Forget race fitness, between the drama of the Languedoc Tour and the last minute roster changes in Holland, perservance was the biggest necessity our team needed over the past few weeks. More often than not, and especially in women’s cycling, we get dealt a wild card and the only thing to do is power through, but with perseverance comes performance!
I arrived in France for the Languedoc Tour only to find out it might be cancelled. The six day Tour is special on the women’s calendar, with long stages and lots of climbing. But without sponsors to pay the bank garauntee to the police, it didn’t seem like we were going to make it off the start line. With so much already invested in the tour, the entire Lotto Belisol team decided to stick it out and persevere through the drama. A lot of the bigger teams took a stand and left but, like many of the smaller women’s teams, we just couldn’t afford to abandon the opportunity.
After a day’s delay, we finally got the go ahead but, as if the drama had made its way into my legs, I started off unsure about my racing form. Stage after stage, however, I felt increasingly stronger and, for the first time, experienced what it was like to “ride into form” during a tour. It was an incredible feeling to gain momentum throughout the race. I tried my best to close the 3 second gap between myself and the podium but in the end I finished the tour in 4th.
Immediately after the tour finished, I left France and headed to Holland with 800 kilometres of racing in my legs. I wasn’t planning on racing the Holland Hills Classic, but with a few sick teammates and a roster shuffle, I found myself preparing to race again. With a tour and a day of travel in my legs, I wasn’t exactly ideally prepared but, again, I just needed to push through!
We stayed positive and the team spirit was so uplifting, but as soon as we rolled off the start line I found myself doubting. There is a different racing style in Holland, so I was struggling to move in the bunch. I started to regret even going to Holland and it felt like everyone else was fresh. The only thing I could do was keep fighting.
As the race settled down with the start of the first climb, about 20km into the race, so did my mind and soon after I was in a break with 5 other riders. With my racing head back on my shoulders, I also realised I hadn’t left my legs in France; I felt strong and fresh!
As the race progressed, our small break became a group of 14 riders, and alone, I was severely outnumbered. Attacks came fast and frequent from teams trying to put a rider away for a solo win, particularly from Rabobank who had 5 representatives. I managed to stick out all the attacks and, going with my gut, I decided two climbs out it would be a sprint finish and that I was going to be in the action.
On the final corner, right up the middle, a gap opened. I knew it was my opportunity, so I chased it, full speed ahead. I powered forward but I prepared myself for someone to come past. I just kept pushing for the finish and suddenly, almost unawares, I was on the line! I was so focused on getting through the race that I was totally unprepared for the win. I looked around to double check what had actually just happened and then I started to think: “maybe I should put my hands up…”
Lesson learnt, with perseverance comes performance, and looking back I’m thankfull for my last minute opportunity to race the Holland Hills Classic