Monday, May 28, 2012

Racing the Classics

This past weekend I raced 2 classic races and a criterium. 
The first was the Valkenberg, which was to be stressed - hilly.  The course map said the first climb was after 20km, and coming from the mountains of Vancouver I thought I would be fine.  The first climb however, was about a kilometer after the neutral start.  It started through a tunnel that three or four people max could pass through at a time.  It was one of the hardest climbing races I have ever done - going up the infamous Cauberg, and other climbs of 15% or so.  I was pulled along with the pack I was riding with, along with over half of the rest of the field.  It has however motivated me to go find some hills and start riding them, seeing as the only rise in elevation for me is going over a bridge :)  We did get our new team kits however!  They are bright blue and I'm really happy that I get to race with such cool girls and great management for the rest of my time here.

Marjetka, me and Rachel lined up

Our team!

Saturday was a much better race for me, and suited more my strengths.  Again, after about 3 km the field had splintered into many smaller groups because the wind was so strong.  I managed to get myself up to the main peleton which was the second group on the road, and raced with them for the rest of the 121km.  It has also begun to be very hot here, so I gave a try at feeding from the car.  It was my first time doing this and I managed to get some bottles for my teams mates as well!  The hardest part was getting through the pack to give it to them though! haha.  I finished 47th which I was pretty pleased about considering I havn't finished many of the classics.  And this one is Marianna Vos' hometown race, so it was a big deal with a carnival and lots of spectators. 

I love this :)

The icing on the cake for me was that Iris Slappendel (2nd at Gent Wevelgem) remembered me from our car ride home together!! She said hi to me on her way to the showers and asked how my race was.  I think it is so cool that someone who is on the best women's team in the world, and who has just finished an insanely hard race is humble enough to say hi to someone she has met once.  It's really enlightening to see how the pro girls over here are and interact with each other.  I really hope that I get on a team like Rabobank and am able to race and be teammates with cool people like Iris.  (I hope she can't read this!)

my favorite thing!

 Rachel and I were both greeted back in Zwijndrecht by a huge BBQ that the Cranhams had put on.  It really made me feel like I was back in Canada, and the food and company was amazing.  It really helps to be able to distance yourself from racing sometimes and be in such a loving family atmosphere.  It definitely makes me miss my family back home, but I am very grateful for the substitute family I have here :)

"Whey Say"!?

This is how the Dutch call WC's, washrooms, toilets, bathrooms - you get the drift.  You hear it a lot at bike races - understandably - but I really need to share some of my moments with the Dutch/ Belgian toilet experience.
In Belgium for instance- most toilets are unisex!  In Ally McBeal they made this scenario seem cool and hip, however when I am aching to go to the bathroom 10 minutes before my race, the last thing I want to do is watch an old drunk man peeing while I wait for a stall (the drunk comes in because most races start at a local pub or cafe). 
Another encounter I had with funny toilets is when I hit my head on the door frame because it was so short! You had to duck in order to get into the stall!  It was partly my fault because it turns out the "chick" on the door meant it was a childrens stall...oops! 

should have known

And now for the most embarrassing - after races there are normally showers available for us to use, and when it's really hot this is a very tempting idea.  I'm sure most guys are completely comfortable with this and maybe I am too prude but the idea of stripping down naked next to my cycling idols seems a bit daunting.  After the race on Friday however, some of my team mates asked if I was going to go shower with them...I hesitantly said ok.  I thought it would be a good idea to try and embrace all aspects of Euro racing.  When we entered the shower room I was bombarded by girls laughing and chatting while showering in this one big room with about 10 shower heads.  Rachel, my Canadian team mate, turned right around and walked out as soon as she saw this hahaha.  Another of my teammates turns to me and says "this is the most fun part! I love hanging out in the showers after a race"...where in my mind I was thinking "I am so uncomfortable, there is no way this is going to be fun"... I went along with it, and turns out Joanna's shampoo made my hair really soft so I can't really complain. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

To the beach, to Friesland, and to get lost!

Finally the weather has turned for the better so the Dolams took us all to Scheveningen for the day.  Its a HUGE beach with a HUGE pier (where we were going to go bunggie jumping but decided vertigo was all too powerful).  The sand is lined with fancy restaurants where you can lay on a bed to drink your cocktail, or like us, get a lekker cappuccino and cake :)  I tried the very dutch raw herring (actually really nice!), and we had a photo shoot with some really cool art work that was scattered all over the board walk.  I can always count on the Dolmans to show me some really nice spots of Holland that I would never have otherwise had the opportunity to get to!
hellllllllo sun and cappuccino!
Michelle and I putting the locals in their place!

The next day I raced North in Friesland -300km away- with Boretti.  It was such a beautiful course in the country side and the first hot race I have done since I've been here.  This made for some unforscene challenges however.  For example- in a normal 120km race in Holland 2 bottles is enough for me to get by with - but Saturday was so hot and 130km on 2 small bottles left me sick to my stomach with thirst with 30km to go.  Our team was even second car - but I havn't fed from a car in a couple years so I had completely forgotten about going back and getting bottles.  I guess I learned my lesson!
Frits -team manager - had great fashion sense ;)

 I had a really good race however, and have definitely hurdled my tired legs fiasco from earlier on in the week.  There were many cobbled sections, lots of corners and round-abouts and I managed to stay at the front and try to get away a couple times.  There were a few big teams there however - Dolmans and Skil, so it made it quite difficult to go with every attack and break that they made.  I had very bad luck in the finish, and did not get myself in the right spot at all.  It's pretty heartbreaking that after 125km of really good racing gets put on the back burner for 5km of bad positioning, bad luck and bad decisions.  The good news is I am still learning a lot and every race trying to make better decisions. I also had an awesome time with the girls from Boretti.  They are so much fun to be around and really made my day so much nicer.  Harrie even took Yuki and I out for pancakes after the race - proper Dutch style with meat and cheese and of!!!

in Friesland

me, Sara (my new Swedish friend!) and Marjetka (my new Slovenian friend!) after Friesland

Speaking of better decisions - it is in my best interest to take the tom tom with me the next time I ride to a race.  Yesterday I decided to ride to the race in Breda, with it only being 36km away.  I however got so lost that I not only missed the start, I still never found it after an hour of thinking "I must be around the next corner!".  A very frustrating day for me, but I like to think of it as an omen, and that maybe I was not meant to be at the race...whatever makes me feel better about having awful navigation right? haha.
And for today - more Cappucino!!!...and maybe get my ears lowered a bit seeing as they are getting a bit too high haha ;)

Gooik Geresbergen Gooik

Today was pretty hard - but I must say, one of the most fun days I've had at a bike race yet!  I was racing with Moving Ladies, and a couple girls who were also guest riding were from the Dolmans cycling team.  This was a bonus for me because a)I got to hang out with some top notch racers b) I got to hang out in their BUS and c) I got to get a proper leg oil up before the race from their soigneur...pretty cool!

got to hang out in there pre race :)

In terms of the race - lets just say I would have done really well if it had finished a km from the infamous Muur climb.  Unfortunately for me - it didn't.  I knew the climb would be coming up around the 45 minute mark (30km in), so with great anticipation, I was expecting it around every corner.  Every time we started to climb I would think "Ah ha! here it comes!" but then we would make a 90 degree turn back down again.  And so this went on a few times until the peleton stopped.  As I unclipped to avoid a crash, I looked up around the corner and towering building and then - I knew we had reached the climb.  By the time I got back to the group infront of me, girls started falling and sliding all over the cobbles.  Girls were running with their bikes and hopping over those who had fallen and well, couldn't get up haha.  A spectator was nice enough to push me a little bit so I could avoid being fallen into by a girl riding next to me; pretty chaotic.  I did feel a little like a Pro though - getting cheered on all the way up!  By the time a group of us got together however, the Bosberg began; another long steep cobbled climb.  I was definitely unprepared for the race - knowing the course would definitely give a leg up.

sign in with the team

 However, my thoughts are that my ride was just in preparation for my podium at this race next year hahaha.  A Pre-ride if you will :)
I was well taken care of after the race too.  The Dolmans crew gave us veggies and fruit and made us coffee.  And all the girls from Moving Ladies and Dolmans were so fun, relaxed and really cool to be around.  And with the start being at Marianna Vos' supporters club, it was all in all a very inspirational day.  It really proves the point that riding your bike is only one part of bike racing; but it's the people and friends and supporters that really make it worth while.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


So, tomorrow is another day!  And it better be better then yesterday! haha.  This past weekend was the beginning of me feeling a bit tired.  I didn't have a great race Saturday, and knew I could have done much better.  Sunday's race went according to plan, and I finished 16th in a pretty strong field made up of Skil Shimano, Rabobank, Ibis, Dolmans and a few other big teams. I didn't, however, feel on top of my form.  I'm losing my pre-race jitters and when girls get out of the saddle to accelerate I think "oh please sit down!" haha. 
On Tuesday I had a crit which was on the coast.  It was really cool to be riding next to sand dunes and sea side cafes, however I was dropped like a sack of hammers.  I was completely in shock because I was expecting to do pretty decently, but I guess my time had come, and my dues were up! 
I was freaking out a bit because I had been asked to do a REALLY big and REALLY hard race on Thursday.  I had been looking forward to this race for a while and had really wanted to be on form for it.  I'm trying to summon 'Positive Patricia' and hope that Tomorrow actually is 'another day', and hope that my day off the bike bike to rest my mind and my 'non excitable legs' will do a world of good.  The great thing is that no matter how I feel tomorrow, I'll be getting a lesson in cycling history and riding three famous climbs that people talk and praise of all over the world.  I studied some youtube vids to get an idea of what the climbs are like - so here's one for you!  I have been picturing myself as Tomeke - I feel like winning like Fabian tomorrow is a little out of my league...second seems much more realistic hahaha.
Hopefully I will be in better spirits tomorrow to write a lil post about how it went! And hopefully I'll get some pictures - the Belgians are much more proficient about making them available on the internet :)

Here is the race info if you are on your lunch break looking for something to read - click 'contests' and its Gooik - Gerrardsbergen - Gooik.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Last weekend...This week...

So Last weekend wasn't a very pretty one.  I was lucky enough to have the chance to race with Moving Ladies in the Lotto Cup, unfortunately I wasn't luck enough to get a result.  The race started out so fast and once we hit the dykes it was strung out for the next 20km.  The wind here is definitely the main obstacle.  Before I knew it I was panicking trying to get on someones wheel but some wrong decisions but me in the red and I was stuck in a group a little too far back.  There was a good long section of cobbles, which was insanely tough but pretty cool non the less.  We also road through Brugge, but of course I can't remember a thing.  It was rainy and gusty the whole day, and my group and I were only able to do 4 of the 8 little rounds at the end before they made us sprint for a finish.  I was pretty upset that I wasn't able to hold on a little longer with the first group, but I guess this is what bike racing is. 

Dani King (track world champ) and I - both riding on Moving Ladies in Bredene Lotto Cup

cobbbbbbbbbbbbbbles in Bredene

Sunday was a smaller race, although very well attended, in Sinaai Belgium.  The course was so fun and really technical.  We had a curb to hop,  a cobbles section and a long paving section, really small roads with big mud ditches and lots of turns and curves.  I was racing really well - always at teh front, helping chase down the break and was in and made some attacks.  I was feeling really strong, however kept having problems getting pushed in the gutter especially along the finishing straight.  And unfortunately, thats what happened in the sprint.  I pretty much gave up once I lost my cool in the lead up to the finish, which is definitely not the right thing to do.  I finished really upset and depressed that I knew I could have placed well - and didn't because of something so small.

Racing in Sinnai

Me and Kim De Baat avoiding the cobbles

I wasn't able to feel sorry for myself for too long though.  On Monday I was asked to do the next lotto cup with Moving Ladies again.  That bit of good news really cheered me up, and got me excited for the next week of training.  I also had a good training race at the Mol with the men and Juniors on Tuesday in the pouring rain.  And Yesterday was the icing on the cake.  A friend who I work with back in Vancouver was touring with his choir in Amsterdam Wednsday!  So me, Rachel and an old friend and great bike racer Keir Plaice and his girl friend Suzanna went to go see Peter sing.  It was in an old Chapel in a garden courtyard in the middle of Amsterdam.  It was so beautiful and the choir was A-MAZING!  They sand old Canadian songs and some older hymns as well.  Very cool!

Keir and Suzanna - while we have our amazing soup by a canal in Amsterdam

We are Amsterdam! - I'm in the 'M' haha

I have a couple smaller crits this weekend in Holland, one on Tuesday and then next Thursday is the Lotto cup in Belgium along some of the tour of Flanders roads, cobbles and climbs.
Hopefully I gain some confidence this weekend!! And it's also another shot at some flowers!
Also - found this video of a race I did in Dottignies Belgium...Kinda cool!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Racing through Brugge!

Tomorrow I am racing in a Lotto Cup - Knokke-Bredene!  There are 236 starters and I am riding with Moving Ladies like I did in Gent Wevelgem.  I am really excited and really nervous because it`s going to be really painful haha.  Its all long the coast in Belgium, completely flat but completely windy. Oh..and we ride through Brugge!  I wish I could stop and take a picture but I bet you I wont even know when we ride through it :(
Here is a link to the race.

red light district...i wonder how many drunk people fall in the canals haha

rikity houses

Yesterday I had a `fun` day and went to Amsterdam with Kim, Stephen and their two friends.  We went to the sex museum - which turned out to be much more silly then sexy, the shopping streets and of course the red light district.  Amsterdam had just won the soccer match so there were lost of hooligans and lots of hookers out to entertain them haha. Oh! And I even had Starbucks!  Back home I try and stay away from Starbucks because its expensive, too corporate and honestly doesn`t taste the best to me - but over here...when coffee to go in copious quantities is near impossible to come by... - I WAS IN HEAVEN!
it`s bicycle repair man!

the dam!

Our Father!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

6th at Boortmeerbeek

Yesterday I raced in Belgium in Boortmeerbeek.  It was 88km on a 5 km loop.  91 starters and about 75 or so finishers.  It was pouring in Holland right before we left to go to the race - but thankfully the sun came out and I think I got a tan:)
The race went pretty well - although I definitely had a 'blonde' moment...  Coming into the finishing straight I managed to get myself to the front and sprinted for 3rd place in the bunch!  I was so excited because Jenny said I HAD to come home with flowers for her today...and I swear I saw them flash before my eyes when I was sprinting.  I came around and saw Haleigh and Jenny after the finish and was so excited and happy and told them I was 2nd or 3rd.  Then they say - "oh so you were 5th or 6th!?" My jaw dropped and I realized the group never caught the three girls who had broken away at the beginning.  BALLS!  I was so mad! I definitely thought I'd get to go on the podium - but that will just have to wait I guess!

uuugh...i'm trying hard hahaha

Another down point is that the Belgium cycling association is 'sending' the money prizes to our bank accounts....however they don't know my account number hahaha. I tried to ask them if I could confirm my address or bank number with someone from the association but they just kept saying "NO! we know where you are!".  I'm pretty certain they don' my mission this week is to figure out how I get my winnings.
It was also Bills birthday today so we came home to an awesome family party - where they also celebrated my Dad's birthday too :) A really nice end to a really nice day!
Results HERE

Marching band in Dordrecht on Queens day

Kim and I in the Market on Queens day

Also!! April 30th was Queens day here!! Everybody dresses in orange and parties and dances and drinks all day!  I didn't manage to make it t'ill the fireworks but I had an awesome time with Haleigh, Michelle, Kim, Denise, Andrew, Neils and everyone else :)  They definitely know how to party and have a good time in the Netherlands!
new ride?

Dancing in Zwijndrecht