April 28, 2011

5th Prijs Stad Roeselare

The 5th Prijs Stad Roeselare was the race on Easter Sunday. We discovered that the Easter bunny paid us a visit the night before! Yum chocolate, saved it for post race:).  After a quick breakfast, all the riders and staff piled into the 3 car Canadian convoy. We were very close to having a 1-1 ratio of actual riders to staff, too funny.

The race was 135 km long, featuring 2 loops of 3 hills back to back about halfway through the race. The first two were steep asphalt and the third was the famous cobbled Kemmelberg climb, very steep at 22%!

The race started out with the usual craziness, avoiding people, poles, curbs, motorbikes… etc. The motorbikes were especially scary today. I guess they didn’t have too many available, so they would have to ride through the pack in order to close the roads up ahead. The thing is that girls work hard to have good position in the pack and will not easily give it up, even to a honking motorbike! I saw a girl crash with a motorbike last year and have been a bit freaked out about them since, I always move over!

The race picked up going into the climbs. The first climb was so annoying. I guess a few girls a bit overgeared and caused the slowest uphill crash ever. This resulted in nobody being able to pass and girls having to run up the hill with their bikes! I somehow did a track stand and managed to sneak through without having to resort to running. This pile up was not advantageous, as the leaders didn’t get stuck behind all that mess and gained some time there. I chased as hard as I could up the second climb, eventually making it back to the main group right before the Kemmelberg. I was just on the back going over the very top, and unfortunately took a few bad lines through the twisty descent and found myself a bit off the back at the bottom, oh no.
I chased with another rider, but the group kept getting further away.. oh no oh no! We still had another lap of the hills to go. With some of the best climbers in the world up to road, this put the chances of chasing back on not too likely. At least Joelle was climbing like a rockstar today and made the front group, good to have some Canadian representation up the road! We were caught by a small chase group going into the climbs. Here I found Leah G. who had also gotten held up by the earlier crash. From this point my race wasn’t too eventful. Our group rode a decent pace to get back to the finish.

They pulled our group off the course in the finishing laps so we wouldn't run into the other group. I was a bit confused when people started sprinting. Hmm.. sprinting for a DNF? Looking at results later I figured out that they actually still gave us placings with a time..haha that explained the sprinting.

Amber Neben rode really strong and attacked through the circuits and won solo with Joelle finishing in the group just behind. I rolled in 73rd/ 155 starters.

The biggest bummer of the day was the death of Julia’s bike. Someone very sadly fell over on to it during all the climbing madness. Somehow the force of this person falling  actually fully broke the rear part of her frame in two pieces, so crazy! She's had to ride the little 49 cm spare bike lately, very euro. It's a bit small considering she usually rides a 56 cm frame.

Next stop: Luxembourg for a team time trial and two more road races! After I'll be flying down to Colombia for the Pan Am championships. I hear that Pan Ams can be a super crazy experience. I’m  excited to meet and race with Clara Hughes, a fellow Winnipegger!

Here’s a link for an article on Karlee and I from the Winnipeg Free Press if anyone’s interested in some extra reading material:


April 23, 2011

Omloop van Borsele

Today was the Omloop van Borsele, a UCI 1.2 race. Five laps of 24.4 km made up the 122 km course. Joelle our current Canadian national champ has flown in to race the next couple of races, so we started with a full team. All of us were convinced that this race was in Belgium, but surprise, it was actually back to Holland we drove! The course was extremely flat with very narrow winding roads, typical Holland. 
Last year’s race was a bit crazy with Cervelo driving it from km 1 and a break staying away the whole race. This year it started at a bit saner pace. I was positioned so well in the group for about the first half hour. It’s actually fun going through corners when you don’t have to slam on the brakes! Unfortunately I lost this good spot when the group slowed down and started to swarm, darn it.

It was on the third lap that the pace quickly increased. The group started to splinter and I had to work hard with Joelle to close gaps. We got back to the group, but then another acceleration splintered the group again and a group of 21 riders got away. This group not including Joelle or I, the two Canadians left near the front of the race, darn it. 

The heat sure made racing tough today. It was 27 degrees out! I know not the hottest temperature ever recorded, but still a shock to the system after all the colder temperatures. I tried to think cold thoughts to feel better. Winnipeg winters… skiing in -50 degree weather… eating gelato… ok starting to feel a little colder… oh wait maybe that’s just the dehydration setting in. 
I was not impressed with the commissaire who would not let us take bottles on the last lap. The rule is that you are not allowed to feed in the first 50 km or last 20 km. We were definitely still within the limit and I think everyone was thirsty.

The race was won for the 4th year in a row by sprinter extraordinaire, Kirsten Wild (AA Drink). I was second in our group sprint and finished in 23rd/177 starters, Joelle finished in the same group as well.
Next up tomorrow is the Grand Prix Roeselare, a race in Belgium for real this time.

April 20, 2011

A chance to be a tourist...

As a competitive cyclist, you get to do a lot of traveling around the world. The thing is that you don’t always experience countries the way that most tourists might. Most site seeing takes place from the seat of your bike (some of it goes by quite quickly when you’re racing by at 40km/h..). It’s actually a very unique way to experience a country. A bike can bring you off the beaten path. It can carry you away from the hoards of tourists and into the quiet countryside. Or if you’re in a city, a bike can take you places a car can’t go, and you can cover more ground in a day compared to walking. There are tons of advantages of traveling by bike! We may not get to visit all the famous places a country has to offer, but we do still get to experience a countries culture by riding it’s roads, trying local cuisine and meeting new people.
However we do still get the rare opportunity to check out some cool places when time permits! Yesterday was one of those days, with our next race not until this weekend we decided it would be an excellent day to check out the city of Brugge in Belgium. Wikipedia tells me that Brugge is known as “The Venice of the North” because of all the canals running around the city. Wikipedia also tells me the historic city centre has been a UNESCO world Heritage site since 2000. Pretty cool!
The city managed to survive both world wars without being destroyed, so the city centre features preserved medieval architecture. It felt a bit like we had stepped back in time navigating the narrow alleys, as horse drawn carriages trotted down the cobbled streets. The hundreds of chocolate shops along with tourist and clothing shops boldly pointed out reality. 
We had a very relaxed Belgium day in Brugge… walked over the lake of love, observed the tall standing churches and other brick architecture, drank cappuccino’s out in the sun, sampled some hand made chocolate, and finished the evening off with some delicious Italian cuisine (yes wrong culture, but still made in Belgium so it counts). 
I would definitely like to go back and learn more about the history of the area. Maybe have a boat tour around the canals. It will have to wait for another day, for now it’s training until the next races. The weather in Belgium has been gorgeous lately, the sun is out, the sky is blue, the orchards are in full blossom! Who says Belgium has bad weather? 


April 18, 2011

Ronde van Gelderland

Today was the Ronde Van Gelderland in Appledorn. A UCI 1.2 race, 140 km long. Our awesome mechanic Julien was able to get my bike back up and running for today’s race! Luckily I had an extra derailleur hanger to replace the one snapped in two, and we were able to borrow a shifter off of another team. The spare biked worked well yesterday, but I definitely missed my Jamis!

The field had a lot more Holland club teams compared to yesterday’s world cup, which only had the top ranked teams and some national teams. Some of the top teams traveled to another UCI 1.2 race down in Belgium today. It’s crazy that there can be TWO huge UCI women’s races, on the same day, that both have over 100 competitors, only in Europe!

Unlike most of the flat recent races we’ve been doing, this course featured 5 climbs right in the first 50 km, and then finished flat. The course was backwards to that of last year, which had all the climbs at the end instead.I knew that the field would probably get split going through the climbs and twisty descents, so being at the front would be extremely important in that section (as always..). After getting through the 7 km neutral start, the race was on! I didn’t want a repeat of yesterday, so I wove through the pack and actually made it to the very front after about 10km, yay! I was in an awesome position going into the climbs, actually leading part way up the first climb. I stayed with the lead group all the way through the climbs and going into the flat section of the course. As I suspected, we lost a lot of people through the climbs, and unfortunately all of the Canadians due to some badly timed flats, mechanicals and getting stuck behind crashes.

There was a small break that got away through the climbs, almost all of the top teams represented. The break did get brought back after awhile. Thankfully it wasn’t too windy out, so wasn’t too much guttering and the group stayed together. We finished on a winding circuit though the city. i just didn't have the energy to get myself up to the front to try and sprint, but I was happy to finish with the group. The sprint was won by Ina Teutenberg of HTC and I rolled in at 45th/ 180 starters.
The drive back to Belgium felt so long after racing, but we did go out for the most delicious pizza at about 10 pm that lifted everyone’s spirits. Next race isn’t until next Saturday so now there is some time to re-energize the mind and body!

Here’s an awesome shot Karlee took of me right before the finish:

April 16, 2011

Drenthe World Cup

Dirty from the cobbles...
You know what was great about today? Crashing 4 km into a 132 km race. In the neutral start. You know what was even better! Having my derailleur ripped off and shifter broken in this crash. Thank goodness that our one spare bike happened to be set up with my pedals and saddle height!
Sigh, The Drenthe World cup seems to always be a crazy race, and this is only my second year doing it.
I was quite prepared for surprises after last year’s start. Last year involved riding from a warehouse and passing through a shopping mall complete with a red carpet in order to reach the actual start line. Then bikes were thrown everywhere as everyone raced to sign in to get to the actual start line in a good position. Definitely the most creative neutral start I’ve ever experienced.
I went in this year expecting some sort of craziness and it didn’t disappoint. The hardest part was finding where to start! I couldn’t help but think that we were at some sort of circus, circling aimlessly at the start line figuring out where to go, all while hundreds of motorbikes revved their engines, people walked everywhere, and the marching band played their tunes. We did eventually find where to go. Apparently all the teams had to do a team presentation inside one of the buildings, then go outside, sign in, then line up. Quite a few teams figured this out before us so we were one of the last ones to line up. The race is really well run and supported by the town, it’s just that all the extra formalities can be extremely confusing!
Next up was the crazy neutral start with my unfortunate crash. One of the girls who saw from behind said it happened when the group swerved over to avoid a car on the side of the road. Sometimes crashing is a bit unavoidable. In any case, I hopped onto the neutral bike, wiped away my tears of frustration and rejoined the battle.

I could definitely feel the fatigue from the past few races in my legs today. I was sitting wayyyy too far back in the bunch, but just didn’t have the energy to propel myself through the group. It makes me realize that my position in the pack actually hasn’t been all that bad in the past few races. The back is awful, braking from the front of the pack gets amplified x100, and you get caught behind every single crash. I have made it a goal to not ride any more races back there!

The course featured three climbs up an old garbage dump. The first one 10 km in, and then two later on in the finishing circuits (really just the same “hill” backwards). There were also three distinct cobble sections after around 50 km. I knew that nothing would stay away after the first hill, but that the cobbles would probably determine most of the race. First cobbles were good, stayed with the group. Second cobbles were hard, 2.5 km of pain. I left these just a bit off the back of the group. It took a little while of chasing with a few other girls and weaving through the caravan, but we made it back to the group! Third cobbles, not so great, 2 more km of pain. It was this section that really broke up the race and I found myself in a smallish group of 20. Our group slowly grew as we caught people/ were joined by people chasing.
Three of the other Canadian girls fought hard through the cobbles, but didn’t quite make it through with a group. Leah G. ended up in the same group as myself, it was nice to have some company!
We rode most of the rest of the race in this group. Our group surprisingly came back in contact with the front before the 2nd climb, but then it separated again after the climb. It sort of did this a few times, but then the pace quickened and distinct groups formed. I was pretty darn tired at the end of the race.. longest last 25 km ever! The fans out watching, and helicopter out videotaping were good motivation nearing the end.
Marianne Vos won the final sprint (wow she is fast!). I rolled in 85/155 starters.
Managed to finish my second world cup (Flanders was the first), so at least that's pretty cool!
We get to do it all again tomorrow. 140 km of Ronde van Gelderland, starting from the track where Worlds just took place (where Tara Whitten won her omnium Gold!).
Anyways, this post is turning into a novel so I’m going to stop now!


April 14, 2011

Drenste 8 van dwingeloo

Dwingeloo, Dwingeloo, Dwingeloo! It's just fun to say! As you can probably tell we raced in a town called Dwingeloo today in the Drenste 8, a UCI 1.1 event.
I went into the race pretty positive. The roads were actually wide, there was barely any wind and the cobbles had a smooth strip down the middle to ride. All very good things when bike racing in Holland!

The race 141 km and I don't think I can describe what kind of loops we did. It seemed like we were always returning to the same town and then heading off in a different direction. I did the same race last year, but only recognized parts of the course. I relied on the piece of tape on my stem marking out the distances for cobbles and intermediate sprints. The races are so long that you usually don't get to see the whole course before a race, making the tape and a speedometer very useful things to have. Most of the intermediate sprints were only 2 km after the cobbles so it got pretty strung out through that section of the course.

Even though the roads were wider, I had a difficult time moving up today. I was caught up behind quite a few crashes and the corners were very slow with lots of people. Usually the best place to move up is on the sides of the road, but you need to be really vigilant when doing this! There are all sorts of obstacles you risk running into such as parked trucks and cars, garbage cans, concrete blocks, random poles... you need to always be looking ahead.
The race came down to a big bunch sprint won by Marianne Vos. I rolled in with the same group in 48th/165 starters. I was hoping for a better result, but oh well, there is still lots of racing to come. And I wasn't dropped like last year so that's a positive!
Here's a link showing some of the race:

Next up is the World cup on Saturday. There is a hill in this race! And the Winnipegers reading will appreciate this... it's an old garbage dump! Pretty sure it's the biggest/only hill in Holland.
Photo credit- Karlee    
The team and staff.. looks like it could be Christmas  


April 12, 2011

Rest days

Brr it's cold in Belgium. I write this as I sit on my bed under two blankets, wearing 4 layers and a toque, all while drinking warm tea. What happened to the 20 degree weather from yesterday? At least the rain has gone away.
Rest days between races are so nice. They give you a chance to relax and recover both mentally and physically from the demands of racing. When there's only a few days in between races, the focus is more on recovery and not actual training. Most of the rides are easy and include very few intervals.
Some cyclists really enjoy doing coffee shop rides on rest days! These consist of riding to a coffee shop within close proximity to the house, spending more time hanging out drinking coffee then actually riding, then eventually going home. Coffee shop rides are quite wonderful.
We discovered the greatest coffee shop in a small town near Tielt just last week. First they had a speculoos latte on the menu which I just had to try. Speculoos for those who have never tried it is a sort of like ginger cookies in spread form. It's quite popular in Europe, along with nutella.. Second, the waiter at the cafe kept bringing us plates of home-made chocolates. I think all of us left that cafe quite high on sugar with sore stomachs. Still it was worth it, they were so delicious :).
We leave tomorrow to return to the Netherlands. I think everyone is recovered and ready to get back to racing again!


April 11, 2011

Day 4: Energiewacht Tour- Final stage!

Last stage! Since I was the only Canadian left in the race, I went to the race with our director and mechanic, while the others headed back to base in Tielt-Winge, Belgium. The last stage today consisted of 7 laps of a 12 km loop, winding through a small town. It was a way more interesting course than yesterday because it contained tons of corners. I much prefer corners to wide-open crosswind sections of road. There were some sketchy round a bouts and medians to avoid, but men in vests and blowing whistles stand there to warn you about them. I discovered very quickly that I didn’t have the same kind of strength in my legs after 3 full days of racing! It was a bit of a struggle to move up in the group at all. Being at the back around all those corners is not the ideal place to be. We would all practically come to a stand still around every corner and then it was an all out sprint to catch back up with those at the front who could just carry their speed through the corners. There were only 100 starters compared to the 160 at the very start, which made the race a little less chaotic. The pack stayed together and Marianne Vos won the stage. Adrie Visser (HTC Columbia) won the overall general classification. 
I finished up in 20th overall in GC after the 4 days of racing ( 4th U23). I’m really excited with this result, especially it being my first stage race in Europe!
Next race is on Thursday, Drenste 8 in the cool town of Dwingeloo! Then Friday is the Drenthe World cup.  


April 9, 2011

Day 3: Energiewacht Tour

Well I am officially the last Canadian standing after this stage. Joanie crashed when a rider decided to take a very bad line going through a corner and completely cut her off. She ended up with a broken collarbone, which really sucks, I hope she makes a quick recovery! Leah G. and Julia ended up in a group behind and were time cut. Today’s stage consisted of 2 laps of 45 km and then a smaller finishing lap for a total of 124 km. It was ridiculously windy so we were sure it would break up in the crosswind. Starting at the very back of the pack yesterday really sucked, so we all lined up super early. It did help a bit though with positioning, but I was still too far back when we hit the crosswind and the group got completely strung out and gaps started to open. It really sucks to see the group strung out for km’s ahead of you and then start to see the gaps opening way ahead. Ughh if only I could easily stay at the front! I didn’t race very smart and rather than slowly work with some others to bring back the group, I decided to bridge the gaps myself. It worked, but I got pretty tired doing that over and over again. A group of 11 went off the front when the pack was all strung out. The yellow jersey and most of the big teams were up there so not very many teams were interested in chasing down the break. This didn’t really make it any easier, there was still a lot of time spent in the gutter in this race! The finish was kinda crazy. The road nearing the finish had a small ledge that dropped into gravel, enough that it made it hard to get back onto the road. At one point I had someone yelling from behind to move, but really with a drop to the right and someone’s derailleur to the left, where am I supposed to go?! Apparently this isn’t a very good excuse because I got a nice punch in the gut as the rider went past, how lovely! Oh well, at least I finished with the pack and didn’t crash today. I'm now sitting 21st in GC, 4th U23. It will be a bit lonely going to sign in on stage alone tomorrow. Only one more stage to go!

Here’s a photo from stage one, evidence I made it to the front!
From www.womenscycling.net

April 8, 2011

Day 2: Energiewacht Tour

It was a tough day today. The stage consisted of five, 15km laps around a big lake. The winds picked up early in the morning so I was prepared for a tough day in the wind. I don’t know what it was today, but I had the hardest time moving up to the front. As suspected, the wind completely strung out the group along certain straight-aways and gaps started opening up. Luckily I didn’t get caught behind any gaps and stayed with the main group. We were really moving at the tail wind sections of the course going 55-60km/h. A bit crazy going from that speed right into a left-hand corner.
Our staff had an easier day today compared to yesterday with no punctures or crashes for the team. Probably the worst incident of the day was Leah G. being car doored right before the start of the race, not the best luck.
I was not in the best place going into the finish and finished 33rd, Joanie was our top finisher at 21st. The stage was won by Ina Teutenberg of HTC- Columbia.
I'm now sitting in 17th overall in GC and 4th in the U23 classification.
Now only 2 more days of racing to go! 


April 7, 2011

Energiewacht Tour

The Energiewacht tour started today here in the Netherlands. The whole stage race consists of four road race stages, ranging from 80km to 118 km. I expect every stage will be similar to today…pretty darn flat and windy!
Today we raced for 108 km in a time of 2h40, averaging 40.8 km/h. The stage was two laps of around 45 km and then two finishing 7 km circuits.
The first lap was a fairly slow tempo to begin. There were a lot of crashes in this race. Anne-Marie from the team had a very unfortunate crash on the 1st lap. I somehow narrowly avoided her wheel even though I was right behind her when it happened; unfortunately Joanie went down in the same crash. Both of them escaped okay for the most part, but the same can’t be said for Anne-Marie’s bike..
The second lap was a lot faster than the first. The pace picked up and the group got very strung out through the windiest section of the course. I was doing such a good job of staying at the front until this point, but still ended up just a bit too far back and got stuck in the second group that formed. It’s crazy how fast a gap can open on the windy sections when it’s all strung out.
The max gap between the first and second groups was around 1 minute. I didn’t think the groups would come back together, but we caught up with the front group going into the very last lap. The last circuit was pretty insane racing along the narrow roads. I finished up 20th for the day and am now sitting in 3rd for the U23 competition. Now it’s time for some much needed rest and recovery. The insanity will continue tomorrow..

Here’s where you can find results and event info: http://www.energiewachttour.nl/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=35&Itemid=31


April 5, 2011

Back in Belgium..

After team training camp and some awesome racing with Colavita at the San Dimas stage race I hopped on a plane from LA to Belgium. I'm now at the Canadian base in Tielt-Winge, Belgium and will be here for the entire month of April. We are doing most of the same races as last year with a few minor changes in the schedule.

First up on the schedule was the Tour de Flanders last Sunday. Definitely one of the coolest road courses I've ever experienced! My body was pretty shook up after all those cobbles. I got caught up behind a few crashes during the race so ended up in a group a few minutes back from the winner. I was still excited to have finished and survived such a crazy race. All the spectators out watching on the hills were really motivating.

Next up was the Tour de Dottignies yesterday.Last year I was dropped pretty early after being positioned too far back in the group going into the climbs. I went in with the goal to really fight for good positioning and it paid off. I managed to make it over the climbs and into the finishing circuits with the main group of 60 riders. It was pretty sketchy riding through the circuits and I did have a minor crash with a few laps to go. I did however choose a very convenient place to crash.. the race was neutralised about 30 seconds after it happened due to a raised bridge. I escaped with very minor injuries and didn't even have to chase back to the group, lucky me! The race came down to a bunch sprint where I finished 12th, and top U23, major improvement to last year!

Next up is a 4-day stage race in Holland.