Chris Opie has warned his BIKE Channel Canyon team-mates of the lessons learned on his Ronde van Drenthe debut.
The 29-year-old won the bunch kick in the colours of ONE Pro Cycling last season. However, he crossed the line 50 seconds behind winner Jesper Asselman, who had earlier escaped with 19 other riders.
Opie will line up alongside George Atkins, Dexter Gardias, Sam Lowe, James Lowsley-Williams, Rob Partridge, Harry Tanfield and Rory Townsend for the outfit’s UCI debut in the 1.1 contest tomorrow.
And he has told his team-mates they must forget the finale of the 206.2km battle and concentrate purely on earning the right to compete for victory.
Opie, who lived in the Holland from 2007 to 2009, underlined the importance of the man-made VAMberg climb, which will be tackled five times, and said:
“It will be carnage, absolute carnage. The roads in Drenthe are very, very narrow and unrelenting. There are lots of places where it goes from wide to narrow, so moving up and positioning is crucial.
“There are lots of surface changes, including, not cobbles but polished stones. I’m not sure how old the road is but it is narrow, twisty and quite long.
“It is not rough like the Belgian cobbles. It is a bit different to that, so tyre pressure is not as important but could still be a factor.
“Then coming towards the end of the race you have the VAMberg, which is an old waste dump. It is a 40-second climb, a 40-second max effort really.
“You are not going to go over it trying to save some energy. To save energy there is to lose the race, I think.
“That is what we learned last year, if I’m really honest. We didn’t have enough guys at the front when it mattered and that was our undoing.
“We didn’t have the strength to get back to where we needed to be or respond to anything. It would have been a good race otherwise.
“There is a lot of racing to happen before you even consider the finish. You almost have to forget the finish and race to get into the race. You have to be involved in the race, that is the key.”
BIKE Channel Canyon will lock horns with World Tour teams Lotto NL Jumbo and Lotto Soudal, along with leading Pro Continental outfits Roompot, Aqua Blue Sport and Fortuneo – Vital Concept.
On Sunday, the squad will move on to the 1.2 Dorpenomloop Rucphen in St Willebrord, with Jack Pullar expected to come into the team for Lowe.
While it is a slightly lower level race, with the World Tour teams making way for more Continental and club sides, the racing promises to be every bit as competitive.
Opie first travelled to Holland in 1999, aged just 12, before returning four times, for longer and longer spells, over the next five years.
The trips included a week-long stage race and were organised by the renowned Walter Rixon, who dedicated much of his life to the development of young riders.
Opie is now looking forward to his latest visit which will double as a valuable bonding exercise for the team. He said:
“The crowds are not crazy, like Belgium. Drenthe is well attended for a Dutch race but cycling is not booming in Holland by any stretch of the imagination.
“It has paid the price for the whole Rabobank scandal a few years ago. They lost a lot of races and sponsorship but I think it has hit rock bottom and started to build back up again.
“Everyone I have spoken to this week agrees it will be good from a team perspective to get together for an extended period of time. I’m looking forward to it.”