Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A week in Holland

After Gelderland Julie and I were off to Loosdrecht to stay with the wonderful Welter family in the 'Green Heart of Holland'. It was a beautiful area to stay and train, and I couldn't believe we were only 30k from Amsterdam! Quiet country roads with well maintained bike paths, lots of Spring lambs and baby ducklings to look at on our rides, except for Thursday when the wind was so strong it was all I could do to hold the bike on the road! No sight seeing that day!
Training around the Lake in Loosdrecht, Just waiting for a mate. Or a boat to pass.
The week passed really fast, lots of sleeping, eating & riding, and then we were being picked up again to rejoin the team for the weekends races!
Dutch racing at it's finest was on show at Omloop van Borsele on Saturday.. The organizers are mental.. Let's start the race on a big open road, with 180 starters, a roaring tail/cross tail wind, and then 3k later hook a quick left hand hairpin onto a single lane road. Needless to say, the pace was on at the start and everyone was fighting for the front. There were crashes. So many crashes. Being a little bit further back in the bunch possibly saved my skin and I managed to avoid them all, but it meant I missed the split on the first lap. Maybe 40 or so were off the front and I was in the 2nd bunch chasing back on when we came to the whole road being covered with bodies and bikes from a stack in the front bunch. Reportedly the crash happened at 52kph, so I don't know how someone wasn't seriously injured! One of the hardest parts of racing is seeing friends down on the road, possibly injured, and having to keep going.
Only about 20 made it through, and we were left to pick our way around the carnage and chase some more. The gap held at about 1min for a lap and a half or so, but then the legs went out of the chase and it became evident that we weren't getting back to the front. Soon after another group joined us and we had about 50 in our bunch which is roughly how it stayed until the end. I crossed the line quite spent, but happy to have made it through. Julie and Eileen were both in my group also, and it was great that we could look after each other.
Numbers pinned and ready to go!
There were some moments I just had to laugh though, seeing one girl go tumbling down an embankment only about 5k in, and then another go flying up one later in the race! At least they were spectacular looking crashes.
Sunday was Dwars door de Westhoek.  I was actually looking forward to this race, because not only did it have some hills in it, it was a race I'd done last year and having an idea of what's ahead in these races can be a big help. I knew the climbs would split the bunch, and I tried my best to get up the front for the first one, but got there a bit too early and couldn't hold it, so spent the next 20k chasing my tail and working my way back to the front bunch of 50 or so. It was fruitless however as another 50 or so rejoined later in the race and so there were about 100 back together for the last 50k which were all flat with some nasty cobbles through the start finish area which we went through 5 times. Every lap of the cobbles my legs felt like they were being sapped more and more and my whole body felt jarred and I was left wondering how on earth the men race Paris-Roubaix.
Again, Julie and Eileen were up there the whole day, and Gaby and Molly did fantastic to make it to the finish too!
It was another great weekend with the team, and so good to get to meet some of the other girls! I can't wait until we have our team house next week and we'll all get to settle in and get some more racing done! Next race is Knokke-Heist Breden, and you can find a race preview here - Knokke-Heist Bredene Preview . Another nice flat, windy, cobbled race.. Just my style :/.. 
This site is a great resource for most of the UCI races too! Previews and history for all the big ones.
Now I'm back in Girona until the house is ready in Belgium and I have to say, it feels like I've come home. I really love it here! Looking forward to some sunny skies and some good training! Hoping to even slip in a trip to the beach if the weather plays nice.

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