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Carmen Small’s 2016 season kicks off at Omloop

The women’s professional peloton begins its European season this weekend on the cobblestones of Belgium. American Carmen Small will lead her Cervelo – Bigla team on Saturday in Belgium at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and then they’ll head to the 129.1-kilometer Omloop van Het Hageland, for the team’s first time since 2014.

Saturday’s 123.8-kilometer course is the opening race in the European pro peloton’s spring classics. Small says, “We’re starting off with one of the hardest races of the year. It is as hard as Flanders.” The 35-year-0ld American will be the team’s leader, but she will have support from veteran riders Joëlle Numainville and Lotta Lepistö. The three women will be joined by young talents Clara Koppenburg and Canadian under 23-road champion Gabrielle Pilote Fortin. The team will be rounded out by Nicole Hanselmann.

Despite the difficulty of Saturday’s race, Small says that she is eager to return to the peloton. “I am looking forward to racing. I am nervous because you’ve done all this hard training through the winter, and what’s the pay off? Are you fit? How do you compare to the other girls?”

The team has not raced this season, and Small says they do not know how strong they will be; or how strong their competitors will be, “Because we missed Qatar, we don’t really know where we stand fitness wise,” she added.

Her best career results in this weekend’s races are 54th in 2013 at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and 20th in Omloop van Het Hageland that same year.

Omloop van het Hageland will be streamed live online.

Cervelo – Bigla team for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Omloop van Het Hageland

Gabrielle Pilote Fortin (Can)
Nicole Hanselmann (Swi)
Clara Koppenburg (G)
Lotta Lepistö (Fin)
Joëlle Numainville (Can)
Carmen Small (US)