Smulders: “Special to make my debut in the Ronde”

Silke Smulders is having an excellent first season at Liv Racing Xstra. After her 22nd place in Gent-Wevelgem, the Dutch rider has been selected for the Ronde van Vlaanderen (158.6 km). The most important classic in Belgium will take place this Sunday.

How did you like your first months at Liv Racing Xstra?

“I feel I am in the right place. There is a nice atmosphere. We have a great trust in each other, we are willing to do a lot for each other. In the Setmana Valenciana you noticed that we still had to find each other in the first days, that routine and automatism had to develop. Now it is already going very smoothly: if you want to help each other to the front, it is easy to find the other’s wheel. If you then win, as in the Bloeizone Fryslân Tour, it works super for the self-confidence of the team. We knew we were strong in that tour, we felt we had it in us. Then it’s nice when you get the confirmation.”

Are you looking back on your first races with satisfaction?

“So far I’ve been riding pretty steady. The programme was good, I have never raced so many races in a row in the past. After the final training camp we immediately started in the Setmana Valenciana. One week later I rode the Omloop van het Hageland. Valerie Demey and I were in good shape there. After one day of rest, we had to move on to Le Samyn. It went well, I was able to position myself for the cobbled sections. In the final we were with four riders of Liv Racing Xstra in a group of 25. We wanted to go for a sprint, but it didn’t work out. A few days later we were successful with Rachele Barbieri in the Bloeizone Fryslân Tour. It was a great experience for me to be part of the lead-out train. I learned a lot from it. In the Trofeo Alfredo Binda I eventually came just short of following the first group on the final climb. In Gent-Wevelgem I did manage to ride in the front in the final. Those are perfect incentives, of course.”

And now follows the Ronde… What do you have in common with this race?

“It’s fantastic to be able to ride the Ronde van Vlaanderen. It’s one of the biggest spring classics, along with Paris-Roubaix if you ask me. I used to sit in front of the television all day so I wouldn’t miss a thing. Now I am at the start. That is quite a special feeling. I know the course, the cobbled sections and the climbs. On Thursday we did a recon with the team, from the Wolvenberg to the Paterberg. Apart from the recon, my preparation is the same as for all the other races. I feel most comfortable with that. Only, with the Ronde there is a little bit more healthy nervousness.”