It has been a great start to the season for Le Col – Wahoo. A smattering of top tens and top fives have come already, along with a steady stream of top 20 placings in some of the bigger Women’s WorldTour events. It feels like the first podium might be just around the next corner.
Director Nico Marche is pleased with what he has seen so far.
“We’ve started the season on a really high level. I think the improvement race-by-race is there to see, which is obviously something you are always looking for as a DS.”
The team was of course very disappointed to miss Setmana Ciclista Valenciana due to COVID-19, so fired up the season with the iconic double-header of ‘opening weekend’ instead. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad saw a top 20 for Jesse Vandenbulcke, with Maike van der Duin repeating the feat the next day at Omloop van het Hageland.
The first top ten of the year came a few days later with Majo van’t Geloof securing sixth in a hard-fought edition of Le Samyn.
This early success in Belgium is due in part to the riders and staff having a consistent base in the country throughout the spring classics – as Lizzie Holden explains
“We have been super lucky to have a team house in Belgium for the whole classics period. It has been ideal for getting to know the courses in a relaxed environment, and also really getting to know your teammates.
“The environment that we have within the team – staff and rider – is really special and it honestly feels like a second family. I believe this environment is really key to keeping things mentally fresher!”
Lizzie has also tasted success this season, of course. She put in an amazing time trial at Bloeizone Fryslan, which powered her to an overall top ten on GC. Van der Duin was in the results again over that weekend, with fourth and sixth on stages two and three respectively.
Lizzie’s 2021 was heavily interrupted by a COVID-19 positive and subsequent complications, and so this season was something of a step into the unknown.
“In December we agreed to see how the first part of the season went and to focus on getting back to enjoying racing with no pressure before making any serious goals,” Lizzie says.
“If you’d told me back in December, or even right before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, that I’d be consistently making the front group in races, achieving top 10 results personally and also as a team, I definitely wouldn’t have believed you. So yeah, over the moon with how the start of the season has gone and looking forward to what else is to come!”
With the results continuing to come when the squad returned to one-day racing action after Bloeizone, Nico sees plenty of reasons for encouragement.
“The other good thing is we’ve been getting top results, but not only with one rider… every time it’s about different riders, Jesse’s top 20 in Het Nieuwsblad, Maike already has strong results in Bloeizone, and again in Drenthe with the Dutch federation team.
“And then of course, Majo, top six in Samyn, and fifth in Nokere. And Tata eighth at Oetingen. And also Lizzie! Top ten in the GC at Bloeizone with a really strong TT.”
The start of 2022 has not been without its setbacks, of course, with crashes injuries and what feels like more than our share of COVID-related disruption. Despite crashing in Nokere a few days ago and facing a period of recovery, Jesse Vandenbulcke is full of positivity about what the team has achieved, and what it has yet in front of it.
“It has been a really good start in the classics, we got a good result in each race, which is good for the feeling in the team. If you feel like you did well in a race, that’s one thing, but if you get a good result too, that helps a lot.”
And Jesse has noticed improvements, even since the start of the year.
“There was a really big difference between our first race, Nieuwsblad, and my last one, Nokere, in terms of how we were speaking to each other, listening to each other, before the race in the meetings, the points that we need to work on.
“I come out of the team meetings feeling positive, and with this group, I think we’ll go quite far this season!”
The team is now looking at a non-stop month of competition, with a race every three-or-so days for a full month, starting with the Classic Brugge de Panne on 24 March and finishing at Liége-Bastogne-Liége on 24 April.