The rain had been threatening for a few days and after Stage 5 it really began. We had been lucky to stay (relatively) dry in the whole tour but felt our luck was going to run out for the last day of the Dutch tour. We woke up to drizzle and ate our breakfasts watching it fall more and more outside and mentally prepared ourselves for a gruelling day. There were 18 climbs to tackle in the Limburg region where the World Champs was hosted last year and where the Holland Hills Classic is run earlier in the year. We knew the tough circuit and we hoping our legs had recovered enough overnight for one final battle!
The team’s objective was to stay at the front and make sure we were represented once the peloton started to break up, and try to be aggressive in the sections between the short steep climbs. We knew that we didn’t have very high chances of being able to match it with the “climbers” if they attacked on the hills so we had to make the race begin before they could.
We had our longest neutral section of the tour with 7.5kms to endure of elbows up and pushing in. As usual I started on the front line with other tour and national jersey wearers but by the end of the neutral section I was at the back! It’s always such a scrabble in this part before the race and there are often bad crashes when riders try to squeeze into gaps that don’t exist. I knew the roads coming up and stayed relaxed knowing i could make it back to the front reasonably quickly.
My legs felt good over the first few climbs but I was boxed in when the first attacks started and couldn’t respond. Initially there was only two riders away so it wasn’t too much of a threatening situation. The roads became very narrow once we started the first circuit and though I was near the front I still couldn’t move too much. Once we hit the Eyeserbosweg, one of the hardest climbs in the area, I just didn’t have the legs to keep up with the front riders. By the next hill I had settled into the second main group while there was a 6 rider group ahead closing in on the two ahead.
Loes, Spratty and I were in this group and made a few attempts to attack but the gap had stretched too quickly and our group was too large. By the time we hit the Eyeserbosweg a second time none of us had the legs again to go with the next group of 6 riders to form a gap on the rest of us. It was frustrating for us to not have any team mates in the front groups but it just wasn’t our day. We had done our best with positioning but we just couldn’t make the legs do the talking.
By the time we began the smaller laps around the Worlds course that includes the Cauberg, we had decided that our game was over for the day. The 14 riders ahead had just gained too much time for us to be able to jump across, plus our bunch wouldn’t have let us go too easily. We just sat in with our tails between our legs and nursed our bad legs to the finish.
All in all it was a good tour for us albeit boring. Our team typically loves windy conditions where we can use our strength and tight team work to split the peloton to pieces. We weren’t given the opportunity this week to race truly aggressively and though we tried a few times, the bunch didn’t give us an inch. We had our talented sprinters Nettie and Mel but unfortunately our tactics hindered our efforts in that direction to defeat uber-sprinters such as Hosking and Wild. We rode good position for the majority of the racing and our TTT was a great last hit-out before the big one at the World Champs in two weeks time.
I am happy with my fitness and happy to finish my last tour for the season in one piece! As always I loved every minute with my team mates. I don’t know how I would survive in this sport with out them and the fantastic staff we have. We are like a little family that look after each other, support each other and best of all have plenty of big laughs along the way. There is only 3 weeks of the season left so I am still trying my best to stay healthy, fit and happy and enjoy what I great life I am living of riding my bike as a job. Thanks for following my story!