Wiggle High5 have brought a strong squad to the Aviva Women's Tour and tell us they've got "a lot of cards to play."
This year Wiggle High5 have brought a roster of British Olympic Champion, Dani King, Swedish National Champion and 2014 Women’s Tour second place GC rider Emma Johansson, plus 2015 second place rider and Belgian National Champ Jolien D’hoore as well as Italian climber Elisa Longo Borghini and sprinter Giorgia Bronzini.
We’ll be chatting to the riders each morning to hear how they’re feeling as the race goes on. This morning, it was the turn of King and Johansson, ready to give us their impressions of what was to come.
After stage one - which finished just minutes ago - Christine Majerus of Boels Dolmans leads (race report here) but a flat stage meant small time gaps and there's everything to play for. Strong spinter Giorgia Bronzini came in third just behind Rabo Liv's Marianne Vos.
Having come second overall in the GC in the inaugural year, Johansson certainly has a lot to fight for. However, she wasn’t setting her focus on the big picture. Discussing her approach, she told us: “It’s going to be a bit of a harder addition this year, which I really look forward to. I think it’s important to live by the day and do everything you can on the day’s stage, and I think we’re going to work like that."
She added insightfully: "It’s a harder set up in terms of the course… but it’s not the course that makes a race, it’s the riders. It all depends on how it’s being raced. Of course you will know that one day might be harder – but you can’t spend today thinking about Saturday or Sunday. It’s easier, mentally, to get through a stage race if you think about today not tomorrow."
"It’s easier, mentally, to get through a stage race if you think about today not tomorrow"
Johansson joined Wiggle High5 for the 2016 season. Discussing the set-up, she said: “I think all teams have their good and the things they need to work on, and it’s no different here. Through my ten years in this career I’ve been through some teams. For myself, it’s just good to get a new environment, and it makes you shape up a bit and you need to fight a bit more for things. But it’s a really nice group of girls and I really enjoy it."
The Olympics games in Rio are of course drawing ever closer, and Johansson says that the pressure to meet selection demands has affected racing all year. She said: “You just feel the whole year that the peloton has been a lot stronger, and in form earlier than they normally are. The spring time has been a bit… [odd]. Teams are racing together – but maybe you’re a domestic rider normally, but you and everyone in your team wants you to get that spot they believe you deserve. I think that’s been going on all spring [riders are racing to meet selection goals]. [Many] riders are now aware if they’re going or not going, and that might change the way of racing a bit."
Many selections are now made, but not all – Team GB’s team roster included. Dani King told us early this year that her goal was Rio selection – and that’s still the case. She told us today: “I’m definitely still aiming for Rio, I’ve been aiming for that all year."
Discussing any effect she expected to see on the Women’s Tour racing, she said: “Rio being so close will just means fast and furious racing, because everyone’s on top form. The course is different to Rio, yes, but that doesn’t mean people will hold back. I think everybody still wants to win every race they do, especially a high profile race and a World Tour one. Maybe Rio will be in the back of people’s minds, maybe in terms of not taking so many risks."
Coming from the track, climbing used to be a major challenge for King – but we were surprised to hear her comment today: “For me personally I’m most looking forward to the hilliest stages, those will suit me best. That’s something that I’ve been working on, I’ve definitely got better at climbing this year, so the harder the better. I’ve just been training much more on the roads, and a lot of the races we’ve done have been hillier so I’ve been exposed to more climbing. The climbs here are shorter too, which suits me more than the mountainous ones."
"The good thing about our team is that we’ve got a lot of different cards to play. We’ve got such a strong team, it literally could be any one of us going for the stage win or the GC"
Talking about the overall mood within the team, she said: “We’ll take it day by day, the good thing about our team is that we’ve got a lot of different cards to play. We’ve got such a strong team, it literally could be any one of us going for the stage win or the GC. So I think we’ll take it day by day, see who has got the legs, and go from there."
She added: “Every stage we’re going there to win, and we’re feeling really positive. It’s a really nice team, and we’re all in a good frame of mind, I’m looking forward to getting out there with the girls."
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