We start the opening to the Flemish spring races with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday 29 February in Belgium. The team will line up with 2013 winner Tiffany Cromwell and British road champion Alice Barnes, alongside Hannah Barnes, Elena Cecchini, Tanja Erath and Hannah Ludwig.
“The course is almost identical to last year’s with all the same climbs and cobbles but just a small diversion at the start,” describes Alice Barnes.
“The race is generally split into three sections with the simple first part where it is mostly about saving energy and not letting anything get out of control from a breakaway perspective. Then, there is the middle section with a lot of climbs and cobbles but still a long way from the finish; the race can be technically lost, but not won here. The final third is where most of the dangerous moves can go and it is all in until the finish line.”
The 126.5km parcours from Gent to Ninove races over five cobblestone sections and ten climbs, including the Muur van Geraardsbergen as the penultimate climb with 16km to go. Alice says although it’s the first race of her season, she will look to play a key role with the team aiming to improve on its fifth place in 2019.
“The first race of the season is always a nerve racking one. Even when coming off a good training camp and seeing improvements from last year, you can never be too confident until you have got a race under your belt.”
“I am looking to play a integral part in the team plan and make sure I can cover moves that are necessary which will mean to have good positioning. This year the weather looks like it could play a part in the race with some strong winds and rain forecast. Last year, we were really strong but sometimes in the wrong places. We have learnt from this and know we can fight for the win. We are all really excited for the race and have some great motivation” added Alice.
Saturday’s race will be the debut for new CANYON//SRAM Racing sport director Rolf Aldag, who was announced as joining the Women’s WorldTeam outfit in December. Cromwell suggests Rolf will bring an extra dimension to the team in the spring races.
“I’m excited to work with Rolf in our first race of the European season. So far I like what he has brought to the team. He has a quite relaxed and ‘fun’ attitude, but at the same time when it’s business time, then it’s business time with him. He brings a lot of race knowledge from his years as a pro and working with the men‘s cycling management and performance sides. At the same time, he admits that he has a lot to learn on the women’s side of the sport and wants to learn from us. He doesn’t come in with the attitude thinking he knows everything.”
Tiffany continued, “Rolf will bring a different way of thinking and I believe that will help us improve further tactically. It will be a huge value to us with the spring classics. I think he’s going to be great and I’m excited to see how far he can push us to help us get those big victories we’re striving for as a team.”
For Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, CANYON//SRAM Racing will race for the first time its new look Canyon bikes equipped with SRAM eTap AXS. In 2020, the team will race three different colours, with a pink design for size XXS frames, celeste colour for size XS frames, and orange for small and medium sized frames.
On Saturday 29 February, the team will have its presentation at 10:14CET with the neutral race start at 11:43CET. Live coverage of both will be here on Proximus TV and can be followed on Twitter with #OHN20.