Wild to lead Wiggle High5 at Tour of Flanders in Longo Borghini's absence

Former Tour of Flanders champion Elisa Longo Borghini has been sidelined due to illness but Wiggle High5 will line up in Oudenaarde on Sunday with a strong team that includes three-time podium finisher Kirsten Wild.

Wild placed third in 2008, second in 2009 and third again in 2010 editions of the Tour of Flanders. Although the parcours has changed in both length and difficulty since then, she is still a contender for victory.

Coryn Rivera (Sunweb) won last year's race in a reduced bunch sprint, which was the largest number of riders to come to the line together since Ina-Yoko Teutenberg won in 2009.

This year's race is 151km and includes five cobbled sectors and 11 climbs before the 13km run-in to the finish line in Oudenaarde.

The course is a near replica of last year's route with changes made to the first set of hills. This will give Wild, a powerful sprinter, some confidence heading into the 15th edition of the women's race.

Wild came into the Classics season at the Ronde van Drenthe in what was her debut with Wiggle High5. She had just completed an exceptional track season where she won three world titles. Although her transition to longer road race was a challenge at first, she has had some time to adjust to the 100km-plus races. She finished 44th at Drenthe and then 34th at Gent-Wevelgem.

Wiggle High5 will no doubt save Wild as their final card to play should Tour of Flanders come down to a bunch sprint.

The team has several other options to play during the race with newcomer Lisa Brennauer, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Emilia Fahlin, Julie Leth Kirsten, and Eri Yonamine, who has replaced Longo Borghini.

"I think, in the end, we have more than only one option, and more than only one card to play," Brennauer said in a team press release.

"Obviously, Kirsten has made a huge step over the winter, and she's going really well over the climbs. I think the race can also suit her, with the form that she's shown in the past weeks, and she's maybe still on a bit of a cloud from the World Championships!

"So I think we have more cards to play than only sitting and waiting to see what happens. I think Kirsten can really good be in this race. If she has a good day, I think why not, she's been really strong in the races I've been with her."

Brennauer has shown good form in recent weeks, finishing fifth in the Driedaagse De Panne out of a bunch sprint won by Jolien D'hoore (Mitchelton-Scott). She played a domestique role for Wild in both the Ronde van Drenthe and Gent-Wevelgem.

Despite never having achieved a big result in the Tour of Flanders, Wiggle High5 believe that the former time trial world champion's characteristics mean that she hopes to do well this weekend.

"I've never been in the very front but I feel like my form is good, and I've been good in the first races so far," Brennauer said. "It's also for me really exciting to see how far I can get on Sunday, and of course I will give my best.

"I also saw Audrey doing well on the climbs, and she was also doing well in positioning, so I think she will also be a key rider in Sunday's race."

Wiggle High5 roster for Tour of Flanders: Lisa Brennauer, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Emilia Fahlin, Julie Leth, Kirsten Wild, Eri Yonamine.

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