Emma Norsgaard blog: Missing splits and taking risks

Movistar rider reflects on Gent-Wevelgem and a flurry of attacks in the finale, as she anticipates the battle with SD Worx-Protime at the Tour of Flanders

Clock11:48, Wednesday 27th March 2024
Emma Norsgaard was regularly on attack in the final kilometres of Gent-Wevelgem, but none were ultimately made to count

© Getty Images

Emma Norsgaard was regularly on attack in the final kilometres of Gent-Wevelgem, but none were ultimately made to count

During the Belgian Classics, GCN is running an exclusive rider blog from Movistar’s Emma Norsgaard, one of the most consistent riders in the peloton, a Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift stage winner, and a Classics specialist. Norsgaard started her Classics season with fifth in Omloop van het Hageland and seventh in Nokere Koerse, before an attacking display at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. This week, she will race Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Tour of Flanders.

A few rides and several coffees later, I've recovered from a long day out at Gent-Wevelgem and I'm ready for this week's races. It was a strange race, but I'm happy with how I raced, making some attacks in the finale with Floortje Mackaij. Although nothing stuck, Arlenis Sierra sprinted to sixth for us at the finish, so it was a good day overall.

At one point, we were caught the wrong side of the split when a group with Kopecky, Wiebes, Georgi, Longo Borghini and Pieterse went up the road, but none of our riders were in it. This is a situation that can happen a lot in races, and teams have to know how to react.

When it happens to us, we always try to stay calm and not do something crazy straight away, like counterattack or work too hard on the front too soon. That's what we did in Gent-Wevelgem, and then it became clear that dsm-firmenich PostNL and UAE Team ADQ were working really hard to get back, so we didn't have to do so much work.

Sometimes, you have to let the riders see the situation and think for themselves. At that time, our team car was telling us to immediately start pulling, but I could see that multiple teams were pulling full gas in the chase, so in situations like that the riders have to think about what they can see themselves and be smart about it. In situations like that, I feel like all you need is one good sprinter and one good sprint team in the second group, and you know they will bring it back.

We talked as a team and I said "stay calm, they will definitely bring us back," because the group was only 20 seconds ahead, we could still see them and we could tell they weren't working very well together. For me, I was never stressed that we wouldn't come back, especially in a long race like Gent-Wevelgem.

When you're in those situations, you also have to be careful about saving your energy. Use your efforts to make things easier, not stupidly. Even when there's you and some teammates, you have to make sure you don't do all the work for everyone else, and you have to make sure at least one rider is saving their legs for the sprint. We usually know before the race who will have to put the work in, and who will sprint, but it can change in the moment.

In Gent-Wevelgem, we brought it back, but there are also times when you don't close the gap, and that is really frustrating. As soon as you know it's not going to come back and you're in the wrong group to chase, your race is over and there's really nothing to do.

Read more: Gent-Wevelgem: Lorena Wiebes defeats Elisa Balsamo in photo-finish sprint

After the catch is made

When it comes to closing down risky moves, the next part of the story is what happens after you bring them back. If someone like Lorena Wiebes is still in the peloton, then we know we have to try someone else, because we won't distance her on the climbs but we also know she is probably going to be the best in the sprint.

This meant that in Gent-Wevelgem, our next plan was to attack, with Floortje and me. I was pretty sure other teams would want to join, because surely they also know that they couldn't beat Wiebes, Balsamo or Consonni in a sprint – there's so many of us who are in this situation. So I was convinced that other teams would attack with us, but everyone was just sitting in the bunch and doing nothing, which was a bit disappointing.

I don't know exactly why teams don't want to be aggressive, but I think sometimes they are scared to try, or they don't want to risk getting dropped from the peloton before the finish. Sadly I think this is the mentality of a lot of riders: they'd rather be top 15 from the bunch, than try something and risk getting dropped. For me, though, I'm not satisfied with that, I want to feel like I've done something.

When you're trying those attacks in the finale, it's partly about talking to your teammates and making a plan, but it's also based on feeling. You know when is a good moment, or when you feel good. The other thing is, though, that you can also feel when it's not going to work. With one of my attacks in Gent-Wevelgem, I was up the road for quite a while, but I knew immediately it wasn't going to be anything, because I was alone. I really thought someone would come with me, but when I realised I was alone, I just thought "ah, shit" because I can't hold off the peloton on my own.

Read more: Lotte Kopecky attacks out of ‘boredom’ but SD Worx play it cool at Gent-Wevelgem

It's difficult in those situations where the group has worked so hard to bring things back, but then don't try anything in the finale, and just wait for a sprinter to win. I understand it, and I see why teams want to play it safe, but it's not how we want to race.

These Classics are difficult, and the tactics are complicated. You might find yourself in a position where you either let a group go, or bring it back for a sprint where you will also be beaten, so neither is perfect when you're up against teams like SD Worx-Protime and Lidl-Trek who have riders for everything. But at the end of it, you just have to make sure you're in the race, not just a part of the peloton, because on these long, hard days, anything can happen.

Read more: Spring Classics 2024: Essential guide to the races and riders

Emma's Tour of Flanders predictions

It's always so hard to predict Flanders, and we still have Dwars door Vlaanderen to get through, but I know Sunday is going to be so hard. It will almost be like an elimination race on the track – riders will be out on every climb. It will of course be difficult for anyone to beat SD Worx-Protime and Lotte Kopecky, but everyone is coming in really good shape, and the level is higher in every race.

For me, I wouldn't put all my money on SD Worx-Protime for Sunday, and I think I have a pretty good idea of who could challenge them: Marianne Vos – I think she's going to be really good, and Trek are super strong right now, so it's not going to be easy for SD Worx-Protime, that's for sure.

For the latest news, interviews and analysis from the world of professional cycling, be sure to check out the Racing tab on the GCN website and visit our essential guide to The Spring Classics to stay up to date with all of the action from cycling's most exciting season.

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