I was lucky enough to have a few weeks back home in Australia to rest and gear up for the second half of the European season. I had a fantastic time with my family and friends and was really glad to have made the long trip there and back. Thanks all who made my time so fun!

I was greeted back to Europe not by sunshine and warmth but by similar weather from which I had left a month earlier. At least my motivation was high again and I was keen to get back into the swing of things right away. My first races back were going to be tough by any standard: 3 one-day races in a row; two in Holland and the last in Belgium.

The first race was the very difficult Boels Rentals Hills Classic. The course covers many similar climbs to the Amstel Gold race including the Cauberg that was used in the Worlds course last year. I felt awesome in the first half of the race, my legs not feeling the sting on any of the many small sharp climbs. Then as we hit the testing Eyserbosweg Emma made a surge and though I didn’t try to keep the pace, my legs still blew as the climb reached it’s steepest part at about halfway. I went from feeling great to absolutely blown in less than 1km! I passed Spratty around that same point as she had a mechanical but unfortunately I couldn’t help her as she needed a bike changed due to a broken rear derailleur. After the climb crested I pushed hard to make it onto the group ahead but by that stage the bunch was in many small groups over the hills. The group swelled to form the main peloton, but soon after I was dropped again and by the Cauberg I was truly out of the race. Mel and I rode the remainder of the race with a few other girls and tried to conserve some energy for the next two days. Tiff and Emma rode really well in the front group but didn’t quite pull off the final lead out for a small sprint finish. It was a tough day at the office for everyone that’s for sure!

The second day saw us in Aalburg, where cycling superstar Marianne Vos grew up. We knew we were in for another tough day to beat her and the Rabobank team on their home turf. It was a dead-flat course and it was a very windy day. The race started at a lightning speed and didn’t slow down for the rest of the day. It became a race of attrition as the bunch got smaller and smaller. Unfortunately though the wind was strong, it wasn’t blowing in a favourable direction so not us or any other team could really put it in the gutter. By the halfway point, Loes had made it into the breakaway and Emma soon joined her in the group of seven riders. The rest of us were in the main peloton which was only down to about 30 riders, and we covered any dangerous attack. The break never came back but we were still very sore and tired by the end of the race from the wind and the speed. Emma and Loes did a great job up front but couldn’t overcome the powerhouse of Vos at the finish. Emma was 3rd, so a podium was still some reward for all of us.

The final day of racing began in Gooik, Belgium, and was to race over the famous cobbled climb in Geraardsbergen “The Muur”. Unfortunately they diverted us around the decisive climb due to work being done to the road. The course was still tough though and we all had to stay near the front for as long as possible to make the inevitable splits in the bunch. My legs felt a lot better than expected and I made sure I was near the front at crucial points in the race. I didn’t quite have the legs to make it into the final front group of 8 that split at about 50km stayed away for the rest of the race. Tiff and Emma were up there for us once again, and so the rest of us made sure the main peloton did not bridge back to them. The gap nearly closed once we hit the finishing circuits, but drew out quickly again once the chasing teams faded. We again covered any dangerous attacks and stayed alert, but the breakaway was too strong for our group to catch again. Emma rewarded the team and herself with an awesome win that topped off the weekend for everyone. We were all super sore and tired but happy with the efforts made over the three hard days of racing.

I slept nearly all of Monday and will take a couple more easy days to make sure my body is ok after the tough racing. It was a great way to get back into it and now I am excited to focus on the many tours coming up. I will be racing in Trentino in a few weeks, then the Giro Rosa after that. Until then I will be enjoying Italian life and training in the beautiful hills here in Varese!

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