CANYON//SRAM Racing will be a part of the opening spring classic this Saturday 25 February in Ghent, Belgium. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will mark the start of the team’s European season after racing already in the Australian summer in January. Former winner and third in last year’s edition, Tiffany Cromwell will again be racing the 124km cobbled classic.
Cromwell will be joined by Alena Amialiusik, Lisa Brennauer, Elena Cecchini, Alexis Ryan, and Trixi Worrack for a strong CANYON//SRAM roster guided by the team’s new director sportif Barry Austin. The 2017 course remains unchanged from previous years and with nine climbs and six cobbled sections, amidst a cold and wet forecast it will be nothing less than another exciting edition.
Cromwell, who won in 2013, says being in absolute top form isn’t a prerequisite to take the win in the iconic race. “It’s early in the season for everyone in the race, but you do need good general fitness and condition and you have to have strong one to three minute maximum effort condition that can be backed up a number of times. You also need to have strong flat power because if you go away solo or in a small break, it will often happen later in the race where there are no longer any climbs to get over. At that point it’s about being able to ride away from a bunch and hold the lead on the flats.”
The mid section of the race from the Côte de Trieu at 60km, over the Paterberg and through to the Molenberg at 89km followed quickly by the Padestraat at 94km will most likely again play the biggest role in determining the group from which the winner will come.
New director sportif Barry Austin will guide the team in the spring classics. Austin, a well-credentialed coach from South Africa is not new to guiding developing riders nor women’s cycling after heading the South African’s women’s national road program in the four-year cycle before the London Summer Olympics in 2012.
“My biggest passion is helping others realise their goals. I have done so successfully with many young riders from a limited pool and I think I can add what I have learnt in that field to CANYON//SRAM Racing. I can add a fresh approach to racing and create platforms that athletes are drawn to and understand from which to achieve success for the team and for themselves. I would like to empower each athlete to stand tall, stand their ground confidently, be brave and race smart,” said Austin.
Cromwell brings her own confidence from her season build up in Australia and as former winner has the tactical smartness to be a powerful card for the team. “You never know 100% as it’s been a while since we’ve raced but going on the hard Australian training I’ve been doing, my power numbers for particular efforts, and my overall shape things are looking good.”
Austin is looking forward to the challenges of guiding for him what is a new team and says confidence breeds winning. “The most important for me is that the riders believe just as much as we as management do that they are potential winners in the highest category of racing. Embracing this belief from the team and in themselves they really tune in to the energy of a bike race and make what they do an extension thereof. From my side, that will be the primary input and assessment as I get to know my new team better.”
Racing action for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad starts at 11:30 from the Eddy Merckx stadium in Ghent, and can be followed on the team’s Twitter @WMNcycling using #OHN.