Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Season beginnings

So, it's been some time since my last blog back in February and a bit of a whirlwind over the last few months but can now happily say I'm starting to find my feet again in the European pelo.

On arrival in Europe late February it was straight into Belgium to get stuck into the first spring classic of the season, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Jetlag what?! Much to my surprise the weather was a solid ten degrees warmer than the previous year's edition so there was no need to worry about potential frozen eyeballs or snow fall (yes, frozen eyeballs are a real thing)!

I managed to jostle my way through the race after 3 early spills in the crazy nervous peloton. Lucky for me I came out unscathed but very annoyed I had moved back to level 0 in mastering the cobbles after being away for many months without them. Only in Belg can cobble technique truly be nailed!

The next series of Spring events proved to be a fairly rocky start with a mixture of bad luck (as expected in Spring) and just slowly weening my way back into Euro mode. After spending a few months racing in NZ, my mind and racing style had clicked back into small peloton, friendly rider racing. In Europe and especially during Spring  this is not going to work out for anyone! Field sizes of 200, narrow roads, cobbles, bad weather and some serious nervous energy always makes for some exciting but crazy bike racing. You certainly need some luck to perform well but having that extra bit of skill, determination, aggression and grit in you will go a long way.

Ronde Van Drenthe World Cup. Soldiering up the VAMberg (man made trash climb)! Wiggle Honda
My biggest disappointment came at Omloop Het Hageland where I was gifted with numero 1! This was the race I won in 2013 and brings back some great memories. I was happy to kick start the race with good legs and a strong team of girls but ended up being caught in a race crucial crash right before the deciding climb of the day along with my team mates. Huge bummer as even after a heck of a chase from Giant Shimano and Wiggle Honda it never came back. After a couple of races like this, I had definitely started to question myself and my positioning. After the first two races I had been a lot more weary this time and in this case the crash had been near the front so guess sometimes you just can't win with these things! 

Frustrating but part of the game. I have to blame myself however when I look at riders like Vos, Bronzini and Johansson who are almost never in the wrong spot at the wrong time and very seldom get caught up in or stuck behind crashes. This is something I'm definitely working on and hope to become better with through experience.

Hageland. Surprisingly warm! Wiggle Honda

A highlight a little later was being part of the team at the GP Dottigne, another one day UCI race where Giorgia Bronzini took the first UCI win for the team of 2014. It was a long time coming so we were thrilled to finally do it. It was a good battle and everyone worked well together to make it happen then Gio nailed it with a classy kick to the finish.

Late March we also slipped a team camp in to have our launch and properly kick things off! Was nice to see all the girls and officially get set for the year. We stayed in Italy, not far from Treviso in a pretty cool castle. Lovely spot but not so nice riding up to it ;) We had a great week all up.

Between training I spent some time out in the mountains doing a shoot for dhb. This year, I've happily taken on the role to be a dhb ambassador alongside Aussie Peta Mullens. After a day out with these troops there's definitely going to be some fun along the way! dhb make some neat cycling apparel to suit all levels and it's all very well priced. Check it out on Wiggle at www.wiggle.com/dhb/

FAVE dhb crew Selfie by Steve

Following the season beginnings I've recently taken some time to settle into my new place in Girona, Spain. It's been nice getting to know the area and the roads as well as getting in a decent training block to revamp for the next block of racing. So far, I'm really enjoying having a base here. The weather is a big plus, there's plenty of people around and it's very convenient for traveling to and from races. It's also just nice to have a 'home away from home'. Coming from NZ, it's a long way and a big period to be gone from home so having a place here definitely makes things easier. My lovely flat mate Lucy Martin has been a great wee guide around the place so slowly finding my way around town! 

Coast ride with Lucy, Loren and Dave

Home decor...

Already barbie weather in Girona. Credit to skillful barbecuer, miss Emilia Fahlin

After some hard work over a two week block I was ready to get back into it kicking things off with some Dutch and Belgian races before the Tour of Luxembourg (this past weekend). I was happy with my performance at Dwars door de Westhoek last week. After a good month of not feeling my best racing, I was just glad to be back feeling strong on 2 wheels and managed to get stuck in and have some fun out there. 

The week prior I spent an afternoon at KOMSPORT in Germany where they created some SOLESTAR innersoles for me. I've always had knee issues since beginning cycling and over the past year it's just gotten worse. My knees tend to turn inwards a lot, to the point where they will be banging away against my top tube, especially when putting the hammer down! Not ideal and for sure I had to be losing some power and perhaps could have created some long term issues from continuing to ride like this.

Anyway, coach Greg Henderson set me up with an appointment with Solestar and after spending the arvo with them I was very stoked with the outcome. It's only been a few weeks since but I instantly felt a lot better on  my bike and have since been riding with straight legs! Miracle... ;) Big up's to these guys.


Dwars door De Westhoek, Belgium. Wiggle Honda

Following Westhoek it was onto Lux for the 3 day Elsy Jacobs Tour. I had only ridden my TT bike once since January so wasn't expecting a lot come the day 1 prologue. I am a fan of the short, sharp lung sapping event though so kept positive I could maybe whip out a good performance. After reconning the 2.6km course with the girls 7 or 8 times I was set to go. It was a fast wee course and not too technical. I popped it in the big dog and went for it. With heavy wind I was a bit of a whimp on the corners and probably lost time there but my biggest mistake was flying into the last corner before the final uphill stretch very over geared. I was so 'in the zone' I forgot to change gears and so had to settle for a big gear grind to the line. Aside from that, I gave it my all. I finished in 14th behind some hitters so was happy with the result but in a very short effort like that you can't help but be critical of your performance as every little mistake really makes a difference! Marianne Vos is definitely back as she blitzed the field to take the win. 
I would have loved to be in her follow car coming around some of the corners...

Elsy Jacobs Prologue Edmond Friess

Day 2 and 3 were very similar in terrain. Plenty of lumps and bumps and pretty aggressive racing. I did what I could on day 2 but often struggle with recovering from a prologue. I get that hoopy cough, heavy lungs and legs. I'm sure most riders get it but I'm still trying to find a way to deal with it and overcome its effects on performance the following day. Giorgia still got up for a 3rd place taking second in the kick behind Shelley Olds after Rabobank hitter Anna Van Der Breggen made a late race solo escape to take the win. Rabobank are certainly dominating at the moment in the women's peloton so the next months should be interesting to see If we and other teams can challenge that. 

Day 3 was much better for me, I felt strong and managed to get pretty stuck in at the front end of the race. Gio had had a good finish the day prior so we were hoping for the stage win and a bunch kick. This meant being on the defense and covering the moves. Being in the breakaways but not driving them. I had good legs so was happy to be in the mix. Come the final km's sh*t hit the fan and things got very chaotic. No teams were able to get organised with a lead out as it was just carnage. We were the same and although we were all there we couldn't get organised amongst the craziness. I guess this is something we should have considered earlier on! Coming up the right side I could see Giorgia tucked in up on the left. She managed to stay well positioned until the final technical turn to the finish where a lead rider slid out causing some big changes in position. Unfortunate for Gio who had to settle for 4th but fair play to Vos, Johannson and Julie Leth for taking the podium spots in such a crazy finale.

I've now returned to Girona for a week of recouping and training before my next adventure...China bound! 2 weeks hopping from random islands around Shanghai. Hopefully no time in the Chongming hospital this year and yes we are packing plenty of protein bars... :O

Meanwhile, some of my team mates are kicking things off at the Womens Tour of Britain tomorrow in the UK. It's the first time this event will take place and has had some major hype surrounding it. Very exciting for women's cycling. Cheers to all who have made it happen and best of luck to the Wiggle Honda ladies.

Thanks again to support from back home that keeps me going with this fun but challenging cycling lifestyle! Means a lot. 

Special thanks to Maurice Verkerk, New World Remuera, The Athlete Project and team sponsors. 

I have recently joined the Athlete Project agency. They currently already represent some great kiwi athletes so it's exciting for me to jump on board alongside them. 


Adéu (goodbye in Catalan) :)

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