Multi-discipline (and multi-time) Luxembourg national champion Christine Majerus headlines a six-strong Boels-Dolmans squad for the three-day Elsy Jacobs Festival that begins on Friday. Majerus has raced her home race since its inception in 2008. It was a one-day race at the time, the Grand Prix Elsy Jacobs, and as the race has evolved so has Majerus’ career.
“The race started with a 1.2 one-day race,” explained Majerus. “It’s actually my club that organises the race. They started it to try and help us out with stepping up to an international level. The race gave Luxembourg riders an opportunity to do a UCI race in Luxembourg.”
“It all started in 2008, which was my first season on a UCI team,” Majerus added. “The evolution of the race comes along with my evolution. It’s where it all started for me, and it’s always nice to come back to your starting point, to see where you came from.”
The three day race opens with a prologue on Friday evening. Two road stages follow on the weekend. In previous iterations of the race, there was a bit of something for everyone with one climbing stage and one stage better suited to the sprinters. A harder route has replaced “the sprint stage” and Majerus suspects this will impact the dynamics of the race.
“In the past, to win the overall, you had to be an all-arounder,” Majerus explained. “There’s the prologue where you can’t win the race but you can lose it. This year, the prologue is not long but it’s hard.”
“In the last two years, the first road stage was always really hard,” Majerus continued. “It was always a small group coming for the win, usually with the climbers. The last day was less hard, and so the sprinters could do something. There was a little bit of everything.”
“This year, they changed one of the stages,” she added. “There is no more sprint stage, and that will make the whole race harder I think. It will be interesting to see how the stage will change the GC and what kind of rider will win.”
Majerus anticipates an exciting race from Friday prologue start to Sunday road race finish due to the course changes. In the past, the overall was generally sewn up by Saturday. She expects that to change this year.
“Already in the years before, the second road stage was quieter and more tactical because people were trying to protect the position they had achieved the day before,” Majerus said. “With the harder and more difficult course, there’s still a chance to make the last day hard and turn the race completely upside down again. I think it’s all going to come back to a really hard second day.”
The timing of the race could also impact its outcome. Many of the riders that will pin on a number in Luxembourg on Friday have been racing since February. A handful of riders in the bunch began their season in Australia in January.
“It’s the end of the spring, and the weather will be terrible,” said Majerus. “You start the race with fatigue from the last three months of racing. It’s a hard race, and you need to be pretty mentally strong to keep focused on the job you have to do. That’s also something to think about when you talk about who might win. Who is coping best with the fatigue?”
Majerus finished sixth overall at Elsy Jacobs last year. While she hopes for a similar result, and perhaps a stage win, she’s realistic about what the course changes could mean for her chances.
“I preferred the sprint stage,” she said. “I really have to see what the second day is going to be like before I can say my goals. I would like to do the same kind of result as last year. Sixth was the best I’ve done in my eight years in these races. If I could do something like that again and maybe go for a stage podium or stage victory, I would be really happy.”
Regardless of the outcome, Majerus will enjoy strong roadside support.
“For sure there are a lot of people I know coming to the roads,” Majerus said. “Racing in front of a home crowd is extra nice but also extra pressure.”
Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team for Elsy Jacobs Festival:
Demi de Jong
Ellen van Dijk