• Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) at the Gent Wevelgem in March (Velofocus)Source: Velofocus
Two-time Australian road champion outsprinted the field to take her second consecutive title in the 136km Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik in Belgium.
31 May 2016 - 10:26 AM 

Starting the UCI category 1.1 race as the defending champion after her courageous win one year ago, Elvin was able handle the added pressure to successfully defend her title in Gooik after a spectacular performance from the whole Orica-AIS team.

Lotte Kopecky and Elise Delzenne rounded out the podium in second and third, both riding for Lotto-Soudal Ladies.

"We were really in control the whole race today," said Elvin. "It was great for us to have so many cards to play and then actually finish it off."

Elvin's team-mate Annemiek Van Vleuten made the day's main, long breakaway along with Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5). This provided the perfect tactical scenario for the team, leaving Elvin to sit comfortably in the chasing group, saving her legs to sprint for the victory.

"I tried to keep a clear head going into the race," said Elvin.

"We had a good team plan before the race. We've really been working since the camp on our tactics and communication so we ticked all the boxes today. We had a lot of confidence in ourselves and each other which is also something we have really been working on.

"We are all very happy at the moment and it's exciting to keep moving forward like this."

The peloton were given wet, harsh conditions for the 136.2km course, which were similar to last year's race. Orica-AIS took to the start line as the defending champions, beaming with confidence after Van Vleuten's gutsy ride two days early were she fought to finish in second place at the Boels-Rental Hills Classic. 

The typical Belgian race, much like a spring classic, meant the riders had to contest with twisty narrow roads and a selection of tough cobble climbs which included the famous Muur, Bosberg and Congoberg climbs.

An early breakaway of four riders kicked off the day's proceedings and as their advantage grew Orica-AIS saw the danger and quickly responded. Elvin and Van Vleuten were able to bridge across in a small group to form a leading group of eleven riders.

The peloton raced over the continuous section of climbs and the chasing group worked well together led by Boels-Dolmans to close in on the leaders.

It wasn't long after when Van Vleuten, along with Johansson, broke away on the Congoberg and rapidly rode out to a one minute and 30 second advantage, a dangerous move which looked likely to stay away.

But it wasn't to be, as the chase group slowly began to reel in the duo and with just eight kilometres remaining the pair's advantage dropped down to just 10 seconds. With the chasing group in sight they held on until the final kilometres.

This set the scene for a perfect scenario for Orica-AIS and with just two kilometres remaining with around 20 riders still in contact. Australian road champion Spratt launched an attack causing the remaining bunch to string out giving Elvin a smooth run to the line.

"It was a great day for the team," said Van Vleuten. "I was able to go with Emma when she attacked on the uphill cobbles with around 50 kilometres to go.

"It was close in the final, I was ready to sprint and then suddenly we were caught. Amanda Spratt did a fantastic counter attack which worked perfectly for us as Boels-Dolmans then had to chase.

"They closed in and I fought back with Gracie on my wheel and started the sprint around 400m to go. I am happy I was still able to lead her out for the sprint and that she was able to win. Overall it was a really amazing day for the team."

The victory today highlights the consistent spring for the whole Orica-AIS team, placing on the podium in the previous three races.

Last week the team took third place from Sarah Roy, followed by second place for Van Vleuten and capped off with today's first place for Elvin. Rachel Neylan also scored a victory over the weekend in GP-Plumelec where she won solo, while racing with the Australian National Team.