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!


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