Gent Wevelgem

Claire Thomas | Tuesday 1st April, 2014

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Gent Wevelgem is an important UCI race on the Women's UCI calendar, ideal for gaining UCI points. My wonderful coach, Mark McKay, prescribed me with 2 easy days after travel from Italy and then a few 1 min efforts the day before the race. I felt rested and my efforts opened my legs. The night before the race, I spent the night in Kortrijk in a hotel with Tom Boonen, Sagan, Kirsten Wild and many other big names. We had a cyclists dinner of steak, salad, rice and fruit along with all the other teams and then headed to our rooms. I was dreaming about whether I needed 23 or 25mm tires for the Kemmelberg and decided not to change anything at this late stage. After all, would the race go fast enough up the cobbled climbs to warrant 25mm tires?? Our mechanic was unable to come because his girlfriend was ill so I had to get on with it. On the day of the race, it was a buffet breakfast. Normally I would eat porridge, but breakfast was at 8:00 and the race started at 12:25 so I decided to change my eating habits. It is not a good idea to do this before a big race, it is better to try different food before a training ride, but I decided to take a risk. So after muesli mixed with oat clusters and scrambled eggs and a litre of coffee and sparkling water, I was ready to take on the big teams. The race started in Ieper or (Ypres in English) and ended in Wevelgem with 2 ascents of the Kemmelberg, 2 ascents of the Monteberg and 1 of the Baneberg. I made sure I was positioned well for the first ascent of the cobbles and as I thought, a group rode away. I was in the group and felt really comfortable but the peleton came back. So I knew that the 2nd ascent of the Kemmelberg was where I needed to be good. I came into this climb well positioned and once again there was a split. We were in a group of maybe 40 riders and I sat once again close to the front watching the attacks. I then saw danger, when the Belgian national champion went so I jumped across with another 6 riders. We had 38km to go and we worked together, nobody missing a turn. The gap increased and I realised it was the winning move when our team cars came alongside us. I was feeling a bit low in energy with a lack of fluid because we had nobody free to go to the feed-zone but I hung on. In the last 5km- there were attacks one after the other and I knew I could only follow. I sat on the Belgian champions wheel in the last km but I didn't have the power to come round her. I was 8th and got some UCI points. http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/gent-wevelgem-women-2014/results Unfortunately, I am not riding the Tour of Flanders although it is an ideal course for me so my next race is Dottignies, also a big UCI race. I am guesting with a Belgian team for this race before heading to Holland for a 5 day stage race. In Holland, being flat, I will be helping my team mates get a result. After that, the next big stage race is the Tour of Britain but unfortunately our team was not selected to ride. So I am hoping with my results so far this season, I can get a ride with team GB. Being the top placed GB rider in Gent Wevelgem, hopefully this will help my case. If I don't get a place- then I will just keep on training hard and do some of the Tour Series.

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