British champion Lizzie Armitstead has extended her contract with the Boels-Dolmans team until 2016 – and goes into Sunday’s Tour of Flanders with ambitions of winning the race to extend her lead in the UCI Women Road World Cup after three races of the nine-event series.
The new deal for Armitstead will keep the Olympic silver medallist at the Dutch team, which she joined in 2013, until beyond the Games in Rio in two years’ time.
“I am very happy that I am going to stay with this team until 2016, which is a decision that was made easier for me because [team manager] Danny Stam and [world time trial champion] Ellen van Dijk will be staying on for the same period. I’d like to continue working with these ambitious people.
“I think that, as a team, we have the potential to become the best in the world and I would like to contribute to that. In my opinion, Danny Stam and the sponsors have turned this team into the most professional women team in the world.
“By now, I feel right at home with the Boels-Dolmans team and I know that this is the best place for me in the next years, both during races and in other respects.”
The more immediate aim for the 25-year-old from Yorkshire, however, is to win her second World Cup race of the season at Flanders, to follow up her win last month at the Ronde van Drenthe.
She also placed second in last weekend’s Trofeo Alfredo Binda, won by Orica-AIS’s Emma Johannsen.
“It's the cobbles, the traditional spring Belgian weather, bad conditions and one of the longest races on the calendar,” said Armitstead, quoted on BBC Sport.
“To be able to say you've won the Tour of Flanders? That means you're a hard bike rider. It's always the tough girls that win it."
Last year, world champion Marianne Vos, who beat Armitstead to Olympic gold in London in 2012, took the first Tour of Flanders victory of her career – but the Rabobank-Liv rider won’t be racing on Sunday.
The runner-up 12 months ago, Ellen van Dijk, switched from Specialized-Lululemon to Boels-Dolmans over the close season and has proved a valuable team-mate to Armitstead, including helping chase down attacks to set up that Ronde van Drenthe win.
Should Armitstead prevail over the cobbles on Sunday, she would become the second British rider to win the race, following 2007 champion Nicole Cooke.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.