I am living the dream. Riding my bike in Europe during summer. It’s knicks and jersey weather. But this is no holiday. This is business. For the first two weeks of camp there have been six women from the Australian Track Endurance squad based in the Netherlands. We all have rainbows.
It is the first time the five more senior riders have been together since one very special week in Paris in February. We are also joined by current Junior World Pursuit Champion Alex Manly.
We train, sleep and eat. And then repeat. We have done all this before, but now there is a new level of intensity. I had a decent two-month training block in April and May, split between Canberra and Adelaide, and was in great track form before flying overseas. But my body did not cope with the road kilometres and new gym program. By day five everything hurt. On day six I was attempting to reply to a message from a friend back home in Australia and my arms ached so much I struggled to raise them to hold the phone. I was sore and tired all the time. But as coach Sutto has been known to say, ‘we’re not here to milk cows’.
We had our first race at the Noordwijk Classic. Ash, Amy and myself had done this race previously so knew the course and what to expect. As is custom in Dutch racing, the pace was on from the start. The bunch of about 90 riders strung out during a technical pave section on narrow roads and I found myself up the back.
We had been given two instructions from Sutto before the race: finish, and have fun. I was given an extra instruction – one that I have been given for the past two years – stay up the front. So one lap in and I am not ticking that box. There are a few splits as the road widens and I chase hard to regain contact with the front group. I felt so strong on the flats, but there wasn’t a lot of wind and the bunch swelled across the road so I have difficulty moving up. I see Ash following moves and Amy is nestled in the middle of the bunch. But I’m no help back here. I might as well be milking cows.
The pace was back on as we completed the first lap with teams keen to win the sprint prime at the finish line. I start the technical section toward the back and by the time the road opens up there are three large groups. I’m in group three. Begin chase. Feeling strong again. If I don’t make contact it’s race over. I can see a Jayco-AIS kit toward the front of this group, it’s Amy. I can’t spot Ash so know she’s made the front split of about 30 riders.
I reach Amy who tells me to chase. There are only a couple of riders who seem committed to the chase but the gap blows out to three minutes and it’s game over. I had a bit of time during those two laps to think about my shortcomings.
The issue I have is part confidence and part self-preservation. I have no trouble chasing on the flats, I’m a pursuiter. I’m not however, a downhill on pavé cornering expert. I finished and had fun, achieving two of my pre-race goals. We race again on Sunday so I’ll get another chance to keep working on number three.