A fast a furious, three days of racing took place in the beautiful country of Luxembourg, the home of Elise Maes, Festival Elsy Jacobs UCI 2.1.
The weekend of racing kicked off with a lung-busting 2.8km prologue on the Orbea ORDU. Fresh from the Commonwealth Games, Melissa Lowther set the 3rd fastest time early in the standings which was only to be bettered in the latter half of the race, meanwhile Aafke Soet having come from her individual time trial win the Friday previously at Borsele, finished only 8 seconds from the winner, and sat in 8th place overall in the youth classification.
Stage 1, was a 97.7km road race, which included 3 WNT Total Tooling GPM’s. The team were in the mix throughout the race but unfortunately Aafke Soet and Hayley Simmonds were forced to abandon through illness. Gabrielle Pilote-Fortin made several attempts throughout the stage to breakaway, but were all reeled in from the eager peloton. With the rain heavily pouring, racing into the final kilometre Aafke, Elise, Natalie and Gabrielle were all well positioned, but a crash in the first 20 riders of the peloton caused a split. Elise was our first rider home in 25th. Fortunately, all our riders managed to avoid the crash.
“I tried to go with the most stacked moves but even then, we were caught. I am happy with the race but I still struggle with the big bunch sprints after my injury from last year. I was happy to see some climbs after a month of the spring classics.” said Canadian, Gabrielle Pilote-Fortin after the stage.
Elise Maes added “There were several attacks during the race, especially on the local laps, but the peloton didn’t let any breaks go. It was all about positioning today. The support on the local laps from friends and family was so nice, it felt really special.”
The 111.1km second stage, was held in Garnich a stone’s throw away from Ceratizit Group in Mamer. We had a special guest, General manager of Ceratizit Luxembourg, Philippe Lanners in the team car with our DS Dirk Baldinger, an experience which he said was “fantastic and very exciting.”
The stage was full throttle from the beginning with several breakaways Natalie Grinczer said: “It was really tough today, and very attritional, you had to be in the right place going into the tight left hander, and suffer all the way up the climb. The group got smaller every lap, there were a couple of attacks mainly by Cervelo and Boels, but it was well controlled by them. In the end it was a small bunch sprint, I am happy with how it went throughout the whole weekend.”
Melissa Lowther added “It's nice to be racing in Europe again after a while out of racing. Getting back into racing was a bit of a shock to the system especially with the undulating nature of the course but it’s nice to finally be with my team mates after coming back from the Commonwealth Games. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the rest of the season now.”
Natalie was our top finisher in the general classification 24th @ 27 seconds
Gabrielle 29th @ 34 seconds
Elise 36th @ 2.46
Mel 50th @ 8.27