On Saturday 25 February the road season begins for the Lotto Soudal Ladies with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The team went to Calpe for a training camp from 29 January to 6 February for the final preparations. Manager Dany Schoonbaert took the time to look ahead to the new cycling year.

Dany Schoonbaert: “We had a successful training camp in Calpe. Everyone was riding well and seemed to have the right shape to start the season. The training camp was important to prepare for the first races, but also because the five new riders could integrate in the team. Training together and spending time together creates a bond that makes them go through fire and water for each other during a race.”

“Trine Schmidt (28) is one of those five new riders in the team. She quit cycling in 2011. In 2015 she got back on a race bike and decided to start a next cycling chapter. She is very ambitious. You have to be motivated of course if you want to take back your place in the peloton after five years. Trine has to support Lotte Kopecky during races and if necessary pull the sprint. She will also get to grab her own chance in some races. Trine also wants to race on the track again. Her first road race will be Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.”

“Kaat Van der Meulen (21) and Annelies Dom (30) are in the Belgian team pursuit squad together with Lotte Kopecky. They already know each other really well. Thanks to the team pursuit they know how the others will react. That’s an advantage during the road races. On training camp we did some sprint trainings during which we set up a train with Annelies, Kaat, Trine and also Elise Delzenne. That worked really well.”

“Lotte Kopecky (21) set a big step forward last year. She won the Trofee Maarten Wynants, a 1.2 race. That’s a performance she should be able to repeat this season. I also hope to see her on stage of some bigger races. At the moment she is in Cali for the track World Cup. Lotte keeps combining track and road. She has Olympic ambitions on the track. A few days after she comes back from Cali she will start the season with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Tielt-Winge. The Ronde van Vlaanderen is also on her race programme. She already did very well at her début. I think top fifteen is definitely possible this year.”

“The story of Anna Kiesenhofer (26) is not traditional either, just like that of Trine Schmidt. Before Anna started cycling, she participated in triathlons and duathlons. An injury forced her to ride more on the bike and she started to ride cyclosportives and she discovered her climbing skills. In 2016 she rode her first elite races. At the Tour de l’Ardèche she won the stage to Mont Ventoux. The Amstel Gold race will be the first race where she could set a good result. There are lots of turns during the Amstel though, that’s why the Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège should suit her better. I think she will end in top fifteen of both races. The highlight of her season should be La Course, with finish on the Izoard. With her skills Anna can finish in the top five.”

“Puck Moonen (20) is also new in the team. At training camp she proved to be in good condition. Puck is still very young and doesn’t have a lot of experience, but she made a good impression. Just like Fenna Vanhoutte (19), who got ill last season, she gets the time to learn and grow. Puck really wants to make progress, she is very motivated.”

“We have to wait how Jessie Daams (26) will do this season after her health problems of last year. Her physical tests are better than at the beginning of 2016. That’s a good sign, just like the fact that she did well on training camp. A race is something else though, so we’ll see. But she gets the time she needs.”