We're halfway through our stay over here in Europe and halfway through our racing schedule as well.
Last week wasn't super busy, but busy enough for a group of cyclists. We spent the first few days basically recovering from our busy week of racing and prepping to head out to the Fleche Wallone course on Wednesday.
We pre-rode most of the course, although there are still sure to be some surprises as the lack of street signs can make it very difficult for those navigating from the follow car. We still got to see the majority of the climbs along the big loop (of which there are quite a few in very rapid succession) and finished up our ride on the Mur de Huy, aka the wall. And luckily enough for us, its going to be the first year the women have to do it twice (the men do it three times). It's definitely going to be a change from the relatively flat racing we have been doing in Holland, because Huy is guaranteed to make the race difficult without even starting to think about the other narrow climbs and technical descents we have to navigate in the first 80km before hitting the wall for the first time. It should be an awesome race though with a full World Cup field and also we should get to experience some pretty crazy crowds. We run through the course before the Pro Tour guys do, but all the fans have to be out in time for our race so they can get good spots. We've been strategizing with our u23 guys' team as to how they need to position themselves on Huy to give us some assistance this Wednesday...
pre pre-riding Fleche
We did race once this week however back over in Holland. We headed out Friday to Apeldoorn, about 200km from our base. It's funny because in North American you might just drive that the day of the race given that we didn't start til 1, but as we have been finding out everything in Europe tends to progress a little bit more slowly. Some of the girls in our race were also affected by the flight cancellations all over Europe but I don't think we were as hard hit as Amstel Gold. The Aussie's, who were at our hotel, had to all jump into a van last minute and make the 14 hour trek from Italy after they found out their flights weren't going anywhere. Back to Apeldoorn; a pretty wicked city. I haven't exactly figured out the entire story yet but basically it was Canadian soldiers that helped to free the city in WWII I believe and so they were flying Canadian flags on the race course and their sister city is Burlington ON. The track team was also here back in March prepping for Worlds, and because Apeldoorn is the site of 2011 Track Worlds. We actually started out at the velodrome, and it looked like a pretty awesome facility. It's still always amazing to see how much cycling is a part of the culture over here.
On to the race: this was Ronde van Gelderland, a 1.2 race. Given its 1.2 ranking, and the fact that Fleche is coming up the top teams didn't have all their top riders, but there was still a decent field just with some more regional teams mixed in. This made for a bit of a sketchy race, particularly in the 7km neutral start where I witnessed at least 4 crashes. One of the girls, Moriah got caught up in one and did a pretty spectacular flip, but managed to jump back on and back into the pack pretty quickly. As a team we finally got our positioning down, which was definitely helpful on the narrow dike roads the route took us across. Unfortunately, even at the front there are still crashes and we didn't go unscathed. There was actually a bit of climbing in the course, which was a nice change, despite the fact that most of us spent the second loop of the climbing section chasing after there was a big crash at the very base that took a while to weave through. Overall, it ended up being a pretty good race for our team. I screwed up the finish a bit. There was a roundabout about a km out and I was trying to move up a bit on the right hand side but we were going left into the roundabout and then taking the first left. Myself and the few girls in front of me got squeezed out and had to go around the right hand side of the lane divider before funneling back into the pack. Meant my sprint was maybe more from a km to 500m to get back up to the front, rather than to the finish but such is racing. We had two girls in the top 20 though with JO in 16th and Leah in 20th. Still some work to do on the finishing, but its all progress for us.
Yesterday was a pretty lazy Sunday. The guys had raced a Nations Cup (U23 version of a World Cup) on Saturday in NL as well so we both had recovery on tap. People seem to spring into action here in Tielt on Sunday mornings... I don't think we've ever seen it so busy. I guess having to get your shopping done between 8-12 gets people moving. Anyway, we did a relaxed recovery ride into Aarschot for coffee, followed up with some impromtu bike handling/pack aggressiveness training, followed up by team pictures and a BBQ.
Our "choir" shot @ the front of our house
Tomorrow we head out closer to Fleche and then race Wednesday there, Saturday in Netherlands and Sunday back in Belgium. Wish us luck!