Day three of the Lotto Belisol Tour was what I was most looking forward to - as most of you know...I like flat races :) And this race was pannekoeken (pancake) flat. We completed 115km in 2 hours and 15 minutes - wow! This race was all about positioning - moving up on the side walk (and Shoni getting stuck over there from construction haha), pushing through the middle of the pack and getting yelled at from again - non English speaking Angry girls haha - basically finding any way possible to make it to the front. Shoni got the second flat for the team and was on T.V. due to her amazing mid race wheel change capabilities, and managed to get back on on the fastest lap. I was able to be at the front for a lot of the race and went with several moves, but nothing stuck. By the end of the race, I was so determined to get a high finishing place, and if the finish line was 500 meters sooner I would have own the race hahaha - but it wasn't, so I ended up 45th in the sprint of 131 girls. I think it is one of those thing that you really have to get used to - and know that you will probably sprint 3 or 4 times before getting to the actual finish line. Hopefully I can figure it out a bit better for our next bunch finish. We made it home in time to make an amazing team dinner. When Shoni and her hubby Will get their cookbook sorted out - make sure you make her Caesar Salad - AMAZEBALLS!
|the back of team Canada's Van - packed full...even has a washing machine|
|Stage 3 - having a lot of fun!|
Day four was to be the most epic of days for us yet. After trying to figure out the race profile all week - we learned that we were to race up the infamous Kapel Muur 3 times... 3 times!!! The first time was up a more direct way, the next two were up the full cobbled, insanely steep hill - you know the one you see Fabian Cancellara dominate in the tour de Flanders - and the last time was up it half way to the top of the town. Grrrreaaaaaat. Not my idea of a fun day - but with Cappuccinos waiting for us in a cafe with 2 hours before the start, I developed an excitement to race. Michel was the angel who ordered us the coffees - which were the best coffee's I have ever had...and they came with a very strong digestif ;) We let Sean take care of those for us haha.
|Sean having his alcoholic treat, and me loving my coffee :)|
I am not going to lie - I was pretty sure I was not going to make it to the end of todays race. The time cut was 10 minutes - so if you are 10 minutes behind the leaders you are cut - and 10 minutes is not very long over a 3 hour race. I decided to race as hard as I could for as long as I could (duh!?) - and managed to go with a bunch of moves on the first lap of 40 km, and even lead the pack up one of the hills on the circuit (I hope someone got a pic of that because that needed to be documented to be believed hahaha). We suddenly turned a sharp corner and BAM we were on cobbles climbing at least a 10% grade (it gets to over 20%). And as soon as I thought we were going to have some relieve from the pain - we turned another corner, and another corner - going up and up and the cobbles kept getting worse and worse. The street was lined with cheering fans - some even offering a push. I lost contact with the front group but managed to get into the second group with the rest of my team mates. This was a success in its self for me - I honestly did not think I would make it up with anyone. Then came the second and third laps - and I did it! I stayed with my team mates along with 20 or 30 other girls. All the while keeping the front group in view. We were so close - in the caravan - for most of the race. It was only on the last time up the muur that my legs exploded and I couldn't chase back on again. I had to ride the last 20 km by myself unfortunately - but managed to still finish within the 10 minute rule! Not bad. It may not seem that big of a feat on paper - but it gave me so much confidence to know that I can do things I originally didn't think I could. Vero was aiming for a really good day - and unfortunately got a flat on the middle of the first climb - rode the whole way up on a flat - and most of the way down. We all offered her our wheels but she was such a team player that she waited for the car and chased back on to the main group on her own (the cars arn't allowed up the muur because its so steep and narrow - so they meet us on the other side). BUt we all knew that she would have been up with the top girls over the Muur - she is literally an energizer bunny on climbs. 40 more girls didn't finish todays stage - and Team Canada was one of the only teams to finish with all the riders who started. WOO HOO!
|absolutely suffering the last time up the Muur|
|the amazing Vero - and me in the background|
After the race - we packed up quickly and had a celebratory feast at home. All the stores close really early here - so we had about 5 minutes to get groceries on the way home - and in my haste I grabbed the worst bottle of wine I (and we) have every tasted, and a huge bag of potato chips - excellent food for athletes. Thank goodness the other girls had real food in the fridge - and we spent the rest of the evening laughing, dancing and having a great time. This race would not have been nearly as awesome as it was without the rest of the girls on the team.
|Finishing stage 4, very tired but so happy|
After a long season with a lot of ups and downs this has definitely been the highlight of my year. With the loss of my coach and mentor in the spring I had a hard time managing my training and my motivation. My fitness was never where I knew it could be and I struggled with never gaining any confidence from my racing. I am so thankful for having the opportunity to race with the National Team, and I can't believe that in such a short time I was able to re-light the fire that used to burn so bright in side of me.
|racing with the pros|
Next up is a relatively easy week - a Kermess on the weekend - and then off to Nice, France for Les Jeux de Francophonie.