Lucy Garner will start her 2014 season at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, 12 months on from making her professional debut in a memorable edition of the race.
The 19-year-old Giant-Shimano rider narrowly missed the time cut in last year’s edition, which was held in freezing conditions, and saw only 12 riders finish within a minute of race winner Tiffany Cromwell (Orica-AIS)
However, having not raced since the World Championships road race in September, the Briton is looking forward to returning to 125-kilometre event, which starts and finishes in Ghent.
“I’m ready to go racing, although it will probably be a shock to the system after a few months away from it,” she told Cycling Weekly. “It was really hard last year, but knowing the course, and where the cobbled sections and climbs are, is really helpful going into this year’s race.
“I was glad I got through it last year. It was a bit like riding the Tour of Flanders – that was also tough for me, but looking back, it was great being a part of it and having that experience.”
Garner expects to play a supporting role at Nieuwsblad for Dutch team-mates Kirsten Wild and Amy Pieters, who dominated this year’s Tour of Qatar.
And while many women started their 2014 campaign in the middle east, the Leicestershire-born rider expects the peloton to be anxious for the first 30 kilometres as it approaches the Nokereberg climb, the first of eight along the course.
She said: “I found it really nervous last year, especially at the start. It’s the first race of the year for a lot of the riders, everybody is getting to used to riding in the group again, and going through the towns on the way out from the start, there is a lot of fighting for position. However, once it reaches the climbs, it breaks up and riders find their place from there.”
After Het Nieuwsblad, Garner’s programme will vary slightly in comparison to 2013, in an attempt to work on her race endurance levels.
“Last year I found that I was often very tired come the end of the races, so doing lead-outs or sprinting was difficult,” she said.
“That’s an area I’m focusing on this year, and because of that, there’s no point going flat out right now. I’m looking more towards the middle and later part of the season.
“I’ve got a fairly relaxed programme this year. The team have put me on around one race a week, but not too many stage races. I won’t be doing the World Cup rounds, unless I’ve got great form or I’m needed to ride, but I’m looking forward to riding the Women’s Tour in May.”
Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans), Lucy Martin (Estado De Mexico Faren), Emma Grant (Tibco-To The Top), Tamina Oliver (Endura Lady Force) and an eight-rider Scottish National Team that includes Claire Thomas, Anne Ewing and Eileen Roe will also be in action at Het Nieuwsblad.