Thursday, July 25, 2013

Live to fight another day

So, after Krasna Lipa we headed back to Belgium for some R&R before packing the traveling circus back up and heading to the next race. On the way through, Carla & I stopped in Cologne for the night and spent the morning wandering around the beautiful town, getting some proper coffee and doing some window shopping.
In between tours, there was a Kermesse on in Moerzeke, so a few of us headed there for another hit out! It was a good day for the team, with a break eventually sticking with one of us in it, and Jane rode great to stay away and finish 3rd on the day. 
Before we knew it though it was time to hit the road again, and we were on route to the Limousin region in France to race the 4 day tour there. For this Tour we had the Chief Rene, Pamela on her first outing as a swanny (who, mind you, did a fantastic job without having any experience or even the guidance of Mr B!), and Eoin the Irish Mechanic and chief coffee maker was back again. I was even learning how to understand him a little better this trip! The riders were myself, Coryn, Lucy, Laura, Ciara & Anne. 
Limousin - Right in the middle of France
A quick stop overnight somewhere just south of Paris, and by Wednesday we had arrived to our race accommodation.. It's fair to say it wasn't the Ritz. We were basically camping in wooden huts, exactly like what I'd stayed in a few years ago with Alli & Natalie in my first ever Belgian racing experience. The team had been given 2, with room for 5 in each room, which basically had us taking up all available floor space. Thanks to Vienne deciding the accomm wasn't up to scratch, a hut became free and we could spread out a little more. Eoin also decided that the team van would be comfier and roomier and took up residence in there! 
Our little hut
Team presentation was the evening before the race, so we got that out of the way and stopped for pre race Pizza in Le Grande Bourg.. A quaint little town that was filled with random mannequins dressed in different costumes. The forecast for the whole week was hot, and I generally like the heat, so I went to bed that night really excited for the race and ready to get into it! Especially as I was starting the race with my own bike!
Team presentation
 I woke up early the next morning and knew things were not right. I had what is unfortunately becoming the all too familiar feeling of nausea and before long I was ill. Not ideal.. However having felt like this before a few times in the last few weeks, I figured it would pass within a few hours and I should at least be able to start the stage that afternoon and hopefully by the next day I'd be feeling ok. I made it through thankfully, and my motto for the week became 'live to fight another day'. Lucy and Coryn rode a great race finishing up the front of the front group after being active throughout the day trying to establish a break, with Coryn being only 1 place off the Young Rider jersey!
Eoin preping the Bianchi's!
Day 2 was the Time Trial. Thankfully I woke that morning feeling better, but still went in with the idea of trying to save as much as I could for the next 2 days because I knew I would still be depleted from the day before. A stomping ride by Lucy had her finish 7th, and move up on GC into the top 10. 
Outdoor Dining
Day 3 and the aim was to try and move Lucy further up GC and if any breaks went, make sure we were represented. All of the climbs were in the first half of the race, so most of the attacks were going here. There were lots of attempts to get a split in the field, and it was great to race with Coryn & Lucy properly and for us to be able to cover moves and really make a difference in the race. Nothing stuck and it was all together at the end though, and so no change on GC. Again - Live to fight another day!
There were some good points about our Accommodation! Recovery swims :)
One more stage left, 127k and 38 degrees forecast. With only 1 second between first and second on GC, it was always going to be a tough day. I was struggling to find my legs in the first hour, but gave everything I had to help chase back a break and then just couldn't recover in time to make the split over the 2nd climb of the day. As is typical though, about 20 minutes later I felt amazing and did so for the rest of the race, but that's racing. I was disappointed not to be in the front bunch to help Lucy & Coryn, but in a way I was satisfied with the choice I made at the time. I'd prefer to be out the back of the race after having contributed to the team goal, instead of just sitting on the back of the bunch and making it to the finish with them. Coryn managed to finish 8th as well, and Lucy finished 9th on GC in the end, so a good day/week for the team!
Race ready
So for myself personally it was a disappointing week, but there are still some positives to take from it. For now though it's back to the base in Belgium to regroup and get myself off to the doctor to suss out why I keep getting sick! This week will see us race a couple of Kermesse's too, before heading across the other border to Germany to race the Sparkassen Giro in Bochum.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Holiday over, back to racing at Krasna Lipa!

After a super fun couple of weeks in Girona with Miss America, it was time to get things rolling again and pin a number on! I'm not here for a holiday you know ;-)
Krasna Lipa is the first ever European race that I did, and one that I was hoping to do well in this time around. It's also the tour that I seem to just not have anything go right in...
We began the journey to Czech by dragging our bike bags on 2 trains and a bus to get to Barcelona Airport. Cursing the bikes the whole way, we would come to regret thinking how nice it would be to not travel with bikes when we arrived at Dresden airport to that long wait by the oversize baggage door, and the sinking feeling that our bikes had missed the plane... Our fears were confirmed at the baggage services counter which then led to many frustrating phone calls to Vueling customer 'service' and 48 hours of being told they hadn't even located the bikes yet. With only 2 flights to Dresden a week, the next one landed right when our race was due to start, so we were trying everything to get them to send the bikes to another nearby airport but it was proving fruitless.
The rest of the team pre riding the course.. Coryn and I had no bikes so were in the car..
Queue our Knights in Shining Oakleys.. The Swiss National Team. They had 2 spare bikes which they kindly allowed us to borrow, even though it left them without spares! Coryn at least had a spare pair of shoes and pedals, but everything of mine was in my bike bag.. A lesson well learnt and I'll always carry a pair of shoes with me now! Thankfully Gaby has the same size big feet as me and had a spare pair, so I was on borrowed bike, shoes, pedals, helmet & glasses! Not the ideal way to start a tour, but at least I was starting!
Lunch in Germany on the way to Krasna Lipa
So the race.. Day 1 and I felt pretty shitty. After not having ridden for 2 days and all the other factors, my legs were pretty flat and I just didn't feel confident on the bike. Euro brakes, everything a size too big, compact cranks added to a sketchy and nervy bunch and not having raced for a month all combined to make me fairly useless. Just because Murphy was in a playful mood, he threw in a plastic bag getting wrapped around my rear mech and the subsequent chase back on, so when we hit the last big descent my legs just couldn't go any faster and I was out the arse. Yep, dropped on the downhill.. So much for being able to help the GC rider in our team! I grovelled over Vapenka and made it back in to Krasna Lipa a few minutes down on the main bunch.
The best part of the day was getting back to our Accommodation and finding out my bike had made it to Germany! After dinner - the Czech staple of Chicken & potatoes of course - Rene and I headed to Dresden airport where I was reunited with all of my race gear and my Bianchi bike. Happy Dayz!!
My Bianchi!!!! So happy to see this :)
Day 2, feeling a lot more confident being back on my bike, but still with legs like arse. Going backwards up all of the climbs, and struggling to move up in the sketchy bunch, it was another day of feeling useless. Carla and Lucy rode well again and maintained their spots up on GC ahead of the 3rd stage time trial.
Day 3 is the double day. A quick trip over the border to Poland for an 18k Time Trial, ahead of an afternoon road race back in Czech. My goal for the time trial was to just try and spin the legs out as much as possible whilst still making time cut, hoping that I'd come good for the afternoon stage. Lucy stomped the TT and came in 8th - moving her up to 13th on GC - whilst Carla succumbed to the stomach bug that had been plaguing her all week. The afternoon road stage yet again had me grovelling and being packfill, but another solid ride by the other girls in the team saw Coryn get 8th! 
Czech staple.. Chicken & Potatoes.
The last day sees the race go up a solid climb on a big lap, and then tackle 3 laps of the infamous Vapenka. With Lucy in 13th, we wanted to move her up in to the top 10 if possible so the plan was to try and split the bunch on the first climb and for her to hopefully get away in a small group on the final laps. Riding to the start of the race I felt better then I had all week. Better late than never I guess! My finish line was at 42k, the top of the first climb, and as we hit the first ramp things were going to plan. The bunch was lined out until we got over the crest of the first pinch where the lead car put out the red flag and the race was stopped. A bunch off the back had been sent the wrong way, and then the Aus & Koga team cars couldn't be located. In the end we were stopped in the middle of the road for 45 minutes before being sent on our way and then told that the race would be shortened by 1 lap. Sticking to the plan I led up the climb and split things up, and then blew near the top and lost the bunch. It was a beautiful day and so I enjoyed the weather and scenery and waved at all the families who were out watching the race and rolled in to the finish.
With the stop and one less time up the climb, the race was changed a fair bit and we didn't succeed, but at least we tried and I found a glimpse of some form coming back.
Riding to the start of the race
So the week didn't go as I'd hoped, but I have to take the positives and focus them on Limousin in a weeks time. Things would have been much harder at the race if it weren't for the tireless efforts of our support crew..
Eoin (Owen) - Our team mechanic. At times I could barely understand a word he was saying because of his accent, but he was great with the bikes and the added pressure of setting up our borrowed bikes was all handled without a worry.
Mr B & his apprentice Lucy - Our Swannys. These guys were rock stars. Food shopping, bottles, feeding, and the best bit - the massages. Lots of laughs too kept the mood light when things weren't going to plan!
And Rene - Manager/DS, having the contacts to get us some bikes to borrow and following us around in the team car for 4 days! Added trips to Germany and Prague (for Coryns bike), plus the drive from London and back, I'd say he'd have had to have clocked up about 50 hours behind the wheel in the space of a week, at least!
Rene, Mr B, Eoin & Lucy enjoying a well earned Vino! From cups made from empty water bottles.. Classy.
Next up is a week back home in Belgium before heading to France for Limousin!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Oops.. Been a while!

Half Way update!
Yet again it's been quite a while since an update.. And of course so much has happened since then!
I raced the Holland Hills Classic, Wodecq Kermesse and Gooik-Geerardsbergen in the last weekend of May, and had some mixed results. Wodecq went well with a top 10 finish, but I had a bad day at Holland hills and then some mechanical problems at Gooik. I just chalked the weekend up to experience and then started a nice mid season break off the bike. Unfortunately at the end of the week off I came down with a virus, so was layed up in bed for half of my break :(
The following week my month at home in Belgium came to an end and it was time to head back across the channel to England! There were 4 crits lined up for the team to race, including the London Nocturne and 2 of the 'Tour Series' races. Still suffering from the virus, but not wanting to let the team down, I took to the start line and experienced a whole new world of creeping. It was a great experience though, with the Nocturne being raced in front of huge crowds, and the Tour Series races being fast and furious, similar to the Bay Crits, but it was quite frustrating feeling completely useless in most of the races. Even when I did start to feel a bit better and find some legs on the final race in Aylsham, the torrential downpour and tight course saw me hit the deck (and barriers) hard after someone came down in front of me. 
Roast Lamb and Potatoes care of Chefs Amy & Coryn in London!

Tour Series start line. Heaps of fun racing with Ella & Coryn, despite how bad I was going!

Mid ride  Calippo Frosts in the Spanish heat with CT
After all of that was over, it was time to set sail once again, this time to the oh so sunny Spain! Getting back to Girona felt like coming home. My Yankee team mate Coryn and I arrived for 2 weeks of training & we couldn't have been happier. Thanks to the generosity of Dan Jones we had an amazing apartment to stay in (or rather, to take over) right near the centre of town and with zombie blinds which made sleeping through the early morning sunrises very possible. The weather was perfect, the training roads are always great, we got to catch up with heaps of friends and even made some new ones, and we even managed a couple of trips to the beach! It's fair to say that we could have happily stayed there for the rest of summer, but soon enough it was time to leave and get back in to racing.
On top of the world! Or at least on top of Rocacorba - with Miss USA
Rocking out to Acca Dacca with a Cameo in the new Green Edge video.. #neardeathexperience
Dinner by the beach with new friends!
Next update will be all about Krasna Lipa! Missing bikes, bad legs & an overdose of Chicken & Potatoes..