads there. The roads [here] go up and down all the time, it's never flat, it's really tough. You have to look out for everything. The stages are pretty long here, it's going to be tough racing here for five days."
Deignan said the peloton should expect the unexpected.
"You can't ever lose focus here, because there's always something around the next corner," she said. "I'm prepared for anything."
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