The race I was most looking forward to getting a start in this year was Krasna Lipa. It was the first international race I did on my last trip, and it didn't go anywhere near as well as I would have liked that time, so I wanted to go back and redeem myself! Last time I had a melt down on Day 3, so I was looking to first and foremost make it to the end of the tour.
After a few teams that I was lined up for fell through, I finally got my confirmed start with a club team from Norway called CK Victoria. Also racing on this team were some friends from back home in Aus Jo Hogan and Emma Mackie, so I was really looking forward to the week!
|Team CK Victoria|
The 3 of us drove across Germany in to Czech the day before the race. Taking our time and enjoying the sunshine, we arrived at our accommodation Wednesday evening and met the team we would be racing with. A great bunch of chicks, even if understanding their names was rather difficult at first! Norwegian appears to be a very hard language to get your ears around.
On to the racing! I knew things would be difficult back in my first big tour, with bunches of 120+ girls all fighting to be up the front, but I just accepted that and tried to bit by bit work on improving my positioning.
On the first day I felt ok, but not great. Probably a lot of nerves combined with the rather warm/humid weather made me feel like that. By the time the race got to the final climb - the infamous 'Vapenka' Climb which was my nemesis last time around! - I was still with the main bunch, but my positioning was shocking. Unfortunately I got tailed off the front bunch behind some dropped wheels and didn't have the legs to go around. With a 2.5k fast downhill run in to the finish from here, I ended up in the 2nd bunch only about 30 seconds down. A major improvement! My team mate Jo Hogan set herself up nicely and managed 7th on the stage, and with some bonus seconds in a Sprint Prime was sitting 5th on GC. I wish I could say I helped with this, but all I can claim is giving her some water after she lost a bottle!
Day 2 was another couple of times over 'Vapenka' as a part of a loop. With sprint primes and bonus seconds up for grabs just after the hill, the goal was to help Jo get these. First lap I found some balls and managed to make my way to the front in time for the climb, and held it. With Emma's help, we kept the pace up leading in to the climb, and Jo managed 2nd in the sprint after. Second lap I faltered again and found myself mid pack and unable to move up on the narrow roads. I held on to the bunch though and finished at the back after a tight and technical last few kms. Jo moved up thanks to her sprint bonuses and was now 4th on GC!
|Rolling to the start of Stage 2|
Day 3.. The Double Day. In the morning was a road trip in to Poland for an 18km ITT, followed by going back to Czech for an afternoon Road Race. The TT just plain sucked. I tried to push, but really had nothing. I guess it was an improvement from last time, where I came DFL.. but still. Onward and upward to the Road stage! Jo lost a few places on GC because of not having her TT bike, but we figured the tour was still redeemable!
|Hiding out from the lightening storm before Stage 4|
5 minutes after we got to the start of the PM stage, the heavens opened and it started bucketing down. Lightening and Thunder crashing overhead, we all too shelter in the hotel nearby hoping that they would cancel the stage! In the end they delayed the start by 45 minutes, and cut our race one lap short, so it would only be 74k. Lining up on the start line in the rain, with only the occasional thunder clap, I took solace in the fact that I was shorter than a few in the bunch, so I wouldn't be the one hit by lightening! 3 Laps of 21k, the course profile basically looked like it was uphill for the first half, and downhill for the 2nd. As soon as we got going, I realised I felt great. I was even a little more comfortable in the bunch, although the wet roads killed that a little. After the first couple of climbs, I found myself easily up near the front and so tried to maintain that. Sitting on the front to keep the pace high felt like the safest option for me and to help Jo, so that's what I did.. Until I came in to a corner near the end of the first lap a little too quick and the bike slid out from underneath me. Yep.. Here I am, on the front because I didn't feel safe in the bunch, and I took myself out. MUPPET.
Picking myself up and assessing the damage, just some skin off, and the chain, so I managed to shake off the shock and get going again, but the Coms were being really strict on the cars helping people back to the bunch, so I was on my own. I got tantalizingly close, but couldn't quite make it, and once I joined with a small group who were off the back I decided to save the legs for tomorrow.
|Top 10 (minus Jo) on the Podium|
Day 4.. After a pretty crappy nights sleep due to my left side being too sore to sleep on, it was time for the last stage. Thankfully the sun was back out and we were set to have a nice day! The road were a bit damp, so I was a bit of a pansy in the corners, but thankfully my legs felt good again so I was looking forward to the stage! A 50k loop with 2 QOMs, and then 3 laps of the 'Vapenka' climb again.. GC was close in the top 10, so it was going to be an active day. 20k in to the stage, whilst the bunch was strung out, I clipped a big stone and had a sinking feeling.. sure enough, puncture. So, last time I punctured in a race it was in Aus.. Automatically I've gone to the left. BIG NO! Service from the right! Arg! So, by the time I got that sorted out and got going again, the bunch were long gone. Same as yesterday.. Chased and chased, made it back to Groupetto and that was it for the day. At least it was a lovely day for a training ride! We had a nice little bunch with a couple of girls from England from the For Viored team who were nice to chat to, and we made our way around the course and finished together. Tour complete! Jo rode awesome and made her way back up to 10th on GC
|Jo and Meike with the 10th place Trophy|
After the tour was done, it was time to go back to the Penzion Liberta with Meike for a well earned celebratory meal and glass of Red Wine! Then the next day it was back in to the car for the journey home to Dortmund! Racking up the k's in the car over here, that's for sure!