Last year the Liv-Plantur team, then Giant-Shimano, played a perfect tactical race, with Kirsten Wild in the bunch ensuring that Pieters had the upper hand in the breakaway.
This year, though, with Wild and fellow teammate Lucy Garner absent, and with Pieters not having the same form of this time last year, expectations have been lowered.
"Last year was just perfect for us," she told Cyclingnews. "This year it will be more difficult. I don't expect as much but hopefully I can do a good race, be in the first group, and maybe get a podium spot. But I know that to win this race is going to be really hard."
Whereas last year she went into the race on the back of a stage win and second overall at the Tour of Qatar, this year has been a slower start to the season, but that, she says, is all part of the plan.
"Qatar was okay. My shape was okay, not super, but I was happy with it. Last year I was already in really good shape at the beginning of the year. It was actually too early because when all the races started I was already over it, so I hope for this year that I can be in good shape later, and when the World Cups and all the other big races are coming up that I can also get some good results."
Wild leaving the team to focus on the track was a big blow and the absence of Lucy Garner on Saturday will make life that little bit more difficult. Pieters, though, stresses the importance of the collective over the individual in the Liv-Plantur team.
"Our strongest riders may not be there but when we are together we are a strong team," she says. "I think that's our secret – we have such good team spirit. I think we can do it together and all get a good result."
Though she can't be too hopeful about defending her title on Saturday, she will always remember the race as an important moment in her career.
"It changed a lot for me. I was always there giving my best in the races but never for results for myself," she says. "That was my first big victory and it changed a lot for me, also for my self-confidence and for the team. We have to build and go further now."
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