Ready for the Tour Down Under: Hoping to Make a Difference
Two days before the season opener at the Santos Tour Down Under, it's mostly debutants lining up at the starting line for Team Coop – Repsol. The exception? Mari Hole Mohr.
Better prepared than last year
As the only rider from this year's team in the Australian stage race, the Stavanger native competed last year amidst scorching heat, which marked the team's inaugural participation in the race. This time around, the 23-year-old arrives well-prepared for the hot conditions that usually define the Santos Tour Down Under. She has spent a significant part of the Norwegian winter in the summer heat that characterizes Australia and New Zealand.
"I'm much better prepared this year, both considering the heat here and the time difference. Now I'm starting fully acclimatized and hope it can make a difference. However, the season opener is always special; you never know where you stand compared to the others in the field. It'll be exciting to see," she says.
With temperatures reaching up to 35 degrees Celsius, there's no doubt the heat will play a role. Mari describes it as the sensation of cycling in a sauna.
"It's essential to get enough electrolytes and try to cool down the body. If you're not careful, you can hit the wall quickly. I also try to ride even smarter and be more aware of where I'm expending energy."
Focus on one race at a time
Nerves before competitions have never been a topic for the 22-year-old, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Personally, she wishes she felt a bit more nervous.
"I don't think it's entirely good, actually! I feel like you should get nervous because that's when you get that adrenaline rush. But it's not something I can do anything about, so I choose not to dwell on it."
During last year's event, the Stavanger native secured the 10th position in the youth competition (riders under 23), and with the experience from last year in mind, she's even better prepared this time.
"Last year's race was a very enjoyable one. I think we managed our tasks well and achieved a lot of good things. Looking at this year's starting list, we see that WorldTour teams are sending even stronger squads, which will impact the race's outcome," observes Hole Mohr.
Traditionally, leading up to the season start in Australia, teams tend to send their riders from Australia and New Zealand. These athletes are often extra well-prepared due to their national championships held before the Santos Tour Down Under.
"I think it's going to be slightly tougher this year than last. Regardless, I'll ride as well as possible and carry out the tasks I'm assigned – one stage at a time," she asserts.
Optimistic Sports Director
Sports Director Tjarco Cuppens is also looking forward to starting the season, and the Dutchman is eager to see what the women achieve in Australia:
"I hope we can achieve a top-10 finish on one of the stages and aim to have at least one rider among the top 20 overall. Considering the strength of our team, I believe it should be achievable," he optimistically states in a message.
After the Tour Down Under, another WorldTour race awaits. The one-day Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race is scheduled for January 27. The team secured their first UCI points last year in this race when former rider Josie Nelson secured an impressive 4th place in tough company. It's a result the Dutchman hopes to replicate this time around. However, it's not just about the races down here. Tjarco Cuppens has several goals later in the season that are important for the team.
"We're also using these three weeks well to train between the two races and take advantage of the good weather to prepare ourselves in the best possible way for the classics season,"