Fresh off a scorching Australian summer, where Chloe Hosking sprinted to victory on stage 1 of the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under and strong team performances at both the Towards Zero Race Torquay and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, Rally Cycling enters their European opener at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with confidence.
The team hasn’t raced the customary Belgian opener since 2015, but it’ll be Hosking’s ninth appearance at the race, her best result coming in 2018 with a 4th place in the final sprint.
The first northern classic is always a relentless race, littered with cobbled climbs like the iconic Kapelmuur, and the weather often plays a major role. After a week of freezing temperatures, this year’s race is expected to be cold and wet, so Rally Cycling will enjoy a typical Belgian welcome.
Hosking will be a protected rider on Saturday, and she’ll also have valuable experience to share with her teammates. Here’s what she had to say going into this weekend.
“I’d be lying if I said I’m not nervously excited about the traditional ‘opening weekend’ of racing. I know I’ve put in the work and I feel ready, so it’s sort of that nervous anticipation. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is easily one of my favorite races so of course, I want to start strong. I’m also really looking forward to leading the girls and trying to use my experience to help them navigate one of their first Belgian classics.”
Following Omloop is Strade Bianche (Mar 7), one of the more picturesque one-day races, which takes the riders over undulating gravel roads and usually sees individual riders soloing to the finish in Siena’s awe-inspiring Piazza del Campo. It’s both the first WWT event of the spring and Rally Cycling’s debut appearance at the Italian classic, so it promises to be a big day on the bike.
After the gravel roads of Tuscany, the team returns to northern Europe for Drentse Acht van Westerveld (Mar 13) and Bevrijdingsronde Van Drenthe (Mar 15). The first is a race well-suited to Hosking who has won there twice (2012, 2017) and has not finished lower than 11th place since her first appearance in 2010. The Bevrijdingsronde Van Drenthe is the second WWT event in this block, and with 11 cobbled sectors, including a number of infamous Bergs, it is always a hard-fought race, rarely seeing more than a reduced bunch finish together.
Hosking says, “I’m stoked to be able to finish our first European block of the year with Ronde van Drenthe. As a WorldTour race, it’s exciting to be able to show the Rally colors at the top level of the sport and it’s a race that I think is really suited to us as a team. We showed in Australia that we have the strength and determination to feature in some of the toughest races so I’m looking forward to pinning on the numbers with the ladies and pick up where we left off.”
This high-profile block of races will be a learning process for the team, with the added bonus of having a real chance of big results.
Team director, Zach Bell, says, “We have the ability in our team to get top tier results. We’ll have some learning to do but the riders are ready for the challenge and our goal is to come away having had an impact on the outcome of each race.”
“These races really represent the cutting edge of grit and ability in women’s racing. They are hard, they are aggressive. Being able to race this style of one-day is what lays the foundation for winning under almost any circumstance. Every five km there are key setups and decisions you have to get right. If you don’t, you pay the price right away and have to make an adjustment fast. It teaches you to be continuously conscious and attentive as an athlete.”
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Feb 29) – Ghent > Ninove (122.9 km) – will be available to stream on our website from 5 am CST
Strade Bianche (Mar 7) – Siena > Siena (136km) – will be available to stream on FloBikes.com from 5:25 am CST
Drentse Acht van Westerveld (Mar 13) – Dwingeloo > Dwingeloo
Bevrijdingsronde Van Drenthe (Mar 15) – Zuidwolde > Hoogeveen
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