The Tour details - 6 Days, 7 Stages & about 640kms of racing - All of it set to be at Warp Speed
I was racing with a team I met at the Krasna Lipa, the Rapha Condor team, which was really exciting as they're a great bunch of people which always makes things so much easier!
I had no goals for this race other than to finish the tour, and gain as much experience as possbile. Even though I'd travelled a fair bit in the preceeding couple of months, as was just training and racing ad hoc without being on a program from the Coach, I was confident my short stint in Belgium meant I was as ready as I could be for the Tour. But still, when you rock up to the Race Hotel and the HTC & Cervelo team Buses are lined up outside, you really get nervous! Even a quick glance at the start list caused butterflies when you realised that at least 5 out of the currently ranked top 10 Women Cyclists were going to be there!
So after a few accommodation dramas were sorted out, it was time for Day 1.
Van Gogh Village - Nuenen - 112.2kms.
After gorging ourselves and preparing some extra food to steal from the best Hotel breakfast buffet ever, we set off. Due to a little misdirection, we ended up getting to the start just in time for our team presentation. It meant for a very nervous start as I'd barely had time to do a 10 minute warm up before I realised that 90% of the Peloton had already lined up to start. This set the precedent for the following few days that you had to be on the start 30 minutes before take off, or you were on the back.
Even from the Nuetral start, things were sketchy and I knew that getting up near the front would be a wise move. As I'm finding is the norm in the womens bunch, there was too much unnecessary brake slamming and the typical elastic band effect from taking off again at high speed, which wears the legs out! Even so, I was still with the main bunch though the first section, and then still with just over 20k to go. Unfortunately, this is when one of the many silly accidents happened, and it was right in front of me with no where for me to go. I jumped straight back up and realising everything was in working order set to chase back on with the others, but the bike was hooked on another girl who seemed to be in pretty bad shape. Once we'd untangled, I set off and tried to stick with one of the Team USA girls to chase back on, but unfortunately this was just as the bunch ramped things up to chase down the breakaway and I never made it back to the pack. Finished with a group of 5 or 6 a few minutes off the leaders. Was pretty devestated as I really wanted to finish with the bunch, but just brushed it off and looked forward to redemption the next day. The beauty of having 6 days of racing, 6 opportunities to perform well!
Injury report - just a few bruises and a bit of a scratch to the nose thankfully!
The team faired pretty badly, with Charlotte also coming down in the same accident as I did, but she ended up at the local Hospital that night getting stitches in her stomach. She was tough though and started the next days race!
Cobble report - 1 nasty section we had to do 3 times that was several k's long, but thankfully had some smoother bricked section on the edge. Although still not fun when everyone wants to be on the smooth part and it's strung out!
Stage 2 - Leende - 107kms
After lots of food the night before, and another awesome breaky buffet, I was ready to line up for the 2nd stage. I was hopeful that the bunch would be a little less jittery than the day before and that I could keep it rubber side down! It wasn't to be though, and things were again sketchy, and I did have a little off. This time I got back on the bunch real quick and all was good. The legs were feeling good and I was gaining a little in confidence. This tour had the hardest bunches to move around in. I really felt my lack of experience here, and struggled to get anywhere past about half way up the bunch. It made things harder for me as it meant that if someone ahead dropped the wheel, we were left working to get back on! In the end I can only blame myself for not being further up the bunch and avoiding that stuff happening, but I guess that will come with more practice and experience.
Today's stage was brutal. It had to have been about half the stage was cobbled (which wasn't reported in the race manual!!), in the same manner as yesterdays stage. If you line up 150 bikes all in a row, that's what it looked like. We were strung out for hundreds of metres and of course there were cross winds!There were a few recurring wheel droppers making life difficult. Everytime we got around them, once things bunched up they seemed to be in front of me again!
This time I was positive I'd finish with the bunch, and until 3.1k to go, I was. And then then inevitable silly accident happened and split the peloton in to about 5 or 6 bunches, all who finished seperately and never rejoined. If the accident had of happened 150m later, we all would have been given bunch time, but no.. it wasn't to be.
Another minute or so lost, but moved up a few places on GC which was exciting. Still nothing to write home about, but it was improvement!
That afternoon we transferred to the next accommodation, a couple of hours away. It was a cool Bungalow with 3 bedrooms, kitchen and lounge. Everything we needed! Unfortunately the onsite restaurant had closed by the time we got there, so we ordered pizzas and set about demolishing them!
Stage 3 - Gieten - 106.7kms
|Covered in Mud, but all smiles!|
Dinner at the restaurant that night was amazing. The Banana Split dessert was delish :-D And I headed off to sleep that night knowing that the next day was officially the longest I'd ever been in a race for, and that hopefully I'd improve again!
Day 4 - Diepenhiem - 97kms
Today's stage sounded nice and short after all the 100+ days! Was looking forward to having a great day. After yesterday going straight from the front to the back in the Nuetral, I decided I'd prefer to get in a bit of an extra warm up today than to stand on the start line, and I was glad. The legs were feeling surprisingly good and I was looking forward to the race. We had clear skies again which was nice, but the wind seemed to be up.
This is where things came 'crashing' to a halt for me. 15k into the stage there was one of those silly accidents where I came off the worst of all. The bunch slowed almost to a stop, I had no where to go so took a little bit of a gap, lapped wheels, girl in front moved left, bam. On my arse. Or rather, I went flying over the bars and my Head, Shoulder and Hip took the full force of the fall. I felt the hip most of all in the crash, but jumped up ready to get back on. After 2 seconds standing, I thought I should feel my shoulder, as I knew I'd hit it, and suddenly didn't feel so good. I had to sit down. The world was spinning and I was suddendly drenched in sweat. The Ambo came over and felt my shoulder, and before he said anything I just knew. I asked him not to tell me, I didn't want to know. My tour was over. My goal was shattered, along with my Collarbone.
At first it didn't hurt, so much as made me want to puke. I was nauseus, and shaking, and felt sickened when I moved and i heard the bones go 'click' as they rubbed together. When I had to get up to get in the ambulance, that's when it hurt. I felt every bump in the ride to the start to wait for another ambulance to take me to hospital. I needed something for the pain, or I needed to puke. It felt like an eternity, but was probably about 30 minutes, before I got any pain relief. Did I cry? A little. Not like cry baby crying, just those tears of pain rolling out that you can't stop. Whatever they gave me when I finally got something, wow. Within 30 seconds nothing hurt anymore. Unfortunately it only lasted 30 minutes, and by the time I was on the table in the Hospital the pain was back. Morphine jabbed in my leg did nothing.
The Hospital was really fantastic to deal with. Xrays confirmed that I was in need of surgery, so they scheduled appointments, got me cleaned up a bit and dressed and sent me on my way with some very expensive pills and even let me steal a pillow to keep me a bit more comfortable in the car. I could have stayed in overnight, but I didn't want to be there, by myself, in a forgein hospital when I had the option of being with people I knew where we were staying.
In the end, if I had the chance to go back, not do the tour, and be unbroken, I wouldn't take it. The experience of racing with the calibre of Women that were there was something I wouldn't miss for the world. Nor would I give back the confidence gained from being beyond the point of pain, being dropped, and digging deeper than ever before and making it back.
I will be back next year. Stronger, more experienced, and more motivated than ever. I have unfinished business with you Holland Ladies Tour!