Friday, 3 June 2016

Peloton Brief

After a long and agonising wait it was finally time for me to pin a number on my jersey. I had been watching my team from afar over the most exciting time of the season so to be able to finally be joining them for the remaining part of the Spring was super exciting. Being on the sidelines whilst your team is racing is one of the hardest feelings. Whilst being immensely proud of all their successes, there is always the twinge of jealousy.

When an injury takes you away from the sport for eight months you can get out of practice with packing, at least that was the case with me. I was going away for a mere nine days but you could have mistaken it for a trip around the world I made such an ordeal of it. I put the variety of races and weather down to the drama I made of the situation. 

The first race to kick off my 2016 season was a typical Dutch race with dykes, lot of corners, small roads and lots of wind. As we were sat on the start line I could see the black cloud looming. It wasn't until two minutes before the flag dropped that the heavens opened making the neutral section even more chaotic than usual. I spent the majority of the race in the gutter fighting the wind not letting it be the victor. It was a cruel snap back into the reality of racing but it was great to be back in the chaos of the peloton. 

My second and most daunting race was Fl├Ęche Wallone. A hard course that took us through the rolling terrain of the beautiful Ardenne’s. The weather was just beautiful which made a great day for all spectators, for the riders, it was still painful. 

Up next was my first time trial of the season. The last time trial I did was part of the USA Pro Challenge at an unbearable 10,000 feet, so I wasn't dreading this one nearly as much as I should have been. It was the first time I had ridden the Canyon Speedmax CF SLX time trial bike and I loved it. I am looking forward to many more painful KM’s together. 

Mum and Dad had missed me racing just as much as I had so they made the short trip over the English channel to, Borsele to come and give me some extra encouragement over the weekend, which I loved. Having your family there watching is special. Races are so far away, and schedules are often not decided too far in advance, so it’s a rare opportunity, and one I always treasure. There were narrow roads, wind, and rain. All the typical characteristics to make it a gruelling race. You couldn’t loose your concentration otherwise you would find yourself the wrong side of the split and out of contention. By the time I crossed the line I was exhausted.

The final race had a little bit of everything. Small roads, steep climbs, echelon’s with a cobbled finish. This was my fifth race over nine days and I was starting to get back into the swing of what race days can throw at you. I was feeling a lot more confident in my recovery and my training over the last few months. There is still a way to go before I am back to my previous fitness but I am happy with my progress.

Over the long weekend of racing the team secured two wins and a second place and to be part of that was, special. It is a long season with plenty more races for me to test myself and progress me further.

Pro Cycling Diary - May

As I write this I am flying at 36,000 feet, in the clouds, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean heading home after the Women’s Tour of California. California is one of the most beautiful races on the World Tour calendar. Starting in Lake Tahoe, heading south to Folsom, Santa Rosa and the coast before finishing in Sacramento.

Lake Tahoe is a wonderful place. Our first stage took us on the 115km loop around the Lake. With stunning scenery and beautiful views it was hard to not appreciate how spoilt we are. Unfortunately you don’t get to enjoy the breathtaking views as you are racing past. At 6,500 feet you are more concentrated on absorbing as much oxygen as you can and bypass the beauty. 

Folsom isn't as spectacular so you don't mind that all your focus is taken on not loosing your team mates wheel. This team Time trail was different to normal in the fact it was on road bikes. It brought a different dimension to the race. It was the first time I had raced a team time trial with Canyon/SRAM and I was excited to learn from the current worlds best. 

Even though we get to go to all these amazing places we don’t get to explore them nearly as much as we would like too. I have an extensive list that keeps getting longer of places that I would love to go back and visit. The pacific coast highway was added to that list after we briefly raced along the beautiful coast road in stage three from Santa Rosa to Santa Rosa. 

Our tour finished in the city of Sacramento along with the men. We took on twenty laps of the three kilometre circuit that the mens race would be finalised. Racing along side the mens race means extra crowds and that was undeniable when we passed the wall of noise each time we crossed the start/finish line.

The Rapha Cycle club in San Francisco had organised a group ride leaving the cafe on the Monday morning so we stayed an extra day and joined them. They were appreciative of us joining them but I was more than grateful to be there. We were shown round the beautiful roads of San Francisco by cyclists who are just as passionate about road riding as we are. 

This was my second time participating in this race and I enjoy it more and more each year. With extra and different stages being added I am already looking forward to next years addition.