Mon 20 Jul 2020
After a lengthy period away from racing, Mitchelton-SCOTT women’s team will be first riders from the squad to pin a number on their backs, returning to competition with three, one-day races around the Basque Country to kick start their modified 2020 season campaign.
With a strong team boasting climbers in Lucy Kennedy, Amanda Spratt and road world champion Annemiek van Vleuten, the squad returns to racing with confidence and as the defending champions; having won two of the three events in 2019.
The six-rider group will line-up at Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa (Thursday 23rd), Clasica Femenina Navarra (Friday 24th) and Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria (Sunday 26th) eager to test their legs ahead of the first WorldTour race, Strade Bianche, the following weekend.
The first race, Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa, is one for the climbers with four-categorised climbs, two of them hard first category climbs ranging from six to nine-kilometres in length. The second race, Clasica Femenina Navarra, lends its-self more to the opportunists with rolling roads and seven shorter, easier classified climbs.
For the third and final race, the riders leave Pamplona and head to Durango. The race consists of five rolling laps before heading off for two finishing climbs with the final one, a second category climb, coming just six kilometres from the finish line which has been the perfect launch pad in the past.
The Australian outfit has enjoyed a lot of success in these events and return as the defending champions to Clasica Femenina Navarra; after sprinting victory last year in the inaugural edition courtesy of Sarah Roy.
The team also has two victories to their name in Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria, after fine solo wins by both Van Vleuten (2017) and Kennedy (2019).
Lucy Kennedy – 2019 Durango-Durango winner
“I can’t wait for the team to come together and just do what we’re meant to do after such a long time away. It’s no secret that I love the Basque Country so I’m particularly excited to restart the season there.
“We have a very strong team for the terrain, and it will be fun to work with Spratty and Annemiek to animate and hopefully win some races.
“As defending champion I’m glad that a spot on the calendar was found for Durango and a repeat victory would be the perfect way to kick things off again.”
“I feel really excited about racing again. It’s been almost six months since I pinned a number on, so I think it’s going to feel strange but normal at the same time. I’m also just really excited to be back with the team – the staff and my teammates.
“I know that throughout the whole period of no racing I was able to keep quite a good level of fitness and the last couple of months in particular I’ve had some really good training blocks. As to how that transfers across to racing we will have to see but in general I know I can race very well after big training blocks so I am not worried. I think most of us are in good shape so it will be exciting to play the game again.
“I’ve raced Durango many times but it will be my first time competing in the other two races so that also gives me good energy and motivation. I’ve been around for such a long time now it’s unusual for me to start in races I’ve never done before!
“Of course the other thing we will have to keep in mind is that we have to take some different measures and do our part to make sure we act responsibly with COVID-19 in mind. I’m confident that with the protocol RACESAFE that the team has in place we will be able to achieve this.”
Annemiek van Vleuten – 2017 Durango-Durango winner
“I really love racing in the Basque Country it is one of my favourite places to race. They are hard parcourse and they will be hard races. It is great they have organised three races in the area, it makes it worth the travel, and I think it will be really good to have three races in my legs as it is such a long time ago since we had a race stress.
“It will also be really good for the team to have some race days in the legs and to race together before we head to Strade Bianche which will be stressful with the off-road gravel sections.”
Alejandro Gonzales – Sport Director
“It is the first race back in almost five months so obviously everybody has doubts about their condition, but we are pretty confident our riders have done a good job during this period, so we are going with high ambitions.
“We have three really good cards in Van Vleuten, Kennedy and Spratt. They are all in good shape so I think we will have a good chance to play in the races and keep it open.
“I think they will be pretty fast races; riders have had a break which they have probably never had before, and they have had time to prepare. Some people would have struggled a little bit mentally with all the uncertainly surrounding racing, but I think it will be a fast and furious start.
“For us, it is a good nerve killer to have these races before going to Strade Bianche. Strade is a lot more hectic and on top of that if you add insecurity of it being the first race back it could one hell of a race, so this is the main reason for us to race these races, to ease our way back into racing.”
Thursday, 23rd July: Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa- Pamplona to Lekunberri, 118.3km
Friday, 24th July: Clasica Femenina – Pamplona to Pamplona, 122.8km
Sunday, 26th July: Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria, 113km
Photo courtesy of Getty Images