Europe – part one
Driving to the Kogaronde van Zuid Oost Friesland in pouring rain and gale force winds last weekend I was dreaming about how much I loved the indoor climate-controlled track. My teammate Chloe McConville simply said “Welcome to Holland” while Grace Sulzberger added “Suck it up princess”. I didn’t fancy the idea of racing in a sketchy peloton of 115 strong Dutch riders across narrow cobbled and mossy roads in the wet. We watched the junior men race past. Their field of 119 was blown apart with only 30 finishers. We were in for a tough day. The locals who were accustomed to such conditions were probably salivating. I was reluctant to get out of the van.
As we got kitted up, the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and the sun appeared. By the time our race started, the roads were dry and stayed that way for the duration of our 125km race. One obstacle removed. This was to be my third ever race in Europe. Last week we raced the Ronde van de Kerspelen, an 83km Kermesse and the Wielerronde Hilvarenbeek, a 65km criterium. I had been warned about positioning and how many girls who first start out in Europe get spat out the back and record a few DNFs. I was determined not to let that happen. With the help of my talented and more experienced Australian teammates I finished both races in the top-10 and learnt valuable lessons in bike racing.
Olympian Kirsten Wild was making her return from a shoulder injury at this race and would be one to watch. I was able to go with a move about mid-way through the race, to catch a break of three and form a group of eight. Again I made mistakes and got a bit excited in the finish to essentially lead-out the top three. I didn’t trust my sprinting legs and had spent all my bikkies riding in the wind to move around the bunch, and then swapping off in the break. Of course I was disappointed to miss the podium, but later googled some of the riders in our break and found some pretty impressive palmarés. With Grace finishing in fifth and the other girls doing well in the bunch sprint we won some decent grocery money.
I am in Europe until mid-July and have 10 more races scheduled in that time. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to train with the JAYCO-AIS Womens’ Endurance Squad and am honoured to race in the green and gold. I’m also looking forward to making a positive contribution to the team to try and get one of us on the top step.