Shelley Olds 4th and 5th in back-to-back openers of the European Classics.
Cylance Pro Cycling showed consistency and strength this past weekend in Belgium, as the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Omloop van het Hageland opened the season for the European Classics.
Shelley Olds (USA), Sheyla Gutierrez (ESP) Rosella Ratto (ITA), Kristabel Doebel-Hickok (USA), Valentina Scandolara (ITA) and Rachele Barbieri (ITA) lined up for Cylance in this challenging double-duty weekend.
“The classics are so unique,” said Shelley Olds. “200-plus riders, narrow roads, cold weather, cobbles, and a lot of prestige to win. This makes for very nervous racing and you have to be 100% focused at ALL times. The moment you lose focus can be the end of your race.
As predicted, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad saw nearly 200 riders for 123-kilometer race, with clear but cold conditions. Jessie Daams (Lotto Soudal Ladies) going things moving with a solo effort, but was reeled in with 40K to go. A break with Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) and Gracie Elvin (Oirica-AIS) proved the decisive moment, and Armitstead’s solo attack on Elvin lasted with 20K to go. With a near 30 second gap, Armitstead soloed to victory and Shelley Olds finished 5th in a tight bunch sprint.
Director Manel Lacambra sees the progress of the team in every race. “The first two classics of the year are never easy. Some of our riders were coming from altitude training, and they need days to adapt to the high speeds and cold conditions,” Lacambra said. “We are happy because the team is improving every race, and Shelley finished the work with two top 5 placings. We are more confident with every race.”
Oomloop het Nieuwsblad, Belgium. 123 kilometers
# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Elizabeth Armitstead (GBr) Boels Dolmans Cycling Team 3:23:05
2 Chantal Blaak (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cycling Team 0:00:29
3 Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Canyon-SRAM
4 Leah Kirchmann (Can) Team Liv-Plantur
5 Shelley Olds (USA) Cylance Pro Cycling
In Sunday’s race, the Omloop van het Hageland in Tielt-Winge, Belgium, saw clear skies for 129 kilometers, and many of the same competitors from the previous day (minus Nieuwsblad winner, Lizzie Armitstead). Early breakaways kept the peloton lively, with attacks coming throughout the day.
Cylance’s Rossella Ratto, who crashed on her knee the previous day, gave insight on the tough conditions of European racing in February. “This morning, it was hard for me to trust the pack again,” Ratto said, “But I managed somehow...the problem was the cold in the last 40kms. The wind got my legs frozen and I finally had to stop. But it was better today than yesterday, because I could help Shelley more than once.”
With 13k to go, the peloton had split into multiple chase groups, but Cylance’s teamwork kept Shelley Olds in the lead pack. Cylance was the only team to organize a successful leadout, and Olds sprinted to 4th, missing the podium by the narrowest of margins. Former world champion Marta Bastianelli of Ale Cipollini took the win, with Leah Kirchman (Liv-Plantur) and Lotta Lepisto (Cervelo-Bigla) rounding out the podium.
“We stepped up to the challenge and we are in full race mode now,” said Olds. “We are growing closer and gaining experience and starting to really gel as a team.”
While Olds’ form and consistency foreshadow great things to come in 2016, the Spring Classics are pushing all of Cylance’s riders to the next level.
“I feel so fortunate to experience my first Classics with such a supportive and experienced team,” says Kristabel Dobel-Hickok. “The races are hard, cold and technical, everything I imagined and more.”
Omloop van het Hageland, Belgium. 129 kilometers
# Rider Name (Country) Team
1 Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Ale Cipollini
2 Leah Kirchmann (Can) Team Liv-Plantur
3 Lotta Lepisto (FIN) Cervelo-Bigla Cycling
4 Shelley Olds (USA) Cylance Pro Cycling
Up next, the team will race Le Samyn in Fayt-le-Franc, Belgium on March 3 and Strade Bianche in Italy on March 5, which marks the first World Tour event of 2016.
Alison Tetrick 3rd Overall in 2016 Chico Stage Race
While the bulk of the Cylance Pro Cycling Team is already in Europe, our own Alison Tetrick got in one last local race before joining the rest of her teammates across the pond. Here is her report: