Lorena Wiebes named leader for Dutch team at Paris Olympics

Lorena Wiebes will lead a formidable Dutch squad in the elite women’s road race at the Paris Olympic Games on August 4th. National coach Loes Gunnewijk confirmed this in an interview with NOS, highlighting that the team’s selection offers multiple strategies for various race situations.

“Lorena will be the leader. We have several irons in the fire. The competition will have a hard time with this group,” Gunnewijk said. The elite women’s team, announced earlier this week, also includes Tour de France champion Demi Vollering, former world and Olympic champion Marianne Vos, and three-time time trial world champion Ellen van Dijk.

Vollering and Van Dijk are set to compete in the individual time trial on July 27 as well. Gunnewijk acknowledged the difficulty in choosing the final team, stating, “The level of the Dutch riders is high. Based on the course, we have developed different scenarios. We looked at the possible course of the race, the time trial, and the skills required. These four names belong to that.”

The 158km women’s road race will commence and conclude at the Eiffel Tower, incorporating a larger 110km loop before riders tackle two 18.4km laps. The course, compared to the Tour of Flanders, is known for its short, sharp ascents typical of one-day classics.

Gunnewijk explained that the route was not the sole factor in team selection, also considering the riders’ strengths, personalities, and team dynamics. “We organised team days for this purpose and carried out personality analyses,” she said. “We looked at how they can best use each other’s qualities and how they can strengthen each other in this regard.”

These team-building exercises included activities such as jointly sawing a log to build camaraderie. Gunnewijk elaborated, “Normally, you come together two days before a championship. Through these team days, they have got to know each other in different ways. This has been innovative and very effective.”

Reflecting on past performances, Gunnewijk noted the communication issues that cost the team gold at the Tokyo Olympics. During that race, Dutch riders, including Vos and Vollering, waited too long to chase the breakaway, allowing Austria’s Anna Kiesenhofer to secure an unexpected victory. Van Vleuten had to settle for silver.

Gunnewijk, who will leave her position after the season, expressed confidence in the team’s preparation and strategy for Paris. “Here at the federation headquarters, they calculated the total number of medals won by Dutch women (55). We are not stopping there,” she said.

This summer, the focus will also be on the Belgian team, featuring reigning world champion Lotte Kopecky. However, Gunnewijk does not mind the reduced spotlight on her team, preferring to let their performance speak for itself.

Main photo credit: Ford RideLondon