Czech Republic UCI 2.2 Tour De Feminin
As I’m playing catch up with my diaries most of you may already know how I got on at Czech. Last year was a new experience of a hilly stage race & I didn’t overly enjoy it. If I’m being honest I did quite a bit of moaning “why am I doing this? I can’t climb hills, I hate hills” blah blah if you were to ask the team management or the team I road for last year I’m guessing they wouldn’t hold back! This year I was expecting mostly the same experience of yo-yoing back & forth from the bunch after every climb till I eventually cracked & ended up in a group coming in 10mins or so at the finish. So to say this year was somewhat of a shock is an understatement!!!
Stage 1: 110km finished 43rd 57sec off the main bunch one place behind Emma Trott.
Stage 2: 99km finished 26th same time as the winner
Stage 3: 17.8km TT finishing 57th 3mins off winner & second place Sarah Storey. Massive improvement from last year!!! Stage 4: 97km finished 29th 57sec off the winner.
Stage 5: 98km coming in 29th 4mins down on the breakaway finishing in the main bunch.
Over all on GC 30th place 9mins 19sec off the winner & first Brit too!! Now I was losing that in one day last year so to have only lost that time on GC I was so over the moon & to be only 5sec of Kirsten Wild (Netherlands hope for the omnium at the Olympics) was something special. It shows how much I have progressed this year so maybe 4weeks on the turbo done me some good…..?
I had two days in which to rest & get to legs ready to rip straight back into racing. Now that I had done the grunt training in the hills it was time to get some speed back into the legs & what perfect way by racing Dutch criteriums. I had the opportunity to race 4 times last week & the plan was to take each race as it came & if I felt gash stop & lie down. Wise words from Jimmy Mac!!
So we drove over the border to what Hannah & myself thought was a crit until we found out it was 85km. We turned up whilst it was hosing it down, thunder & fork lightening when we seen the men actually racing in this weather……This is where we found out it doesn’t matter the weather the Belgium’s just get on with it & having just drove 2hrs we weren’t turning back. This was a frustrating race where we missed the winning breakaway as the legs felt not to bad to start with but with 10laps shown still to go it felt like I was pedaling squares I so easily could have climbed off & waited for Hannah to finish. Eventually I finished 18th in the bunch which wasn’t a total disaster I guess.
Next day was an actual crit & it was only 45mins away from the Team house so it kind of felt like our home race. This turned out to be a successful night & we actually seen some sun come out for this race. Ronde van Epe was a 1km circuit with 3 corners per lap meaning we had 60laps on the board! Best advice I could give to Hannah for her first senior crit in Holland “Try not to look at the lap board for as long as you can!” It can either crack you & make you depending on how good the legs are. My legs were feeling pretty good considering how awful they felt after Belgium. I was able to jump with attacks going & remembered some of the girls from last year so had a good idea of who to watch. Going into the last corner before the long drag to the finish I managed to get 4th in, lunged for the line & was granted my first podium in Europe this year. This means standing on the podium getting presented with flowers by “girls”& questions by the commentator who doesn’t grasp the fact that Great Britain is not called England. Despite that fact I loved every minute of it couldn’t wait to count the euro’s I had won.
Friday’s race was a miss as we were both feeling pretty done in & decided to race Sunday giving me 3races the week after Czech. Sundays race Ronde van Bovenkarspel was 65km on a much larger twister course with 8corners to negotiate per lap with a couple of sections on clinkers. Immediately after arriving I recognized the circuit & memories of attacking Aussies & rain making the clinkered corners a bit of a challenge came flooding back. This year the only thing missing was the Aussies! In this race I had two other team mates both Dutch so they know how to race crits so I was looking forward to a good race. With a hard tempo start & just after one lap the race favorite Vera Koedooder (English translation as cow killer that’s how we all know her) was already up the road. My team mate Natalie Van Gogh made a massive attack & bridged across to Vera so a podium for the team was sorted. However as I watched the two drift away from the bunch I couldn't help thinking "Eileen there's another podium place slipping away & you’re going to chance it at the gallop...." That's when I jumped down the left hand side & buried myself to close that gap to the break. Now Vera is part of the Netherlands 4 women team pursuit squad for the Olympics. So when I said buried I mean turned myself inside out to get across to both of them!! Two Ibis riders in the break this can only go one way. A win!! Vera made it the hardest crit iv done so far attacking several times to get rid of one or both of us but with true Scots grit I worked myself back up every time. At 5laps to go Natalie was sitting on the front dragging us round letting me sit on Vera’s wheel like it was a track sprint in case she decided to attack again. Our tactics changed where I told Natalie to get on Vera’s wheel whilst I drove us round for the last 2laps as I felt the previous effects were starting to take effect. Basically I felt bust!! This team play played off perfectly with Natalie taking the win with a bike length & myself taking that step to her left hand side on the podium for another 3rd place. After we were awarded our flowers & Natalie her trophy we were then told to get into a convertible Mercedes to take a victory lap round the course…….well there’s a first for everything!
Another bunch of flowers & having featured in every prime it turned out a very good day at the office!!
My next race is another Dutch criterium tomorrow before I fly back home on Thursday with the British Criterium Championships firmly set in the back of my mind!