Balsamo and Van Anrooij start their season at Setmana Valenciana

Our focus turns to Elisa, who faces the first step of a long season, and Shirin, who returns to competition after ending her cyclocross season early

Lidl-Trek is ready for its European debut with the four stages of the Setmana Valenciana, scheduled from Thursday 15th February until Sunday 18th February. The Team is fielding a varied roster that can be competitive on each stage, as well as for the general classification. Amanda Spratt (now fully recovered from the infection she suffered in Australia), Gaia Realini, Lauretta Hanson, Brodie Chapman and Ilaria Sanguineti will arrive at the event already with some racing in their legs, while Elisa Balsamo and Shirin van Anrooij will make their 2024 debut.

The eyes of many will be on the Italian and the Dutch riders, two of the key figures of Lidl-Trek. Ahead of their first race day of a challenging season, we asked them to tell us their feelings and expectations.

Balsamo: “The fans will see me combative and motivated”

“I am happy with the work done in the winter. I faced a different preparation than in the past, almost a reconstruction. After the crash in May, the recovery of condition was necessarily done in a rush. So, in Autumn I gave my body time to settle down and then worked on the basics of my form.

At Valenciana, a long and demanding season begins. I think it’s important to have clear goals to achieve, as well as to give myself time for physical and mental recovery between one and the next. Keeping an optimal condition until August, at the Olympics, will be impossible, but I am clear about where I want to have my peaks.”

Morning activation (©SeanHardy)

“Starting at Valenciana is becoming almost a tradition. It’s the best race to start and to see how my condition is growing. Of course, every race is an opportunity to look for a result. The last two years have gone very well, I’ll try to continue the series. The route is not the easiest, but it is intriguing. There are good opportunities, but also hard stages that can push me to go beyond my current limits. This is what I want at this time of the season. I am calm and optimistic: I really want to race.

2023 is definitely behind me and I don’t have regrets, but it did leave something to learn from. I don’t have any feeling of revenge, nor the pressure of having to prove something. I just want to start and do everything to the best of my ability in order to reach the goals I have set for myself. Fans will see me as combative and motivated. I have important ambitions, let’s call them dreams, but nothing I can’t achieve.”

Shirin had to interrupt her CX season due to broken ribs, early in January (©RossBell)

Van Anrooij: “I’m happy to race again on the road”

“My CX season disappointingly finished much earlier than expected and it’s also meant that I am having to work on recovering from injury in the run in to my road season. Obviously that’s different to how I imagined it would be but I am really happy to start racing again with my Lidl-Trek teammates. I’m not going into this race with any big early goal, I just want to see where my form is and start the road season in a good way for the team.”