So, I have arrived in Belgium, and I reckon travelling to 5 countries and three continents in a week is a new record for me. Luckily my bike arrived at the same time I did, and was unscathed despite being transported around the world in a cardboard box — fairly unprofessional of me, but my excellent bubble-wrapping job did the trick.
The first few days here consisted of rain, and more rain…and wind…lots and lots of wind. For a fairly small person like me who has spent the better part of six months in Australia, the head winds and cold have been a bit shocking, but like a good friend once said, “Swallow some concrete and harden up.”
Yesterday I completed my first race on Team Canada, and my first ever Euro-racing – what an experience that was! Luckily the weather has recently made a turn for the better and we actually felt the sun and stripped down to shorts and jerseys! The race was in a small town called Dottignies near Roubaix, which was about 2 hours from our Team Canada base in Tielt-Winge. For my first race of the season I was prepared for a shocking start, and the race did not disappoint. With 200 starters on narrow roads it was chaotic from the get-go, but what a rush! Beglium really puts on a show, and unlike racing at home where you go about your racing in relative obscurity, here people come out just to meet the racers, and want autographs and pictures with the racers. I have to say, it was very different to have strangers asking for pictures with me – very strange, yet also very cool! A bit of a fun ego boost before racing!
The race was 120kms on mainly flat narrow roads, with a lot of twists and one steeper climb. With 200 girls it was a game of positioning. I had a good position for the first 20kms, but lost my spot just before the climb and spent the better part of 10kms, with my teamate and a few others, chasing to get back in contact with the front group. We were painfully close to getting back into the lead group, and saw them for a long time, but unfortunately our effort proved futile in the big winds and rough roads, and we let ourselves slip back into a large group of girls behind us. By this point it was evident the race was over, so we cruised around the course with the large group until about 20kms to go when the race organizers pulled us all from the course(after leading us down the wrong roads and making us turn around). I have never been pulled from a road race before, especially when we weren’t going to get lapped and there were about 40 of us, but apparently that’s how they do it over here…if you’re not in the lead group your day is over.
Nonetheless, it was such a fun experience. There were four of us Team Canada girls in the group I was in, so just before we got pulled we played around and practiced our team lead-out. Our other teammate, Denise was in the lead group and pulled off an awesome top 50 performance. Our team support was incredible and the pre-race massage from our soigneur Michel, was fabulous!
Tomorrow we head to a place called Dwingeloo in the Netherlands. We will race on Thursday at the Drenthe 8(UCI 1.1) then have a day off, followed by a World Cup race and then a Eurocup race, all in Drenthe. Then it’s back to our team base in Tielt-Winge to rest and get ready for the next set. I’ll keep in touch with how the next series of races go. Hopefully my racing form will develop as I shake off the cobwebs of steady state work and do more race pace work. Fingers crossed for Team Canada!