Christina Siggaard (Team Virtu Cycling) took the biggest win of her career at last year’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and will line up with the bib no. 1 on her back at the kick-off to the classics season on March 2 in Belgium. In an interview with Cyclingnews, the Danish one-day specialist said she feels no added pressure to defend her title – just pure excitement.
"I'm super excited to be wearing number 1," Siggaard said. "I don't feel more pressure than what I put on myself. The team wants to perform as much as we always do, so we'll fight for it."
While many other riders have started their seasons in Australia and Spain, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will be the first race of the year for Siggaard. She lines up with a revamped squad that also includes former world champion Marta Bastianelli.
Bastianelli, who won the European Championships last year, joined the team after a successful three-year term with Ale Cipollini. She opened last season with a stage win at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, and then won Gent-Wevelgem, Grand Prix de Dottignies, Brabantse Pijl and Trofee Maarten Wynants. In the second half of the season, she won a stage at the BeNe Ladies Tour, the European Championships and closed out the season with a victory at Giro Toscana.
The team also hired rising talent Sofia Bertizzolo from Astana. She won the Women's WorldTour series overall title in the youth classification last year.
Siggaard said that it is exciting to work with a strong team and new riders, and she hopes to learn from a seasoned rider like Bastianelli throughout the season, particularly in the Classics.
"It's awesome having the possibility to learn from experienced riders amongst the team," Siggaard said. "We develop every year and for sure we're having some good cards to deal on our hand."
Last year, Siggaard won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad ahead of Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM) and Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Valcar-PBM) from a group of 30 women that reached the finish line together.
Team Virtu Cycling will line up this year with Siggaard and Bastianelli along with Barbara Guarischi, Anouska Koster, Mieke Kröger and Katarzyna Pawlowska. Siggaard said she doesn't know what to expect in terms of team tactics at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad but that her team's director Carmen Small will fit her in where she can help the team the most.
"I don't know about my role in Nieuwsblad yet," Siggaard said. "I'm a Classics rider, which Carmen will do her best to fit into our race tactics."
After Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Siggaard will race Omloop van het Hageland, Le Samyn des Dames, Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne, Gent-Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlanderen, Tour of Flanders and Grand Prix de Dottignies.