Diary of a rookie on the road:
It’s official. My new nickname, dubbed by our team soigneur, is mumbles. Dad is going to be ‘really’ proud when he finds out… Despite that, this is my second season as a neopro and I have been in Europe for 2 months and approaching my first few tours of the year. Due to injury and racing the track I came into the road season later than most. So far I have had 10 race days. I started out with Borsele which is a typical Dutch style road race involving narrow roads, strong cross winds and a peloton of around 200 which ends up splitting into about a million pieces. The goal for me was to get further into the race than last year. Back then, I found myself already out of the race 10km into it. This is something that typically happens in these types of races. The race can go from the gun and knowing this, I made sure that I put myself in a good position. I achieved my goal.
The next day I raced Westhoek (another UCI 1.1) which I also did last year. My friend Macey crashed badly and was rushed to hospital. Although she came out ok in the end, it was quite an unsettling experience for me and I had that in the back of mind this year. I got through the race but was disappointed I couldn’t contribute to the team. From there, I raced two smaller UCI 1.2 races with the Australian National team. It was really nice to be involved in the action and to assist Lauren Kitchen whom made the podium both days.
Following that, was our team training camp in Tuscany. With my OGEfrocks all in great form I was in the ‘hurt-box’ every session. We did a few race simulation activities and workshops which put the whole team in a really good headspace to enter the next block of racing. The SwissEver GP in Hagendorn was first up. It was my first race with Orica that I was physically able to get more involved. My job as a worker was to make sure nothing dangerous got up the road early on, without Loren or myself in it. The team rode as one throughout the race then at the end Roy sprinted onto the podium! It felt really good to contribute.
A quick flight to Holland and we were racing again. Boels Rentals Hills Classic was a tough one for me. I covered moves early but I didn’t have the legs to go with the front group and rolled back to the finish with grupetto. My teammates had a ripper of a day with Annemiek getting 2nd. The team gained a lot of momentum from these results and we kept it moving forward into our next few races. It was no surprise that Gooik turned out to be a great day for the team. With Gracie coming into the race the defending champion we had a lot of motivation driving the team. Once again my roll was early on to cover moves and be involved in the race. Although I got a little bit too excited with that. When we got to the Muur aka ‘the wall’ I was out of position and got held up by crashes on the most slippery and narrow section of the climb. A lot of riders were slipping and falling and since the climb is so steep they were forced to walk some of the way. Our cleats made it very difficult on the wet cobbles so we had to walk in the mud on the side (unless you felt like sliding on your bum back down the hill). That is where the front split formed with about 40 riders getting over the climb not having to dismount their bikes. Our team had 4 out of 6 in the move and were able to play a lot of cards in the final. Gracie defended her title and sprinted to victory! It was really cool to be a part of.
I’ve had two more races since then. Keuken van Lommel Ladies Classic and Auensteiner Radsporttage. There are a lot of positive signs coming out of the races but also some challenging moments for myself. From a team perspective we are bonding really well and working on the ‘small things’ to improve.
In less than 24 hours the Tour of Britain will start. You know how everyone has “one of those days”. It’s inevitable… Right? In this tour last year, I had a week of those days. Everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. I crashed in the bunch, I got driven off the road by the cars in the convoy, I got taken the wrong way, I crashed again, I had stingy nestles all over my body and couldn’t sleep for being so itchy. I had drug testing, I had flat tyres, bike changes and then finally the tour finished. My demoralised soul found itself back in Holland on track camp the very next day. Sick and exhausted, I curled up in bed for a good day or two and was banned from all training and team outings until I was recovered.
It took a long time before I could bear the thought of racing an entire tour like that again but a whole year has passed and I am here now, in Britain, preparing to line up again. Initially it wasn’t on my race program, which I was thankful for, as I was still mentally scarred. But an opportunity arose and you don’t say no to opportunities. When Gene told me I would be racing, all I could say was “ok”. Secretly, I dreaded the idea. Last year was an epic experience so I am afraid but I will race it to the best of my ability. It is a world tour race, so all the heavy hitters will be here (I should say, tiny hill climber ‘freaks’). I know I am in a better place than I was a year ago and every race day since Borsele, I’ve been getting stronger and have become more confident in my ability and role within the team (another boxed ticked). I’m still a rookie on the road and will be for quite some time but I do love a challenge and what better obstacle to overcome than my fear of Britain?
It’s funny, this time last year, I was buzzing with excitement about to race my first women’s tour of Britain. I had no clue what I was in for. Then the excitement vanished completely. If you had told me then, I would be racing it this year, I would have laughed and said there is “not a chance”. But guess what? I’m lining up for it, and I am once again pumped! It’s a great race and a brilliant opportunity to build some new ‘goose bump’ memories with my OGEFrocks.