Ninove, BEL - Team TIBCO/To the Top made a solid start to its spring European campaign under extremely difficult conditions at the Tour of Flanders Sunday. Brooke Miller survived the wind, occasional rain and hazardous riding conditions created by slick cobbles and a nervous peloton to take 13th place in the race known to race fans simply as The Ronde.

"There were many big crashes and pileups in the first 60 km," said the team's European directeur sportif, Chris Georgas. "Brooke had a very good race and just missed being in the small lead group of nine riders, but did well in the bunch sprint to get 13th."

Miller and teammate Ruth Corset, sporting her Australian National Champion's jersey, finished in the main chase group of about 30 riders 1:47 behind race winner Grace Verbeke (Lotto Ladies Team).

With narrow roads and numerous difficult cobble sections and nine short, steep climbs -several of them cobbled as well - positioning was key, noted Corset, who took 4th place in the first World Cup race of the season last weekend, the Trofeo Alfredo Binda.

When the race blew apart on the infamous Muur (literally "The Wall") climb, "I hadn't been able to position myself earlier to be able to be there with the front group," she said.

"The next three races in Drenthe will also have lots of cobbles but almost no hills," Georgas said. "Again positioning will be critical especially when going into the cobbles. The team should do much better now that the early season kinks are worked out."

Miller was the top American finisher in the race.
The team is in action next at the Drenthe 8, on Thursday, followed by the Drenthe World Cup on Saturday.

Photo: William Meertens