We just finished up a pseudo 8 day stage race. It was really two one-day races (Flanders and GP Dottignies), a day off, then six stages at the Energiewacht tour in Holland. Racing in Europe brings its usual challenges, small roads, aggressive pack riding, cobbles and wind.
|Pretty much what my faced probably looked like while racing Flanders|
First on the schedule was none other than the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the most prestigious race in Belgium. There were an insane amount of fans out cheering at the cobble sections and especially congregated near the bars. Fine tuned my cobble riding technique from last year and felt much more confidant through those sections. Judith Arnt won from a break with Kristin Armstrong, and my teammate Joelle took the sprint for third! So cool to have Canada on the podium.
|Fans on a beer bike at Flanders|
|At the start line in Oudenaarde|
Dottignies was a challenging race, especially right after Flanders, highlights include riding an early break, racing up a surprise cobbled climb, and fighting hard for position going into the sprint to finish 11th on the day.
|Racing up some cobbles at Dottignies|
We headed to Holland next for the Energiewacht tour. It was a slightly different format than last year. Mainly last year there was no time trials, this year there were two. Denise took the young rider jersey in the time trial with her speediness.
We also rode a team time trial later in the week. There is a trade team time trial at this year's World Championships that teams are getting ready for.
|The team looking pretty aero. I'm not too stealthy dressed in orange.|
We decided early on that I should try for the sprint jersey competition. The team did a great job helping me get points early on, and I was able to hold onto the lead for the rest of the week. I got to wear a super sweet orange jersey and even a full on orange skin suit. My Optum team arm warmers, gloves and glasses matched quite well. There is no holding back with the use of fluorescent colours in cycling, gotta love it!
|It was absolutely FREEZING in Holland. Leah G's solution? Heat balm all over her stomach and arms.|
It was very exciting to win my first ever euro sprint jersey, best perk included starting at the front of the 150 women pack. Another highlight of the week included my best ever finish in Europe with a 7th place on stage 3. Still have a few things to learn about racing in Europe, but I definitely feel much more confident than in previous years.
The team is now back in Belgium now to re-energize, do some laundry, and take a short break from riding in the gutter. We enjoyed some lovely Easter pizza and chocolate yesterday upon our return from the race. Now if only everything wasn't closed on Easter Monday, I guess we can survive on bananas, oats and rice cakes for a day:).