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  Energiewacht Tour Preview  
     
  There have been stage races in other parts of the world in 2015 but the Energiewacht Tour is the first in Europe for the year and a return to the Netherlands almost a month after the opening World Cup round Ronde van Drenthe. The format of the race changes from year to year and this year starts with a short prologue, before four road stages and a team time trial on a double day of racing.

2014 Results

Stage 1 - Kirsten WILD
Stage 2 - Kirsten WILD
Stage 3a - Vera KOEDOODER
Stage 3b - SPECIALIZED-LULULEMON
Stage 4 - Lucinda BRAND
Stage 5 - Chantal BLAAK

General Classification
1 Lucinda BRAND
2 Vera KOEDOODER +37
3 Trixi WORRACK +1:01
4 Barbara GUARISCHI +1:02
5 Lisa BRENNAUER +1:05
6 Tiffany CROMWELL +1:05
7 Kirsten WILD +1:07
8 Eleonora VAN DIJK +1:17
9 Gracie ELVIN +1:21
10 Roxane KNETEMANN +1:24

Past Winners

2014 - Lucinda Brand
2013 - Ellen van Dijk
2012 - Ina-Yoko Teutenberg
2011 - Adrie Visser

The Route

The six stage five day race starts with a short 2.5km prologue. The gaps might not be huge but the GC will start to take shape. Stage one is a 109.2km stage starting in Burcht and heading south to Sellingerstaart. After 53.6km riders will complete four laps of a 13.9km finishing circuit.

On day three riders tackle two stages with a 15.1km TTT in the morning. With the relatively short distanced the gaps will not be huge by the top TTT squads - Rabo, Orica-AIS Boels Dolmans and Velocio-SRAM will likely put significant gaps in. Despite being a dual stage day the afternoon stage 2b is actually the second longest of the race at 111.8km. Starting with two laps of a 45.6km circuit before a smaller 14.1km circuit and then a 7km loop that is half of the previous circuit.

The penultimate stage is the longest of the race at 117.4km, starting and finishing in Hoofdstraat. The stage consists of two large 54.8km circuit followed by a finishing loop of eight kilometres.

The final stage takes place on the island of Borkum, off the northern coast of Germany. Seven laps of a 15.4km circuit with much of the race taking place right on the coast.

Despite again including a TTT it will not necessarily be the stage that defines the races. Brand won last year after a solo break and with typical Dutch racing of cross winds, narrow roads and plenty of road furniture expect to see lots of attacking and splits in the bunch.

The Contenders

Start list available here

General Classification

Rabo

Brand took the win last year after a solo stage win on the penultimate day. The 25 year old had a strong 2014 where she also took the win in the final World Cup GP de Plouay-Bretagne. Has been consistent this season so far finishing top 20 in every race bar one. Often at her best on Dutch roads finished fourth at Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe in March and as the defending champion expect to see Brand on the attack.

Anna Van der Breggan was one of the top riders last year with 5 overall podiums but when the road starts to climb is where she excels but don't discount her in the classics environment. Won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, second at Le Samyn and third at the last two World Cup rounds. Packs a strong finish from a select group and expect to see her on the attack here.

Rabo have a reasonably strong TTT squad but are likely to lose some time to the likes of Orica-AIS Boels Dolmans and Velocio-SRAM so the time will have to be made up somewhere.

Boels Dolmans

The team recruited well and was dominant early on but have been out played in a number of recent races. With multiple cards to play and a team that will be challenging for the win in the TTT it would be a surprise not to see several of their riders near the top of the final general classification.

Lizzie Armitstead seems to be going even better than last year and has picked up four wins including Trofeo Alfredo Binda and three other podiums. Last year Armitstead looked to be lacking in the sprints but that is an area that she looks to have improved winning two bunch sprints in Qatar.

Chantal Blaak is a rider who likes to attack and won the final stage last year ahead of Loes Gunnewijk. Knowing the team has Armitstead for a sprint expect to see Blaak doing what she does best and going off the front. It is a tactic that often works for her.

Wiggle Honda

The team has been dominant when it comes to sprinting this year especially with the combination of Belgium Champion Jolien D'hoore and Chloe Hosking. Both are top sprinters in their own right but the performance they put on at Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe confirmed just what a force they are. The inclusion of the TTT will likely see Wiggle lose some time on the big TTT squads. Jolien D'hoore has been happy to join in with attacks so don't be surprised to see that tactic in use again.

Audrey Cordon missed Ronde van Vlaanderen with illness but if she is recovered could be a wildcard here. A quick finisher and if she can infiltrate a select group could see herself in contention.

Velocio-SRAM

The World Champions in the TTT since it was reintroduced bring a strong team that will be the name to watch on stage 2a and with a win there is likely to put a number of their riders at the top of the overall standings. After their TTT win last year they finished with three riders in the top 10 including Trixi Worrack in third overall. Fellow German and World TT Champion Lisa Brennauer finished fifth last year and is again a name to keep an eye on.

Sixth place last year went to Tiffany Cromwell in part to the TTT and also her ability to read a race and not get caught out by splits. Cromwell has been working on her sprinting over the last few seasons and while she will never be a pure sprinter is quick enough to potentially pick up bonus seconds at the sprint points.

This season the team again has a sprinter in their ranks Barbara Guarischi. With a strong TTT performance and if she ensures she is not caught out by splits then Guarischi could walk out as the overall victor with bonus seconds on the line and at sprint points.

Orica-AIS

While Emma Johansson has returned from a broken collarbone, she will again sit out the race providing an opportunity for others to step up. Johansson's absence will hurt them in the TTT but they still bring a strong team.

Melissa Hoskins is one of only three people to have won medals in all three team time trials at the World Championships and will be key to the team here. On paper it is not only a race Hoskins can do well at but also a race she can win. Orica-AIS will be around the mark in the TTT and should only lose a handful of seconds at most. Hoskins will come in with renewed confidence having taken a TP World title on the track and two stage wins at the Santos Women's Tour in January. A strong sprinter who is sprinting better than even will be challenging for stage wins and bonus seconds.

Gracie Elvin finished inside the top 10 last year and the dual Australian champion is in need of a strong performance in Europe. The crosswinds are unlikely to bother Elvin who is always a strong performance in Qatar. Strong in a sprint from a small group. In her final season and racing on Dutch roads road captain Loes Gunnewijk will want to post a strong result. Was narrowly denied a stage victory last year and whatever the role she plays in the race will be integral to the teams success.

Kirsten Wild

Has been the top sprinter in the women's peloton for the past few years but has moved to Hitec for 2015 in a bid to focus on the track ahead of the Rio Olympics. Won gold in the scratch race at the World Championships in February and bronze in the omnium. Likely to pick up bonus seconds but the TTT will put her on the back foot needing to gain time to get back in contention.


Keep an eye out for Carmen Small riding the US National Team.

Prologue

The short distance of 2.5km makes for an open race. Too short for the pure time trialist but perfect for a track endurance rider of sprinter.

Anna Van der Breggan - Finished top 5 in four prologues last year and will be looking to turn that in to a win.

Melissa Hoskins - Current TP World Champion and a top rider in the IP. Was the only rider to break the Rabo dominance in the prologue at the Giro Rosa last year.

Alex Manly - It might be her first race for Orica-AIS as a professional but the reigning Junior World Champion in the individual pursuit could spring a surprise here. The distance is almost perfect for her.

Lisa Brennauer - Won the prologue at Internationale Thuringen Rundfahrt and was 2nd in Norway last year. Likes the short tests with the rainbow bands bringing extra motivation.

Lizzie Armitstead - Unpredictable when it comes to prologues but could perform well with her current form.

Kirsten Wild - The short distance suits her and is capable of a very strong pursuit on the track.

Jolien D'hoore - On great form and while the IP has never been her speciality don't be surprised to see a strong performance from her. 7th in the Giro Rosa prologue last year over a slightly shorter distance.

Other names to watch: Ellen Van Dijk, Lucy Garner, Tiffany Cromwell, Gracie Elvin, Roxanne Knetemann and Amy Roberts

Sprinters

Lizzie Armitstead, Jolien D'hoore, Chloe Hosking, Barbara Guarischi, Melissa Hoskins, Kirsten Wild and Lucy Garner.
 
 
         
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