It’s a busy weekend ahead for AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step with all three teams in action. While the U23 team rides their first stage race of the year in the French region of Normandie, the juniors and elite will travel to Italy.
The Trofeo Binda on Sunday 19 March is the seventh Women’s WorldTour race of the season, but also the very first UCI Nations Cup for the junior team. It’s an exciting race for the experienced elite riders, but even more so for the young riders who have prepared well for this first race. Sports director Christian Kos joined the U19 team at the Mallorca training camp last month and saw a close-knit team ready for the challenges ahead.
“We have a very young group who are the foundation of our project. There are many first-year riders aged 16 and 17 and the theme this year will mainly be to learn to ride together, to really race together as a team,” said Christian.
“We try to give all the juniors a taste of the future as a professional rider by using the same preparation as we do with the pros, such as pre-race meetings, analysis of courses via Veloviewer, daily planning, etc. We do this very professionally. In the Trofeo Binda it is really about group formation, because nobody knows internationally what level they will be at. It’s the first race. We focus on the process and on working together. We teach them our way of working now so that we benefit from it in the future in our own team structure, or in their further steps as elite riders. We will also go to Italy as one team with the elite riders in the same hotel and with the same staff.”
Lore De Schepper (BEL), Ella Heremans (BEL), Nela Kankovska (CZE), Fee Knaven (NED), Nanoi Van Wettere (BEL) and Luca Vierstraete (BEL) will race in the colours of AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step. Laia Bosch rides for the Spanish national team.
“I can’t say much about this particular race,” Christian added. “We do have a few climbers, but I don’t really dare to put a result on it. It is a journey of discovery for all of us.”
Italian rider Gaia Masetti will line up for the elite race in and around Cittiglio with Mireia Benito (ESP), Justine Ghekiere (BEL), Marthe Goossens (BEL), Anya Louw (AUS) and Lone Meertens (BEL).
“Last year was my first Trofeo Binda in the elite category but I raced it twice as a junior rider,” Gaia explained. “Binda has always been special to me. When I was a second-year junior, I finished in second place. Of course, the racing with the juniors is completely different compared to the elites but Binda always has a special place in my heart because of the memories.”
The Trofeo Binda course in Varese, Lombardia is 139 kilometres long. On the local laps, the riders face the Orino climb and its technical descent four times. There are almost 2,000 metres of elevation to overcome.
“It’s going to be a hard race because the course is really hilly. Usually, the race will be decided on one of the last local laps. The big teams will try to set a high pace before the last lap to thin out the bunch. As a team we are well prepared. Everyone can play their own card: from being in the breakaway if there will be one and or at the front in the final. Justine will be our main rider. She was a bit ill before Strade Bianche but if she is as good as she was in Valencia, we will have some fun. My job is to work for the team and be in an early breakaway. Allergy season starts and that already causes some effects in my body, so I hope my legs will have pity on me this Sunday,” Gaia said with a smile.
From Friday to Sunday the U23 team will do their first stage race of the season. After cancellations in Oetingen and Drenthe, they finally get some racing in and everyone is excited to start. Lining up in Tour de Normandie are: Senne Knaven (BEL), Julia Kopecky (CZE), Mirre Knaven (NED), Eline van Rooijen (NED), Fien Masure (BEL) and Maureen Arens (NED).