Thursday, May 30, 2013

Time for some more racing!

After the other girls and Graeme all left to head back to their various countries, I was on my own for a while. I had a nice relaxing time, setting my own schedule and catching up with James and Jake who are living only about 40k away. A roast night, and a night out in Gent, some sopping wet, muddy rides, and the week flew by. Already it was time to race again, another Kermesse in De Pinte, just south of Gent. No car, so I had to ride there and back, which meant for a long day in the on/off drizzle & rain. The race was uneventful, I was feeing a little flat, but I got through ok and thankfully had a tailwind home! Thanks to Bart for holding my stuff while I raced! 
My best friends over the past couple of weeks.. Becoming an expert bike cleaner.
Soon enough everyone starting arriving back to the house for the next block of racing, 3 x 1 day races in Holland and Belgium. Due to some injuries and illness, the team was down to just 4 of us, myself, Anne, Jane & Gaby. 
It's fair to say that summer is currently no where to be seen..

First up was the Boels Holland Hills Classic. As the name suggests, there's actual hills in this race! Most of them made famous by the Amstel Gold Race, including the Cauberg which featured in last years World Champs Course. I had a rough day, not feeling the best and struggling to get power down. Things went ok on the hills, but once I found myself having to jump around some dropped wheels in the crosswinds, I only had so much and found myself in a group off the back. We were pulled by the Broom Wagon just before the feedzone/Cauberg, and then had an adventurous ride back to the start finish with a big group. Things were fine while the sun shone, but about 10k from where we needed to be, things got a bit cold and everyone started getting rather hungry! After several stops to ask for directions, we made it back to find out how the race had played out, and it was time to head home.

Holland Hills.. Yep, in the gutter yet again!
Day 2 was set to be in Aalburg in Holland, however the team decided to instead race the local Kermesse in Wodecq, only 15k up the road. Anne's knee wasn't feeling the best, so only 3 of us raced, however we all started because they were offering bags of cookies, coffee and some start money to everyone who raced. It was a really nice course, with some gently rolling hills, and I was back to feeling myself. I kept active in the first part of the race and managed to get in a few breaks, but nothing that stuck, and whilst I was having a bit of a rest a breakaway managed to go. 2 girls got away and the race from then was quite negative with no one wanting to chase the break, and a lot of people trying to go across. I had a crack coming into the last corner with a fast finish, but just proved to be a good leadout for 5 other girls.. I held on for 8th, so not so bad in the end, but it's fair to say I was disappointed with missing the break.
Gooik Team Presentation
Day 3 it was time to get the climbing legs back on again and tackle Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik. This one had some of the most famous Flanders climbs including the Muur, which unfortunately was taken out of the race due to roadworks. I was feeling good again and looking forward to the race. Things were going well through the first few hills and I'd made the front half of the race, until we hit the long cobbled section and I went backwards so fast it was quite laughable. Next time I'll run a bit less pressure in the tires and will get some more cobble practice - which shouldn't be hard given the area we live in! I was just off the back of the main group with one of the Argos Shimano riders, but we weren't able to close the gap and were reeled in by the chasing bunch behind us. With 5 local laps to go, we were again pulled from the race as there was a small group off the front and the short laps meant to continue would mean we'd be lapped. Another disappointing end to the race, and the weekend, but there were some positives to take from all of the races.
The 'Bosberg'. My first cobbled climb in a race... ouch.
The racing eases off now for a little while, so I'm taking a short break before starting the 2nd half of the season. Things will kick off in London on the 8th June for the Smithfield Nocturne which I'm looking forward to racing, although a 35min crit will be a rude shock to the system. Then followed by a few of the Tour Series crits that same week. Should be a fun week back on the left hand side of the road, and I'll definitely be hitting up some good cafe's and outlet stores when I get a chance! For the next few days though it might be time to play tourist for a little bit, if only the sun would come back out...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Back to the flatlands!

Well it's hard to believe that I've been in Belgium for 2 weeks already. Time flies when you're settling in to a new place, racing, riding, and playing far too much Candy Crush..
I arrived in to Belgium on my Birthday, and the first thing I did was buy myself some Belgian Chocolate at the Airport while I waited to be picked up - "when in Rome".. as they say! It was a fairly long day, with a trip to Ikea in Gent necessary, and then going for a birthday dinner in town, pretty happy to report that the sushi in Gent is good and I can't wait to go back 
Birthday Sushi!
In terms of presents, it was a good day, getting a house to live in and our team kit having arrived finally!
Racing Knokke Heist
After a bit of a late night getting things sorted, and then a reasonably early start to get up to race Knokke Heist - Bredene, it's fair to say we were all pretty tired. But spirits were high and we were looking forward to racing in our new kit for the first time! We arrived to a reasonably nice day, but as we got ready the wind was picking up and getting colder by the minute. We knew that just 13kms in the race hit small country roads, before about 20k later hitting a 2km long cobbled section. When I heard about the cobbles I was a bit nervous.. that's the longest cobbled sector I'd ever done. 
Julie, Ann and I post Knokke Heist. Pretty happy it's over.
The race went from 0 to 50 straight away, and it turned out predictions were right, and things blowing apart in the wind on the small roads. I was tantalizingly close to making the front split, but again was just that little bit too far back. This made for a long hard chase with a small group, finally rejoining the front with about 30k left to race. A few more local laps down, nothing too eventful, and I was happy to make it to the end, as were Julie and Ann who had made the front bunch also.

The next day we were off to Sinaai for a local Kermesse. Jane wasn't well and so had decided to sit this one out, so the team for the day were Kayleigh, myself, Ann & Julie. It was lots of fun racing a bit of a shorter race with a slightly smaller bunch than we'd been in for the big races. Getting to make an impact on the race and practice bunch skills is good for the confidence. It was a good day, nice weather and a good race until 1k to go where a crash brought down Kayleigh, and got my adrenaline pumping to the max after it happened right beside me. Ann and I tried to do a bit of a lead out for Julie, but the crash made things a little hectic, and with the long straight finish, it was hard to judge when to go. Julie ended up just off the podium in 4th though, so not a bad result!
Living the 'shit covered' dream.. One of the hazards of racing in Belgium.
A few days of rest, recovery, & exploring the new training routes, and it was time to race again. This time it was 3 Kermesses back to back, in my own mini Tour of Belgium.
First was North East to Begijendijk. A flat fast course with only a couple of real corners, a break went early and almost stuck. All the girls in the team had a go at getting across to the break, with only a few groups successfully getting any advantage, although all were brought back by the end. A bit of fun and a good way to start the weekend off.
Saturday it was off to the West, over near the coast to Snaarskerke. Belgium is usually windy, but over by the coast it's worse, and this was in full force today. Winds had to have been about 60-70kph and when I hit the crosswinds I had a couple of CX moments getting blown off the road. The race split early on and thankfully Julie had made the front selection of 10-12 girls, so I got to tap around with the second bunch until our group had the final lap called a few laps early. Fair to say I was pretty happy to end the race when we did, I was kind of over the wind...
After Saturdays race the Scot's headed back to the UK to participate in our team sponsors big charity ride, the Ribbon Ride, whilst Julie and I headed back to the team house to get ready for day 3.
Training in the small amount of sun we've had!
Sunday we headed east in to the very French town of Dinant. As we got closer the terrain changed more and more, and I was so happy to see that there were hills in this race! And not just little rolling hills as we'd been told.. It seemed the course would have about 3 x 1-1.5k climbs each lap that would have to be tackled 7 times. In Belgium, that's a solid amount of climbing. Because of this, the start line was definitely less crowded, with only 39 starters at this race and quite a different set of faces from the last couple of days of flat races. Right from the gun the pace was on, with one of the local girls from Topsport Vlaanderen rocketing off up the first hill. I gave chase and was surprised at how good my legs felt given the last couple of days racing. The first lap was rather damp still, and we went down a descent at 60+kph and then had to do a hard right hand turn.. There was a point I wasn't sure I was going to stop in time! As it was only Julie and I in the race, we made sure that between the 2 of us we tried to cover everything to make sure if a move went, we were in it. Early on, a Sengers rider got away solo, and it wasn't until the 2nd last lap that a group finally got away, which even though we missed the move initially, we were able to get Julie across to it. From the break, the Wiggle Honda rider Mayuko got away solo and went on to win, with Julie sprinting to 5th.
So a good solid weekend of racing under the belt, and time for a bit of recovery this week before gearing up for next weekends Holland Hills Classic & Gooik. This week I'm going to explore the local area a bit more and do some of the famous cobble climbs from the Tour of Flanders etc! We live in a great area for training thankfully, with some hills and nice roads, now if only the sun could come out a little bit more.....

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


I was lucky enough to get to go back to Girona for a couple of weeks between races to try and get in some good training in the sunshine. Being that it's the place I've spent most of my time since getting to Europe, it felt like coming 'home' and I was happy to be there, even though most of the people I knew were away racing. Getting the chance to chill out by myself was quite nice, and gave me the chance to do a bit of exploring.

Beautiful blue skies and sunshine around Girona. Except for the few days when it was like a Melbourne winter..

Exploring the coastline from Tossa de Mar
One thing I've noticed about Girona and staying in the Old Town, is the Church bells. It's hard not to notice them. They chime every hour, on the hour, twice. Plus they also signal the quarter hour, 24/7. I did some googling to find out the reason they chime on the hour, and then 2 minutes later, and it turns out it's because back in the day, before wristwatches and iPhones, if you were out in the field working you might have missed the first ring and wouldn't know the time. So 2 minutes later, the time chimes again. That way you've never got an excuse to be home late for dinner! I like that thinking. So there's your Spanish history lesson for the day!

One of the other great things about Girona is the Creperies. There's about 5 or 6 of them, and most of them serve Glutard friendly Crepes! My favourite would have to be the Banana and 'Black' chocolate one I had from Crepedeque, where Lotti the dog resides with his owners who have been making crepes since forever. Thankfully the riding around the area is amazing so you can work off all the crepes!
I'd splurged a bit and got a car for the time I was there, otherwise I had no way of getting home from the airport when I arrived. It meant that I could meet Jo at the airport when she came back from Lux though, and we headed straight to one of my favourite places ever, the Boqueria Markets in Barcelona, for brunch. The Tortilla was even better than I remembered it to be and I can't wait to go back again for another one.
A happy place
Getting to have a pre-Birthday dinner on Thursday night with Jo, Loren & Carlee, before jetting back off to Belgium early Friday morning was so nice. Nothing like getting to spend your almost birthday with good friends on the other side of the world! Now it's back to Belgium for some more racing and to move in to home, which is where I am now.. Belgium update to come later!
Dinner (and colouring in) with the girls