The start to the season proper is the Spring Classics, a series of races through Belgium and Holland that conjure images of harsh weather and tight cobbled roads. It’s hard (wo)man territory and good form must be accompanied by tenacity, smarts and a bit of luck.
The race to kick things off is the well known Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. It begins and finishes in one of my favourite small cities, Gent. The first half of the race is uneventful on paper, but in real life can see the end of many riders hopes with fast and big crashes. These are purely caused by nerves and the over squeeze of a break lever on the ice-rink like roads. If you can survive the washing machine of 180-odd riders by then, the real pain begins with short steep climbs and more shudders on the cobbles than your puny cyclist arms can bear.
From the whistle I knew I would be in for a painful-but-not-in-a-good-way day. Until this point I was living on the hope that my good form from Aussie training would overcome the long week of travel I put myself through. As soon as I had to put pressure on the pedals to keep up in the neutral section my hopes were over. From then I tried to stay positive and focused, to firstly avoid any serious crashes and secondly to just enjoy the fact I was racing my bike in Belgium again.
I fought to the front many times and tried to help my team mates before the crucial sections ahead, but ultimately I was just a number that day who wasn’t part of the race. The first serious hill saw me with the reverse lights on and from there I just looked after myself so I could reach the finish with a small group and a semi-smile. Surprisingly the kilometres went by faster than I expected and I made it to the end with the love of my bike still intact.
My team mates all had varying levels of success and enjoyment, but overall it was a good start to our 2014 season. And by no small feat our “Miss Consistent” Emma Johansson claimed 2nd from a group of 3, after suffering mechanicals and a crash early on. She and the other Orica-AIS girls give me inspiration and motivation to work hard and keep getting better every day. I love it!
We decided to do our Tour of Flanders recon today instead of having a rest, because the weather forecast for the week looks miserable. It was sunny today and in Belgium you don’t argue with that! After 4 hours we were all tired but satisfied and happy to get the solar power charged before a big couple of weeks.
My next race is Hageland this weekend, so I have lots of time to recover properly from my travel from Aus (I arrived here last Thursday! Not the best preparation for racing within 2 days) and get my legs firing again.
Lastly, I just want to say a big thank you to all my amazing family and friends in Canberra who pushed me hard in training and who made me happy off the bike too. I left home with a big smile on my face after an awesome and eventful Aussie summer. Those tough days on the bike and the fun times off it will see me through the whole season.