Although Ensing (Ale-Cipollini) has been racing on UCI teams for eight years, she’s never recorded a professional victory. Her performance in Adelaide made it clear that that she’s on the cusp.
The 30-year-old made an early impact on the race on stage one when she bridged across to Amanda Spratt (Orica-Scott) and Rushlee Buchanan (UnitedHealthcare) on the rising Paris Creek Road. Buchanan proved unable to match Spratt’s pace up the QOM climb, but Ensing held tight to the eventual overall winner’s wheel until Spratt’s final attack on the descent into town.
Spratt won the stage, which ultimately set her up for the overall victory. Ensing finished 19-seconds back in second place on the stage – a position she maintained through race end.
“It wasn’t anything I expected,” said Ensing. “Only two weeks ago I was training on the ice for the Dutch National Championships in [speed] skating.”
Ensing came second there, too. She hopes to represent The Netherlands in speed skating at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
“I started very young with ice skating,” Ensing said. “I think around 23, I started with cycling also, but it was training for ice skating. At some point that changed, and I realised I could be a good cyclist as well.”
Despite the recent training on the ice, a 10-hour time change and arriving in Adelaide, from Europe, less than 48 hours before the race began, Ensing’s success extended beyond the opening day. She played an integral support role for Chloe Hosking on stage three, which Hosking won. That same day, Ensing led the peloton over both ascents of the Whispering Wall to scoop up enough QOM points to earn herself polka dot jersey.
“It’s incredible for me with a new team,” said Ensing. “We’re working so well together, and it’s only the first time we race as a team. I think it will be a good season.”
For Ensing, a good season starts with a strong classics campaign. She’s twice finished second at Gent-Wevelgem. She would love to swap out a minor podium position for the top step. Her biggest goal is Ronde van Vlaanderen.
“A top five there would be great,” she said.
Ensing will look to Alé Cipollini to support her ambitions. She’s moved over to the Italian squad from the Dutch-registered Parkhotel Valkenberg.
“To race with this group and do work for this group and also talk with each other before and during the race, to have a good chat after the race, it’s different for me,” said Ensing. “Last year, I was racing with Parkhotel. I had a lot of fun there, but every time it was hard, I was alone. Now I have stronger teammates that can help when it’s harder.”
A number of names will be mentioned as potential winners for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race at the end of the month. Ensign has shown she deserves to be amongst them.