The time trial world champion, Annemiek van Vleuten, will line up at the women's Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday at the head of a strong Mitchelton-Scott team that's using the race as a warm-up event ahead of Sunday's Tour of Flanders.
Van Vleuten finished fifth at last year's Dwars door Vlaanderen as part of a chasing group that came home almost a minute behind solo winner Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb), and will be joined on this year's race by 2017 runner-up Gracie Elvin and Herald Sun Tour winner Lucy Kennedy, who also returns to racing after a short lay-off, having not ridden the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne or Gent-Wevelgem.
Van Vleuten last raced – and won – at Strade Bianche on March 9, and since then has been at an altitude training camp on the Spanish island of Tenerife, but is now keen to get back to competition.
"I went straight to an altitude camp because I thought I really needed to get back to my level, especially after my knee injury," Van Vleuten explained on her team's website, referring to the knee surgery she underwent following a crash at the Worlds road race last September.
Van Vleuten returned to racing at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad at the beginning of March, finishing fourth. She then went on to the following week's Strade Bianche, where she dominated the race, winning alone in Siena, Italy, with a 37-second buffer back to runner-up Annika Langvad of Boels-Dolmans.
"After winning at Strade, I was thinking maybe it wasn't so necessary, but I went to Tenerife for two weeks, mainly to prepare for the Ardennes and for Flanders. It was a good two weeks of training.
"So after a lot of training, I'm really keen to race," she continued, "and I think it's really important to be together with the team before Flanders, so that's the main reason I'll be at Dwars door Vlaanderen.
"It will be good for me to have the feeling of racing again, and to be part of the team again, and hopefully we can make a good race of it. Last year it was in horrible weather, and this year doesn't look so good, so it will be Classics weather," she said.
"The race itself is not too hard, and it's quite a short race," sports director Martin Vestby added of the 105km course. "So for us it's a bit of prep before Flanders, and Annemiek comes in and can have a race ahead of Flanders as well.
"There are some sections where the race could split, and it can be raced aggressively – even if we have seen that it's likely to be a sprint. But it's more or less preparation for next weekend, where we can test some legs," he said.
Mitchelton-Scott Women for the 2019 Dwars door Vlaanderen: Grace Brown, Gracie Elvin, Lucy Kennedy, Sarah Roy, Moniek Tenniglo, Annemiek Van Vleuten
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