Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Lisa Brennauer leads the black and orange team into the OVO Energy Women’s Tour, which starts in Daventry, Northamptonshire, on Wednesday. The former World Time Trial Champion won the 2015 edition of the race, and goes into this year’s race having won the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour in her native Germany last month, and hopes to carry this form onto the roads of Britain.
“I’m feeling well, and of course it was a good time in Thüringen, so I hope I can take my good form into the OVO Tour as well,” she said.
“I looked at the profile, and I think some of the cities sound familiar, let’s put it this way,” Brennauer smiled. “It looks like the first part of the tour - I mean it’s always up and down the whole time - but the later stages look super-hard to me, towards the end of the week.
“I still remember last year when the race went into the Peak District, and the profile looks like we’re doing something like that again.
“I think we’re there with a very strong team, so it’s super-exciting, and I hope we can do a very good race,” she added. "Obviously our main sponsors are from Great Britain, so it’s a big goal for us, and a big goal for the team as well. So I hope we can do really well there.”
Brennauer will not the Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s only general classification hope, with Italian Champion Elisa Longo Borghini returning to the race where she finished third in 2016. Also present will be French Time Trial Champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot, who dominated the Queen of the Mountains Jersey classification last year.
One thing that Brennauer is looking forward to this week, however, is the unique professional organisation of the race, and the incredible atmosphere created by the huge crowds that are always a feature of the event.
“When I think back to when I won, and the victory ceremony, how many people were there to cheer,” she smiled. “Always alongside the road it’s really huge, and as well - organisation-wise - it’s the top race of the year. For me it’s the biggest Tour in the calendar in more than just one aspect.”
Alongside the general classification threat of Brennauer, Longo Borghini and Cordon-Ragot, Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling will also be targeting bunch sprints with Dutch super-sprinter Kirsten Wild. Despite making only one appearance in the OVO Energy Women’s Tour to date, the triple World Track Champion comes into the race with stage victories in the Healthy Ageing Tour, the Tour of Chongming Island and the Tour de Yorkshire to her name this season.
“I did it in 2016 and the only thing I remember is that it was just up and down all day, and only corners!” Wild laughed. “I don’t have the best memory actually, I found it a really, really hard race, so I’m not sure if I look forward!
“I do though,” she smiled, "and I hope for me there is a sprint opportunity and I hope that we can have a good result with the team, and that we can go for a GC result with one of the other girls… not me!”
Due to the intense start to her season - which included her incredible performance at the Track World Championships, where she took three Rainbow Jerseys - Wild has taken some time off from racing. The Dutchwoman hopes that the rest, as well as some constructive training, will see her well in the tough stages to come.
“I had a break after Yorkshire, because I had the whole winter season with track, and then I did the Spring Classics - the whole spring part,” she explained. “And then I had some good training in France. I did a little race last week, so I feel good, but it’s always a question compared to the other girls.”
Like Brennauer though, an aspect of the Women’s Tour that Wild looks forward to most will be the crowds at the stage starts, finishes, and all along the race routes.
“Racing in the UK is really, really cool, with all the people,” she smiled. "That’s something I look forward to. On the other hand, it’s WorldTour race, so that means it’s a really high level, and that makes me a bit scared as well!
“What I remember from the other edition is that there were no riders dropped,” Wild laughed. “It was a really hard race, but there were no gruppettos! You have to hang otherwise you’re gone. That’s what everyone feels, so it’s a really hard one!”
Wild’s sprinting ambitions will be supported by Australian Nettie Edmondson, whose own sprinting saw her take two top-five finishes in the recent Tour of California, and European, World and Olympic Champion Katie Archibald, who makes a return to the road after suffering a broken collarbone in the Tour de Yorkshire last month.
Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling team for the OVO Energy Women’s Tour
Katie Archibald (Great Britain), Lisa Brennauer (Germany), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (France), Annette Edmondson (Australia), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), Kirsten Wild (Netherlands)
photos Janos Schmidt