Energiewacht Tour: 9th-13th April
It's 5 stages over 4 days, and f you want a proper race description, head over to the ORICA-AIS website, where last year's 2nd-placed rider Loes Gunnewijk explains the race, and for facts and googlemaps, to Velofocus' excellent preview, but here's my one-word attempt: WIND!
OK, OK, I'll try a bit harder. This is classic Dutch women's racing - the course, all in Groningen province, in the north-east of the Netherlands, is incredibly flat, with the races running on loops through farmlands, some sections of cobbles, some technical section, but the two biggest obstacles will be the wind, which is very strong indeed, and the endless battle for positioning. Dutch racing is very tough, and riders have to have tactical skills so they never miss a break, as well as strength and speed to win. This race has intermediate sprint bonifications too, that apply to the General Classification, so there's a real need to watch ALL the moves.
Four of the stages are road races, and we also have a 15.1km Team Time Trial, the first chance to see the new iteration of Specialized-lululemon. Ever since the Cervélo Test Team disappeared, HTC/Specialized have been completely dominant, but can their new squad keep up the tradition? Or can their rivals Rabobank-Liv and ORICA-AIS step into their shoes? And what about Boels-Dolmans? ITT World Champ and Flanders winner Ellen van Dijk was a mainstay of Speclulu - she won the GC of the race last year, how how will she find the Boels TTT team?
Yes, I love this race! It's one of the easiest and most fun to follow as it happens, and the team who run it really care about the riders and fans. To follow the racing as it happens, head to twitter. The race twitter is excellent, and in previous years they’ve tweeted tons of photos and fan-pictures, and have excellent updates – and follow the #EWT14 hashtag too, for race updates, and #EWT for general tweets (especially if you talk about it!) and in addition, there’s my usual twitter-list for race tweeters.
It's also on tv, with a short highlights show a day after each stage on Dutch tv station RTL7. The tv guide is here – and you might be able to watch it live here. On 10th, 11th and 12th April, the highlights are at 17:45 CEST (4:45pm UK BST; 11:45am USA EDT) and on 13th & 14th they’re earlier, 16:30 CEST. If you miss them, they will be archived, probably here - UPDATE! and are being put onto the Energiewacht Tour Youtube. And another Dutch tv station, RTV Noord, shows highlights of the race too - you'll find them on their youtube - as always, we'll add links to the comments as we see them.
Alongside the elite women there's a three-stage junior women's race, one of the best opportunities to spot talent (and little sisters in the peloton!) - and for the future stars to race on the same roads as the elite women. I love that! Here's the startlist for that race.
The elite women's startlist is here, and there's a ton of information on the race website and facebook, and you can follow the riders through the race with Pim Siegers’ list of cyclists in the race (Pim runs the social media, he’s superb!) We'll talk through the race in the comments, with all the updates, interesting stuff we find and everything else we find - join us and enjoy the race!