The Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team is motivated to start the European cycling season on Saturday with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. World champion Chantal Blaak will show her rainbow jersey for the first time in a race and is supported by Luxembourg champion Christine Majerus, Karol-Ann Canuel, Jip van den Bos and both new riders on the team, Anna Plichta and Skylar Schneider.
"I love the spring races and I think the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is especially nice," says Blaak. "I have performed well here before and I am looking forward to it."
"I don’t feel any pressure of having to perform," says Blaak about the wearing the rainbow jersey. "Of course I have my goals, but not in a different way than previous years. I just want to show my rainbow jersey. I think it will be very special. My biggest goal is to race as a worthy world champion: race finals, work for my teammates and ride to win if that opportunity presents itself."
In 2016, Blaak's teammate Deignan also showed her rainbow jersey in Het Nieuwsblad for the first time. Deignan won and thus dismissed any 'curse of the rainbow jersey'. Blaak doesn’t believe in the curse either. "Everyone has good and bad days, but maybe people pay attention to the world champion a bit more and have an opinion about her performance," says Blaak. "But I am motivated, I have trained well and I am excited."
The European season’s opening weekend is a double weekend with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, followed by Omloop van het Hageland on Sunday, two UCI1.1-races. The same six riders will take to the start in both races. There is not yet a strategy how Boels-Dolmans will aim for the win, as it depends on how the races develop.
"I know the cobblestones and the climbs of all Belgian classics pretty well, but there are so many ways the race can go," says Blaak. "I love that. The course for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is very selective anyway and everyone is always very nervous and motivated as it’s the opening weekend. It will definitely be a tough weekend."
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday 24 February goes from Ghent to Ninove this year and covers the last 60 kilometers of the 2011 Tour of Flanders route. In the 122 kilometers between start and finish, the women will tackle eight climbs, the last two Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg at only 12 kilometers from the finish.
The start will be given at 11.45am CET with an expected finish between 3.00 and 3.30pm CET. The race won’t be on television, but follow Twitter accounts @OmloopHNB and @FlandersCLNews for information about the race. Follow live with the hashtag #OHNWomen.
The Omloop van the Hageland on Sunday 25 February is a race in the Lotto Cycling Cup, a series of Belgian UCI races. The start and finish are in Tielt-Winge, with the race consisting of a big loop of 53.16 kilometers, followed by six local rounds of 13.3 kilometers, containing a small climb. The race is live streamed by the Motomediateam and highlights will be on Eurosport Belgium. The start is at 1.15pm CET.
Boels-Dolmans for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad:
Jip van den Bos
Boels-Dolmans for Omloop van het Hageland:
Jip van den Bos