Revamped Drentse 8 van Dwingeloo to start week of Dutch racing

With a new course and naming sponsor for 2014, the Drentse 8 will be a key indicator for who is on form for the first Women's World Cup of the season at Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe to be held just two days later on March 15 while the Novilon EDR Cup brings to an end the trio of Dutch races the day after.

Last year’s winner and current world champion, Marianne Vos (Rabobank Liv) returns to the race although it is an almost entirely different proposition from previous incarnations.

The '8' in the race name was due to the figure-eight the route made with the start/finish town of Dwingeloo at the centre but a change to route sees the the start reamain the same but the race now finishes in Borger.

The 136km race starts with four, flat laps of a 6.5km circuit around of Dwingeloo with no climbs of note but the riders will be challenged by the narrow roads.

On the route to Borger, the riders encounter two cobbled sections totalling over 5km in length at the mid-point of the race with five, 11.6km laps in the finishing town to determine the winner, most likely in a sprint.

Orica-AIS director sportif Gene Bates will have one the favourites for the race on his team in Emma Johansson and he is expecting a tough race due to the weather, roads and talented riders down as starters.

"Between the two circuits, we will cross a lot of country roads that include two of the gnarliest cobbled sections I have ever seen," Bates said.

"The biggest difference in Holland is there is not a hill in sight. But add in the extremely narrow roads, cobbles, wide open countryside and wind, and the peloton can be blown to bits."

In order to claim the win, Bates explained that his team will be aggressive in the final third of the race, stressing the importance of having numbers at the front.

"Having the numbers and racing aggressively will make a major difference in what we can do in the finale.

"As always we will line up with the aim to get the best possible result for the team. We want a victory, but we can still be happy if the best ride we can put together is a podium."

This season Johansson has already claimed podium places at Omloop van het Hageland and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with a win at Le Samyn des Dames in between.

"There's no doubt Emma is in great form," said Bates. "We are mindful of that and so are other teams. If the other teams focus on Emma that opens a window for one of the other girls to have a go."

Johansson will be up against Vos and her Rabobank team, Chloe Hosking (Hitec Products), two-time world champion Georgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) and several strong teams in Giant-Shimano, Boels Dolman, Specialized-lululemon and Alé Cipollini.

Louisiana Pegoraro, Alé Cipollini sporting director, is expecting her team to be front centre when its counts having recently claimed two wins in Costa Rica which gave the team "moral conviction" ahead of the upcoming Dutch races.

"The primary objective in these races of the North, is to be leaders in the crucial moments of the race and be on the podium."

Another challenger for the win will be Giant-Shimano and team coach Ruud Verhagen is expecting the race will be a good opportunity for his riders to show themselves.

"We're looking forward to our first races of the season in Holland and this will be a good race to get up to speed before the first World Cup race of the season.

"The team are really motivated for the first World Cup after our successful start to the season …and they are keen to put last weekend's unlucky racing behind them."

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