First up was a team time trial on Friday night. This was really just a show of a race. No real results, no pressure. Despite it not counting for anything, we were still prepared to put in a solid 5 km effort. Luckily it was still light outside for our start at 8:40pm, some of the later teams were not as lucky. We did however get to start just as the rain began. The race was 3 laps, crossing two bridges on the course. It was going really well up until about the 3rd corner when the combination of rain and wheels touching led to a crash with one girl hitting pavement. It was really unfortunate. This also gapped off another one of our teammates from the group, so we were down to 3. The finish time counted on the third person, so we kept going, hoping our teammates were okay (they were). It was tough with just three of us, but we all put in a solid effort, all while taking the corners with extra caution. We actually won 28 euros for our effort for 19th place! Haha that money went towards waffles..
Saturday was the Grand Prix Elsy Jacobs, a UCI 1.1 race. It started with a big 50ish km loop of rolling hills through the Luxembourg countryside and forests, finishing with a circuit which included two climbs for a total of 114km. I was sitting a bit far back in the first loop, but wasn’t too concerned as most of the action last year happened in the finishing circuits up the climbs and in the wind. Made it through the first circuit ok, climbing well, group still together. Second lap was where everything fell apart. A tough pace was set up the first steeper climb. This shattered the group and I didn’t realize how big the gaps were getting until the descent. I tried to bridge across but just didn’t have it! A group of 20 riders stayed away to the finish. I finished 4th in our group of 60 for 24th/143 starters. Excitement of the day was my pedal breaking and foot flying out accelerating to the finish, thankfully no crashes came of that. Leah G. rolled in with the same 60 person group as me.
Sunday was the another UCI 1.1. We did the same loop as yesterday, but with a different finishing circuit with one smallish climb for the feed zone and a monster of a 1 km climb before a downhill finish. First big loop was fun. The pace wasn’t too tough, and I stuck near the front to stay out of trouble. It was nice to lead up a few climbs and not worry about random braking or getting pushed around. My main goal was to enter the circuits at the front of the group going into the steep climb. I actually did and ended up about 10th wheel descending to the start/finish. Perfect! Unfortunately this is where things started to go downhill. Literally. I don’t even know how to explain what was wrong with my bike at that moment. I think it’s just a dropped chain, but when it’s back on something is very wrong with my bike. It feels like my breaks are on, but they’re not. I shift some gears, spin the pedals but no power is transferred to the bike. WHAT IS GOING ON? Sort of freaked out trying to figure this out as I quickly went from 10th to 150th wheel trying not to crash everyone as we take a corner and hit a hill. Luckily Karlee rolled up at that instant and handed me her bike! Wow, so awesome of her to do that! Unfortunately we both quickly figure out that Ritchey and Keo pedals are not in fact compatible. Darn it. Would have been so perfect! (Realized looking at my wheel after the race that my entire cassette had somehow come loose from the wheel, not sure how that happened.) We got my bike a new wheel then motor paced the car to the climb. Unfortunately too much time had been wasted to this point and the group was moving very fast as the finish approached. I time trialed two laps passing cyclists that had been dropped, but still get pulled with 3 laps to go. Oh well, what can you do, that’s bike racing for you! Sunday was still a fun day of racing, we had an awesome display of teamwork, Canada got on the radio with two attacks from Karlee and another impressive one from Leah G. on the final climb, we saw Frank Schleck who was very nice, and Luxembourg is absolutely beautiful.
This race actually marked the end of my 2011 April European racing campaign. Overall it was a fantastic experience. I finished 14/15 races! Last year I was lucky to get my name in the results. We had a great team of girls and we all kept up a good morale despite all of the set backs and any bad luck that came our way. Crazy to think this is only the start of the season and there is still months of racing to come!