Longo Borghini kicks off season at Omloop - Women's News Shorts

Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High 5) has selected a tough opening race for the 2018 season and says she will likely play a support role in Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

The Italian champion has her sights set further down the road with the Ardennes Classics - Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège - her main targets for the early season.

"The main goal is that one, and I will try to be at my best for the middle of April," Longo Borghini said in a team press release. "I'm trying to find my good legs here.

"My shape is not yet super so I'm using this race as training. I hope the team can be good because we have a strong one. I don't think I would like to be the leader on Saturday because for sure I'm not in the shape for winning this race. I hope to be useful for my team, rather than win the race myself."

It will be Longo Borghini's first outing of the year in her Italian champion's jersey, and she's sure to stand out

"I think my tricolore is beautiful this year," she smiled. "Champion System made a good thing, and I will be proud to wear it until June. I will try to show it as much as I can in the races."

Longo Borghini will head back to Italy to prepare to defend her Strade Bianche title, rather than join the team at the Omloop van het Hageland.

Wiggle High5 for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Grace Garner, Lucy Garner, Julie Leth, Elisa Longo Borghini, Martina Ritter

Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling team for Omloop van het Hageland: Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Grace Garner, Lucy Garner, Julie Leth, Martina Ritter, Eri Yonamine.

Van der Breggen on a tear in Cyprus Sunshine Cup

Olympic road race champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) has opted to skip some of the early road season to have some fun in the sun at the Cyprus Sunshine Cup mountain bike race, and is finding the race well suited to her abilities.

The Dutch woman led the opening stage time trial for much of the day until being surpassed by Swiss rider Linda Indergand, thanks in part to some non-technical climbing on the 14.6km time trial.

But Van der Breggen proved herself quite capable on the singletrack on Friday, taking out the win on stage 2, a 52.2km mass-start race.

Although she lost some time on a rocky descent, Van der Breggen caught Annika Langvad (Specialized Racing XC), who suffered a puncture while leading the race.

American Erin Huck (Construction Zone Racing) and Swiss rider Sina Frei (Ghost Factory Racing) joined Van der Breggen, but were no match for the Dutch rider on the flat, fast trails to the finish.

Van der Breggen holds a healthy 3:43 lead in the overall classification over Frei, who took second on the stage, heading into the longest day - a 61km stage in Lythrodontas.

Canyon-SRAM looking forward to new Omloop finale

The Canyon-SRAM team is looking forward to the new finale for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, which includes the Tenbosse, Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg before the 12km flat run-in to the finish in Meerbeke.

Alice Barnes, Elena Cecchini, Tiffany Cromwell, Lisa Klein, Alexis Ryan and Trixi Worrack will represent the squad for the 122km race.

Cromwell, who won on a quite different course in 2013, expects the new finale to provide for some good racing.

"The course is really quite different this year. The climbs are all stacked towards the end of the race and then to have the Muur van Geraardsbergen-Bosberg double towards the end is really going to make for an exciting race," Cromwell said.

"I'm expecting people to find the new course challenging but our team is really motivated for it. We'll have a real role to play in the race. Our line up is strong and there's been a lot of training intensity at our recent camp in Spain that has prepared us for tomorrow."

Vestby joins Mitchelton-Scott

Norwegian Martin Vestby has joined Mitchelton-Scott as a directeur sportif, and will debut in the team car at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

"It almost feels like coming home a little bit. Those years when Emma was racing for the team I helped out a little bit sometimes with bottles and things. It is a team that is like a big family," Vestby said. "So for me it is relaxed but also a step up. It is a really good, well-organised team and it is bigger than what I am used to."

A former racer and husband to retired pro cyclist Emma Johansson, Vestby is quite familiar with the women's racing scene and is confident he can help the team get results. He comes to the team after a year with Wiggle-High 5 and some work with the Swedish national team, and he was with Hitec Products for several years.

"I know a lot of the girls from the start, and then they were younger and learning. Now they are stepping up and getting the big results themselves," Vestby said. "You can expect a lot more from them now compared to just a couple of years ago.

"The feeling I have is now these riders are developed enough to be able to control races. They don't have to follow and can now execute tactics they want and are really able to win. What I can hope I can help with and where I see maybe there can be changes, is with this way of racing. It is also a bit of a mentality and something you have to learn, so I hope I can play a part in developing that and help the girls to take those steps.

"It is always surprising before the first race of the year, people are always wondering how other riders form is. Riders are in new teams so there's always something different, and it makes the first races so special. I've seen what the riders did in Australia, but coming here to Europe it is always a bit different with the field of riders and the rhythm of the races."

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