Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Jolien D’hoore begins the next phase of her Spring Classics season at today’s Dwars door Vlaanderen. The former Belgian Champion has had a different winter programme to previous years, with a focus on road training instead of her usual international track programme, and so is expecting different sensations in the big races of her home region.
“I’m really looking forward to racing all those Classics in Belgium,” she smiled. “It really means a lot to me. I’ve worked really hard all winter, just for these races. I’m confident and I’m feeling good, so I’m ready for what’s coming.”
A seventh place in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, winning the sprint behind the winning breakaway group (that contained teammate Elisa Longo Borghini) was a best ever result in the Flemish season-opener for D’hoore, and was followed by a second victory in the Omloop van het Hageland the next day.
Sixth in the Ronde van Drenthe - again behind a group containing Longo Borghini - confirmed that the 27-year-old has some of her best ever spring form.
“There was a bit of a question about how my form would be, after what was an easy winter for me,” D’hoore explained. “I did nothing on the track, so I wasn’t used to doing that, but I was quite surprised that my shape was really good at the start of the season.
:Since the first race I did, it gets better each day,” she smiled. “I’m close to my top form right now, and I think it’s right on time for Flanders.”
With the WorldTour leader’s jersey on her back, Longo Borghini will join D’hoore in the Gent-Wevelgem team on Sunday, along with former two-time World Champion Giorgia Bronzini, French time trial Champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot, and former Swedish and Danish Champions Emilia Fahlin and Julie Leth.
“We have a strong team, especially for the WorldTour races like Gent-Wevelgem and Flanders,” D’hoore confirmed. “Of course Elisa is the WorldTour leader now, and the team is looking good and confident for the races. I’m glad I can join them, and hopefully we can celebrate a few times!”
D’hoore is well aware of who her main rivals will be, in what are many riders’ big targets for the spring. The Flemish star is more concerned with her own form, however, and is looking to herself and her teammates to make the races.
“You always have to keep your eyes open, of course, but I’m just confident in myself,” she said. “I know I’ve got a good sprint at the end of each race, and I’m feeling stronger than a few years ago, so I can handle a hard race as well right now.
“In the past I just had to hang on, and to struggle through the race and then sprint, but right now I think I can endure a much harder race than before. I’m a lot stronger now, so now I’m hoping for wind, and echelons and hard racing!"
Without her usual track programme, D’hoore has spent much of the winter riding the roads around her Ghent home, which she will be racing on in the coming weeks. The focus on road training, along with a lifetime of riding over the famous cobblestones of the region, mean that she feels ready for the challenges to come.
“Maybe it’s a different type of racing, but I’m always used to the cobbles,” she laughed. “I grew up with it so I can never lose that feeling. This is a different type of racing though; in the past I did a lot of short efforts, on the track, and now it’s been a bit different.
“So I’m feeling like a different rider, and more like a roadie!”
Fourth is no good enough