Women's teams gear up for historic first Ardennes triple

For the first time in history, the professional women will have the same trio of Ardennes Classics as the men, thanks to the addition of the Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège races together with La Flèche Wallonne on the UCI Women's WorldTour.

Starting on Sunday, April 16, the women will pack three major one-day races into a eight-day period, making for unprecedented time in the spotlight next to the pro men.

Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM) will return for the races after missing the Tour of Flanders due to a crash in Gent-Wevelgem, and is looking forward to being a part of history.

"I think it's great to have two extra Ardennes classics," the Belarus champion said. "It shows that women's cycling is growing and it's gaining more and more attention and exposure. Race organisers are seeing that and they are wanting to be a part of the momentum and as well to do their own part in its growth."

Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Wiggle-High5) is also excited to put on a show for the thousands of fans that will line the roadsides across Belgium and the Netherlands.

"It's a massive step for women cycling, having Amstel now on our calendar together with Liège," Cordon-Ragot said. "We are finally recognised as the men, able to race on hard circuits. I can't wait to show our strength and prove we deserved it."

Orica-Scott is one of five programs that has both men's and women's WorldTour teams, and directeur sportif Gene Bates is pleased to see the parity in these three races.

"Another race that joins the men's schedule and that's fantastic," Bates said. "The growth of women's road cycling is great to see, and I think that it's a very exciting time for the Women's WorldTour."

Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM), the Italian champion, highlighted the importance of holding races at the same time as the men.

"I always said and believed that having the same races as the men, on the same day, is what can help bring women's cycling a step up and is a faster way to involve more fans, people and sponsors," Cecchini said.

The Amstel Gold Race will use a similar finish to what the men have used until their course was altered this year, finishing just over a kilometer from the top of the Cauberg, but there are 17 official climbs with three laps over the Cauberg.

Canyon-SRAM's Trixi Worrack expects to see a select group fighting for the win on Sunday.

"There's a lot of short steep climbs and constant accelerations with a lot of corners," Worrack said. "It will suit a classics-style rider that can be strong over the climbs, can have a good sprint if it comes down to a small group, but a good eye for reading the race. For me, personally, I'm feeling good, my shape is there, and I think I can help the team for a great result on Sunday."

Orica-Scott's Bates is also expecting a tough race and a small number of riders at the finish. "And I think the race on Sunday, with the finishing circuits will allow for this to happen quite naturally," Bates said. "Of course we are expecting a hard race with not that many left at the finish, I think that would suit us well."

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