European’s and turning pro

After I made my decision to focus on road racing, I wanted to start looking for professional teams to join and got talking to the DS of what was ‘Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling’, then before I knew it within a few days I was reading through and signing my first professional contract!!
This was SO exciting! Thomas told me about the bike situation and that I’d have 5 bikes in total; training, racing and spare, then training and racing TT bikes. I couldn’t believe it, I was used to lugging my bike box around with me so only having to take hand luggage on a race trip is so much easier and less hassle. This was just a small insight into how a professional team works but there was much more to come.


A couple of days later I was representing Great Britain at the Elite European Road Race Championships in Glasgow, and this was a race I’ll never forget…
I’ve got great memories from the European Champs I’ve competed in so far; European MTB junior Champion ships 2016 (1st place), European Junior Road race championships 2016 (3rd place) and European Elite Road race championships 2018 saw me attack our front breakaway group and race solo for over 60km at my first major Championships in the Elite category!


‘If Froomey can do it, so can you!’ a spectator cheered from the side of the road, this was just after Chris Froome had completed an unbelievably impressive solo attack to win the Giro d’italia.


The buzz and atmosphere was just overwhelming. I was leading one of the biggest races on the calendar and built up over a 3.5minute lead from the chasing pack. Home crowds and strangers cheering my name gave me a huge boost and I was riding off excitement and adrenaline. One of the things running through my head was that I’ve made a good first impression to my new team which motivated me further. 
I was trying to keep my cool as I paced my effort so I could realistically sustain the pace till the finish if it came to that! However, as more attacks came and teams were chasing me down, my gap was diminishing and I was caught on the penulutamate lap of the road circuit. I tried to hang in but after being out front for most of the race; first with a group of 6 then solo, I got dropped as an attack was made up one of the short sharp hills. 


The final lap and a half was still amazing as I lapped up the atmosphere and crowds and enjoyed every moment, it was actually a bit emotional riding up the finishing straight becuase I couldn’t believe all the supporters cheering, thank you! You guys made it an unforgettable experience.

After a good block of training at home, I raced my first race with my new team in Plouay, France. I met the team who were all very friendly, then went to my room to find a couple of suitcases packed with lots of new kit and clothing… It was like Christmas!! It was just so nice and stress-free having the support staff working for the riders with mechanics, massage, organisation etc so all we had to do was eat and focus on the race. It was my first time racing with a radio, but I learned quickly and performed the job I was supposed to do as Cervelo Bigla were called to the front by Thomas, where we controlled the race. 
What an experience, I’m so glad Thomas could sign me halfway through the race season rather than me starting with them in 2019, becuase I was able to race a few races, including Giro d’elle Toscana a 3 day stage race where I finished 6th, which allowed me to find my feet in the team and a perfect introduction to how professional World level racing works. 

The excitement wasn’t over yet… 


At the end of September every cyclist knows it’s the biggest race of the year, the World Championships. A chance to be the best rider IN THE WORLD! How incredible! 
I’ve competed in the World Champs from Junior level, and now I’ve moved up into the U23 age category it was time to race in the Elite Championships. Don’t ask me why there isn’t a separate U23 women’s race, but for some reason U23 and Elite Women are combined with no recognision for the Under 23 age group, we just have to fight it out with the Elites. But anyway that’s another topic altogether. 
I am always filled with pride as I zip up the red, white and blue GB Jersey. The weather was sunny, we were in one of my favorite places in the world-Austria-and I couldn’t wait to ride with the best cyclists in the World. 
After the longest and hilliest race I’ve ever done-160km with nearly 2500m of elevation! I came 41st; out of 81 riders to finish from 148 starters, which shows just how tough this once a year race was. I also was pleased to finish 3rd Under 23, but unfortunately this wasn’t at all recognised on TV, results or on the podium. 

So that’s the main events wrap up for 2018, hope you enjoyed reading about it. 2018 was a year full of highs and lows, all a learning opportunity too. 
The lows were at the beginning but by following my passion and with a fab group of people around me, the highs soon started coming and stomped the lows into the ground. 2019 will probably be even more jam packed! 

Until my next Zwift blog, thanks for reading, Sophie Wright

California Girls

As a Euro pro, it is not often that I get to race in North America, making the Amgen Tour of California one of my highlights of the season. California is still a five-hour flight from my home in Canada, but after so many training camps in the state while racing for American teams, it has a feeling of familiarity. I was pleased to find that I recognized some of the roads, as we raced around Ventura and past Lake Casitas the first day, and then up Glendora Mountain Road onwards to Mt. Baldy on the second stage.

Equality

I dream of competing in a full 7 day stage race like the men so that we could visit more incredible roads and locations across the state. However, they sure put together a tough race this year, as we climbed nearly 20 000 feet in three days of racing! The race is well organized and lives up to World Tour standards, offering positive things like equal prize money between the men and women. Equal prize money has become the expectation and norm at many races in North America, and it is a trend I would love to see spread across the world. 

Cultural differences 

I find it amusing to observe the reactions of the Europeans when it comes to North American culture. The most obvious observation is that everything is just bigger. The roads, portion sizes, buildings, parking lots etc. My teammates were also excited to find some new American products in the breakfast box, and to explore the local grocery stores. Sometimes very simple things can offer entertainment and insight into another culture. 

North America vs Europe 

Racing in Europe versus North America is a very different game.  The way the roads and environment are structured, and the size and depth of the peloton create these main differences.  The level of fitness needs to be very high to be competitive in both, but what changes is how you expend energy during the course of a race. Big wide roads, and not many obstacles mean that it is easier to position for climbs and other key moments in North America.  In Europe, very narrow roads, and a lot of technical features such as roundabouts, medians, poles and curbs mean that you need expend a lot of energy already in the lead in to important moments in the race to remain in contention and execute your team plan.

It is a bit ironic that the infrastructure that makes it safe as a rider in many European countries can create additional hazards for racing. I would quickly accept more road furniture in North America if it resulted in a safer and more inviting environment for cyclists.

 

Fans

The fans and volunteers were amazing all week, and showed so much enthusiasm cheering us on. Coryn was definitely a fan favourite, riding in the American national champion jersey in front of her home crowd, and her family and friends took good care of us all week. Even her dogs Tank and Frodo were out there cheering for us! Her parents kindly shared their motorhome with the team and then threw the best post race BBQ after the last stage when we finished at the Rosebowl stadium.  Watching Cees Bol sprint to victory from the roof of the motorhome was a great way to close the weekend. I finished 4th and 5th on two stages, and Juliette took home the Best Young riders jersey after a strong ride up the slopes of Mt.Baldy. 

I am looking forward to competing in another North American race in a couple weeks, the Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau, before heading back to European racing. Until then it’s time to enjoy some quality time at home in Canada! You can follow me in the meantime on social media @L_Kirch on Twitter and @leahkirchmann on Instagram. 

Leah 

Spring Classics

Hello Voxwomen friends!

As I did promise you a couple of months ago, here I am writing you about how the Spring Classics went and what is waiting for me in the near future.

I did a good block of racing during the last two months, starting my season for the first time in Valencia where, together with my team, I had a good warm up for the Classics and where we could practice some good tactics in warm weather and lovely courses.

Spring Classics has been a roller coaster for us, with some girls getting sick, some other crashing, some errors during the race that cost us a couple of big result… but somehow we did never stop working hard and every time we left the camper after the race, we had faith in each other and we were sure that a big result was coming because we deserved it.

Kasia won Amstel Gold race last Sunday, and even if in that specific day I was not able to contribute that much to our team plan, what she achieved was a big relief for all our team.

Being patient, keeping your motivation high, believing in what you do is not always easy, but Kasia, with her attack and her will power, it did teach me that if you really want it, the perfect day happens.

I did experienced this feeling last September after winning TTT Worlds Championships: despite we wanted this victory since so long, we didn’t achieved it at the first try,but we kept on working so hard for it just because we knew it was going to happen one day.

After Flèche Wallonne, I am taking a break from my bike to rest my body and give my mind something different to think about. I will dedicate that time to my family and my friends who I don’t get to see that often. For me, this refreshing time is as important as training.

Everyone is putting a lot of pressure into the first part of the season with this important Classics races, but there are plenty of races and big goals waiting for me in the remaining part of the season, so.. bring it on!!!

Aside from this, it was also really nice and important for the development of our sport to have the most of our races streamed online in many Countries.

CANYON//SRAM Racing riders ride to the start of the Amstel Gold Race – Ladies Edition – a 126.8 km road race, between Maastricht and Valkenburg on April 21, 2019, in Limburg, Netherlands. (Photo by Balint Hamvas/Velofocus.com)

Let’s hope the majority of the organizers are following this path  helping us riders to promote and show our beautiful sport. Beside all the reforms and changes we are going to face next year, making our sport more accessible to people is what we need at the moment.

In the meanwhile, keep on following  me on Instagram (@elenacek) and twitter (@ElenaCecchini92).

Until my next blog!

Elena

Beyond watts and victories

Everyone has his own reasons trying to become a professional athlete. Some
are seeking success and victories, some are seeking exposure, some
just see it as a job that pays for their living while others take it
as way of fulfilling themselves at a personal and professional level
by doing what they love most as long as possible.

All these motivations will eventually help you reaching your goal even
if most of them are rather self-centered motivations. Unfortunately we
forget too often how our daily work can possibly influence more then
just our own life. If you try to look at the bigger picture, I highly
believe that by the end of our careers we will be prouder on actions
that helped improving the future of others then the ones that helped
improving only our own CV.

How can we, as athletes, help others and feel good about it? Very humbly, here my top 3 advices.

Be an inspiration

April 21 2019 6th Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition (1.WWT) One day race Maastricht – Berg en Terblijt (126.8k) Photo: Eloise Mavian / Tornanti.cc

We all have been kids following competitions either on TV or for real.
We all had our favorite athletes, the once we felt inspired from, the
once we absolutely wanted to win, the once where in case they won’t it
felt like we won ourself and it was the best thing that happened that
day, the once we wanted to be like growing up.
I have been one of those kids.
Then I grew up, and unfortunately I found out that most of the
performances I have been looking at with admiration have been lies and
it made me feel sad and disappointed. 

April 21 2019 6th Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition (1.WWT) One day race Maastricht – Berg en Terblijt (126.8k) HALL Katharine (USA) of Boels Dolmans Cycling Team Photo: Francesco Rachello / Tornanti.cc

Over the past few years I see more and more kiddos eyes lookingat us the way I was looking at athletes back then. I think it is one
of the most rewarding look you can get as an athlete. But I don’t want
them to feel in a few years the same disappointment I felt towards my idols. So at
each of my decisions I try to ask my innerchild: « would you feel
inspired by what I am about to do? »If you are unsure about being able
to answer that question with yes, means you are probably on the wrong path.

Be a giver

April 21 2019 6th Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition (1.WWT) One day race Maastricht – Berg en Terblijt (126.8k) Photo: Eloise Mavian / Tornanti.cc

Use your exposure to expose others without seeking any personal gains.
Even if we all agree that women cycling doesn’t yet get the media
exposure it would deserve, everyone of us has more or less exposure
and you should use it wisely. While most athletes see media or social
networks as an opportunity to attract more personal sponsors and
possibly better financial deals, try to be a bit different! Of course
it should help you personally but from time to time it is nice to give
something back. 

April 21 2019 6th Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition (1.WWT) One day race Maastricht – Berg en Terblijt (126.8k) Photo: Eloise Mavian / Tornanti.cc

The latest good example is probably the Pink Ribbon
campaign Boels Dolmans did during this years Amstel Gold Race.
Together with the help of the team sponsors, the squad went all pink
for one day. It did raise attention for the Pink Ribbon association,
but by selling on auction all our team gear ridden and worn that day
by the riders we went a little bit further then just only raising
attention. The auction brought together 51’000€ that will get
reinvested into cancer research. Of course 51000 € is a huge amount of
money and only possible because it was a team effort with great
sponsors standing behind. But does the amount really matter? A little
bit is always better then nothing and everyone of us has probably a
good cause on his mind he wants to stand up for. So just do!

Thank you so much on behalf of @pinkribbon_NL for supporting our PINK RIBBON campaign. You, or fans, supporters, partners and sponsors raised a stunning amount of….?……➡️ 51.000 euro!! ????#boelsdolmansforPINKRIBBON pic.twitter.com/pRu235bBdk— Boels-Dolmans (@boelsdolmansct) April 22, 2019

By the way. Thank you UCI for allowing world champion Anna Van der
Breggen to wear a pink world champion jersey instead of the
O-so-strict white jersey. Sometimes rules are there to be broken and
this was probably an excellent opportunity to do so. So thank you this time.

Be a voice

April 21 2019 6th Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition (1.WWT) One day race Maastricht – Berg en Terblijt (126.8k) PIETERS Amy (NED) of Boels Dolmans Cycling Team at the sign on podium Photo: Francesco Rachello / Tornanti.cc

Don’t be afraid to stand up for your convictions. Sometimes you might
feel like you are the only one thinking this or that but you are not.
Mostly it is only because no one dares going public with maybe
controversial ideas. Don’t get me wrong I don’t ask everyone to start a
revolution. Of course your remarks should have a minimum of good sense
but there shouldn’t be any taboos. Be prepared to knock on a lot of
closed doors, but keep going until you find one that opens. If we
speak out today, the next generation doesn’t have to be afraid
speaking out tomorrow and maybe more important we help preventing the
next generation taking unnecessarily risks for their health and future
life. I would f.ex. like to thank Lea Kirchmann for her latest
Voxwomen blog where she points out to the rather alarming trend of low
body weight in cycling. It is probably one of those topics where
everyone knows it isn’t good but no one does something about it. I
would love to see teams take a bit more responsibilities when it comes
to riders which are at risk to develop an eating disorder (let’s not
hesitate to name it by its name). It is a disease and has longtime effects on the person’s health largely exposed in Leah’s blog. If you really care about your rider and
her health please don’t let them race but offer them help instead!

Now that you hold all the cards to help others what are you planning to do? 

Christine Majerus

Dani Rowe’s Liege Bastogne Liege preview

Before I go on to talk about Liege I feel I have to congratulate Anna Van Der Breggen for her record breaking 5th win of Flèche Wallonne. It takes a champion to repeat a victory in such a prestigious event but 5 times in a row deserves a bow! 


Now onto Liege Baston Liege- my favourite ardenne classic suiting me down to the ground with undulations all day and with an attritional nature to the race there are never many riders fighting for the victory come the finish. I surprised myself last year and managed to be in fighting position along side my team mate Sabriena Stultiens racing for top 10 after a small group escaped. Sabriena was 6th & myself 12th. Coming from the track background I found the shorter steeper climbs suited me being able to power over them without going to deep into the red. 


I personally loved this race as it was a real mix of everything in one bike race: Narrow roads, wide roads, short climbs, longer climbs, shallow and steep. There is also so much support from fans on the road side, especially on the famous climbs such as la redote which is generally where the race really kicks off. You get people who have camped in caravans the night before with flags out ready to cheer both the men and women. The support meant so much to me as a rider and hearing the screams almost gave you extra power to push harder over the parts that really hurt the most. La Redote is only 1.7km in length and 9.5% average but narrow causing the peloton to line out with sections up to 17% meaning gaps and chasing if you found yourself caught out. After this part of the race it becomes relentless with attacks coming thick and fast until the finish of the race. It is crucial to remain focused and in a good position to react and pick the best moments to attack. 

What I’ve loved about this season so far is that there have been some unknown names shining through with consistent outstanding results. For Liège I want to add a wild card prediction into the mix & my pick after the past 2 races is Demi Vollenring riding for Parkhotel Valkenburg. She was 7th in Amstel gold race finishing on the same time as Marianne Vos who was 3rd. More recently a super impressive 5th in flèche only 16 seconds behind winner Anna Van Der Breggen – one to look out for this season for sure!!

This year is the 3rd edition of the race for women with a total of 138km and a different finish with new grounds for the women this year now finishing in Liege like the men. 
My predictions for this year are – 

  1. Marianne Vos 
  2. Annika Langvad 
  3. Annemiek van Vleuten 

Dani Rowe’s Flèche Wallonne preview

This year will start slightly differently with the flag being dropped at the Grand-Place, at the bottom of the Mur. The riders will cover a 70-km loop before entering the final circuit. Two ascents of the Côte d’Ereffe, the Côte de Cherave and the Mur de Huy or THE WALL as many people refer to it as. The final climb of the day, the decider of the race. 


Anna van der Breggen has taken 4 back to back wins being the favourite going into the race arguably knowing exactly what she has to do to win this race again. If she is successful in doing so she will equal Marianne Vos’ record. 


I’ve personally ridden this race a few times with a top 20 being my best result. I had the power but I believe I was too heavy to compete in the final with the climb being over 20% it really is a case of the best power to weight winning the race. Whilst positioning throughout racing is always important, Flèche Wallonne is different to the early Belgian classics where positioning could mean race over. This race is not as hectic so gives riders the chance to sit back slightly and focus on key parts of the race where the action takes place. Having said that because of the nature of the finish, positioning is key in the final however generally at this stage of the game there will only be a select few going in to race up the wall to the finish line. 

“The final of fleche is i think the hardest of all races with the muur but also with the second last climb. Breakaways are possible because bit still the finish is on top of the muur so you should be able to climb. It’s crazy looking back that i won this race 4 times in a row. And i think that’s already a good record. We will try to make a good race. Amstel showed already the girls to watch for, and with a kasia in shape it will be a hard task to go for the 5 but we will see how it goes. I know the muur by now and i know how to do it. But you need to be the best to win in Fleche.” Anna van der Breggen


My predictions for the podium are:

  1. Annemiek van Vleuten Mitchelton-Scott
  2. Kasia Niewiadoma Canyon // Sram
  3. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio CCC-LIV

Fuelling the Fire

If there is one thing that cyclists are passionate about, it is food! Properly fuelling your ride is not only important for immediate performance gains, but also to support long-term health and longevity.

Energy demands are high in spring races, with an average expenditure upwards of 2500-3000 Calories during a big one-day Women’s World Tour event. For example, my expenditure on the bike for the Tour of Flanders was close to 3000 Calories! Taking into account that when this is added on top of Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), cyclists need to eat around 2-3x the calories of what an average person needs to sustain themselves for a day of racing.

In spite of my love for the sport of cycling, it is clear to see some of the flaws that exist in its culture. One such flaw is the emphasis that is placed on body weight. This emphasis leads many riders to experience a complicated relationship with food despite the high-energy demands of the sport. Weight is an important factor in performance, but there is a tipping point where less is not more. I worry about how young riders might be influenced if exposed to the wrong environment, and how this could influence their relationship with food for the rest of their lives. I wish that I could invite young athletes to sit down to meals with the team for a day to see how top riders really fuel themselves to perform at our best. I think most people would be shocked with the amount that we can consume!

We are fortunate to have a positive food culture on Sunweb and access to team dieticians who give us practical and science-based nutrition advice. They encourage us to eat to meet our energy demands, and approach season weight and performance targets in a balanced and healthy way.

A practice that I find very educational and useful is the tracking of in-race nutrition intake. We report our intake of sports drinks, bars and gels, and the intake is then compared against demands of the race. The goal is to hit 60-90 g of carbs/hour of racing. The comparison of actual versus target intake provides immediate feedback, and helps you learn what you can tolerate, and plan for future races with this information. We are also competitive and want to end up in the “green”, so this adds a little extra motivation to remember to eat and drink in the races.

In general, most of us focus on eating a balanced and varied diet with lots of colourful fruit and vegetables, lean protein (ex. chicken, fish, eggs, yogourt, beans, legumes), healthy fats (ex. olive oil, avocado, nuts), and varied sources of carbohydrates (ex. sweet potatoes, oats, rice, bread, quinoa). The balance tips towards increased carbohydrate intake in the lead up to races, with the goal to maximize glycogen stores in order to prepare us for the demands of racing.

My love of baking is not a secret, and my rides are often fuelled by foods such as banana bread and oatmeal trail mix cookies. Long rides with teammates are often planned around café stops in search for the best coffee and treats. My thoughts are that as long as these foods don’t make up the main base of your diet, then it is more than okay to treat yourself for 

a mental boost, and to top up those energy stores! 

All athletes are unique with what works for them when it comes to food and nutrition, and I find it interesting to observe how cultural differences can influences a rider’s choice of fuel. For example, Coryn is the all American rider, frequently chooses bacon, eggs, kale and potatoes as her pre-ride breakfast of choice. The Dutch riders consume a lot of bread, quark and muesli. Our Danish rider Pernille would love to also have some heavy Nordic rye bread on the breakfast table, while Susanne, the Norwegian, would top her bread with some delicious brown cheese. I love to add maple syrup to everything as a good Canadian, and there is just a universal love of peanut butter on the team!

Energy Balance

In speaking with other riders, I realized that there are a lot of misconceptions around nutrition, and especially the long term consequences of under fueling, so thought it would be helpful to mention it here. The consequences of under fuelling can be serious, impacting both short and long-term health and performance. Many athletes are at risk of developing Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S), which occurs when there is an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure. Without enough energy to sustain basic physiological functions, your body essentially goes into survival mode. 

Low energy availability can lead to performance consequences such as decreased power, impaired recovery and response to training. You may experience an increased susceptibility to illness as your immune system is affected. Reproductive function is also suppressed to conserve energy. In women, missed periods are an indicator that you may be operating in a deficit. Changes to levels of hormones that help maintain bone mineral density can lead to an increase risk of stress fractures, and a risk of developing osteoporosis if the energy deficiency is prolonged. 

If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself, then I would encourage you to seek out a dietician or health professional to help dial in your nutrition plan and make some changes to improve your health. 

It is not always an easy equation to get right, as so many factors can influence daily fueling needs. Even with a background in nutrition and access to knowledgeable professionals, I have underestimated my fuelling needs in the past and experienced the consequences. It was only in identifying and correcting this imbalance that I was able to then get back a powerful feeling on the bike, and improve my overall health and wellbeing to compete at my best.

I want everyone to know that it is possible to be healthy, strong, lean and competitive in your pursuits while maintaining a positive relationship with food and properly fuelling the fire!

Next focus is on racing the Ardennes Classics with the team. I will be back with an update next month, until then you can follow me for some cooking and nutrition inspiration on social media Twitter @L_Kirch and Instagram @leahkirchmann!

Leah  

Mountjoy M, Sundgot-Borgen J, Burke L, et al The IOC consensus statement: beyond the Female Athlete Triad—Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) Br J Sports Med 2014;48:491-497. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/48/7/491

Dani Rowe’s Amstel Gold preview

Amstel Gold race is next up in the women’s world tour calendar and it’s set to be a super exciting race around the region of Limburg. The race totals 120km with 17 short steep climbs to break up the peloton and allow for relentless aggressive racing throughout.


After watching The Tour of Flanders I believe riders who suit climbing will want to take the race on earlier not wanting to have to compete with the sprinters at the finish. Healthy Ageing Tour has just finished and winning the 5 day stage race was Lisa Klein riding for Canyon SRAM Racing with Ellen Van Dijk in second and Kirsten Wild in 3rd. Lisa is clearly in good form but can she get over the climbs of Amstel? 


Last year the race was won by Chantal Blaak of Boels Dolmans after a small group got away early in the race and managed to hold off the peloton which finished 1min 30sec behind. My prediction this year after watching the classics so far this season is that it will be super aggressive from the start only stopping when the teams are happy with a break composition. With the race finishing over the famous Cauberg climb the winner will need to have their climbing legs on to produce the power when it matters. With Boels Demands yet to have a WWT win I think the pressure is on for them to come up with the goods. However I personally love the unpredictability of the races this year with so much strength and depth in the womens peloton as a whole rather than one or two teams dominating. 


I’m personally really excited to see Lizzie Deignan back in the peloton for this race- her first since the world championships in 2017 after giving birth to her daughter 8 months ago. I’m sure there will be many riders intrigued to see how her form is however I think just being on the start line is an incredible step in working towards her biggest aim of the season in Yorkshire World Championships later in the year. 


With all this in mind and following the races so far my predictions for Amstel are- 

  1. Ellen Van Dijk – Trek- Segafredo
  2. Marianne Vos – CCC LIV
  3. Amy Pieters  – Boels Dolmans

RACEDAYS.

Hello again,

While I was writing my last blog, I was still in full season preparation mode. Now, one blog later, the season is in full swing and the first few race kilometers are in the legs. Mainly cobbled kilometers. That’s why during the last few weeks Belgium, especially Gent, became some sort of a second home for the team and me. It´s either staying there in between races or short two to three days visits at home before you travel back to Belgium and the race hotel. 

Since I decided to leave Girona and moved back to Germany in March, my traveling became very relaxed. I can train- instead of plane-travel and it takes me about 5 hours from door to door. One of the main reasons why I decided to move back. As I mentioned in one of my former blogs: the traveling takes a huge part of a cyclists daily life and race routine. So the more relaxed the travel, the better your legs and your mind might feel on raceday.

And that leads me to the topic I actually wanted to write about: 

What does a (pre-)raceday in the life of a pro cyclist look like?!

It starts, as mentioned, with the travel. Usually we arrive in the hotel the day before the race some time around afternoon. Depending on when you leave home in the morning, you already did your pre-race spin or you make up for it right after your arrival. This is followed by some stretching, massage and mainly some Netflix session with your roomie and the legs up the wall. 

After the common dinner, we have our race meeting, where we receive our numbers and some detailed info about race day. Then it’s all about:

Early to bed, early to shred. 

Image: Thomas Maheux.

Depending on when we  leave the hotel in the morning, breakfast time is pretty individual according to every ones sleeping and digesting habits.

Since I am less relaxed and more nervous than other girls, I like to pack my bag the evening before the race and I rather get up and eat early, even though I am not an early bird at all. Most of the time I´m ready to leave ahead of time and force myself to stay in the room for longer than I actually would or feel  comfy with. 

We head to the race with a Sprinter containing the bikes and all the gear, the camper with the girls and at least one race car with wheels and spare bikes. 

As soon as the engines are started I check several times if I got everything in my bag, although I already double-checked it in the evening and once more in the morning before leaving the room. Some might call is obsessive. I’d call it precise. If I feel happy with the content of my bag, I pin my number. 

Most of the time, we arrive around an hour before sign-in. Just enough time for us girls and the staff to get ready. 

We change in the camper, fill our jersey bags with the radio, gels and bars according to the length of the race. Our “swannies” Lars and Ale, at least during the cold races, prepare our legs with oil. When everyone is ready, we grab our bikes, already perfectly set up thanks to our mechanics and swannies and leave together to sign in and to line up at the start line. 

Image: Arne Kanzler

The following few hours is what luckily can be seen on more and more livestreams these days. Let´s hope this positive development keeps on growing. 

Right after the finish line Lars or Ale are already waiting for us with some drinks and jackets and tell us the way to the camper. That’s where the hurry starts. In general we travel back home right after the race, so everyone has a plane or a train to catch. That means: using baby wipes against the dirt and the sweat, putting on some dry clothes and grabbing a lunchbox for the travel, also prepared by our lovely soigneurs. 

That feels like the right moment to say sorry to all the people sitting next to me in the plane last season, when even the baby wipe action and getting changed took too much time. Flying in bib-shorts is not as comfy as it might sound, eventhough the chammy does make Ryanair seats softer. 

So due to this, it might happen, that we do not even see our teammate, who made it to the podium, before we have to leave. 

The prize for spending the night and doing the recovery spin in the morning at home.  

Image: Thomas Maheux.

And as you now know: We will eventually meet again two or three days later. Somewhere in Belgium. Somewhere around Gent. 

Keep yourself updated about all the racedays on Instagram @taennele or @wmncycling. 

Thank you for reading!

Tanja




More than a team…

In my last article I wrote about friendships in cycling that go far beyond who is on what team. Well, friendships also exist within a team. Friendships so strong they last past retirement. Recently my team was shaken. Actually, shaken isn’t quite a strong enough word…torn. Ripped right down the middle. This sport can be brutal on the body, but something that is often overlooked is how damaging it can be on the mind. Only recently people have started to come out of the shadows to discuss the struggles going on in their own heads. I personally came clean only a few weeks ago about my struggles with a myriad of eating disorders. Posting it on the internet was not planned. One night I was lying in bed, thinking about the events of the weeks before, and it just spilled out. I immediately wanted to take it down, however within minutes I was receiving messages, on instagram but also texts and calls from friends old and new. People related to what I came clean about. I am still in shock about the amount of support I received from coming clean. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about…

A women’s cycling team is kind of like a sorority, but instead of paying money to join you pay with blood, sweat and tears. I’m not being over dramatic…you literally do bleed, sweat, and ride until you emotions are no longer under your control and you cross the finish line and burst into tears, for your team. Some of the best riders in the peloton aren’t the ones who win the race but the team behind them. There’s a reason pretty much the first thing out of a winners mouth every time is “this wouldn’t have been possible without my team”. Teams are built by management, and of course they look at results and how a rider can handle themselves in the peloton, but another factor is how the riders personality is going to fit with the team. That’s something that Zach Bell, my director on Rally UHC Cycling, takes very seriously when considering new hires. I’ve been on a team with a great atmosphere before, and a team with a toxic and horrendous atmosphere, and I can confidently say that the dynamic of Rally UHC Cycling is like no other. Even before I joined the team I would watch from a distance as they laughed and danced around before the races. When I finally made the cut to join them in orange I was thrilled to discover the fun loving and professional attitudes of the riders as well as the staff. The inside jokes were plentiful. Group chats were constantly going off and when I wasn’t at the races or camps I was constantly in contact with at least one teammate a day to discuss nothing related to cycling at all. On this team I found people that I will hold in my heart for the rest of my life. 

In the beginning of March our team experienced something I hope no one ever has to go through. We lost a member. After the news came out I think most of us were in shock. Because of the timing of it we had to decide if we would race the Redlands Bicycle Classic, the first stage race in the National Race Calendar, and a relatively large race in the United States. For me it was a no brainer, yes, we had to race, because the last thing I wanted to do was to be home alone trying to make sense of what had happened. All I wanted from the moment I’d hung up the phone in a daze was to be with my team, for us all to hold each other. The team did decide to race, and our team owner, Charles, helped us through our emotional pain in the best possible way. He contacted all the riders who weren’t racing in California and asked if they’d want to fly down so we could all be together. Most of the team agreed, and for two days of the race we had the majority of the team in Redlands. As riders who hadn’t seen each other in weeks hugged and laughed and cried I looked around and felt nothing but gratitude that I can call each and every one of those girls my teammates. 

That week racing was without a doubt the most emotional week I’ve ever experienced. We are a group of females, brought together by a mutual love of cycling, but who are vastly different human beings. Some of us struggled more than others, but we did so as a unit. The race itself was one of our most successful Redlands’s. We managed to win two stages, and on top of everything it kind of felt like winning a stage of the Giro after a two year dry spell. There wasn’t a day that tears weren’t shed, but I wouldn’t have wanted to spend that week any differently. Fast forward another week and Rally made it possible for all the riders who were interested to fly to Minneapolis so we could lay to rest one of the most dedicated, smart, incredibly hard working people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. We sat together, all the Rally UHC Cycling riders, smushed into a single pew. When Kirsti Lay spoke, Emma White went with her to the stand. Not to say anything, but to be there for Kirsti, behind her, having her back, just like we always do in races and in life. 

Recently another of my teammates was struggling to get back to training after what’s been going on. When I found out I immediately called her, and I found out the next day that as the word spread among us she received a call or a text from every single one of her teammates. 

I’ve asked my director before, jokingly, if it’s harder talking to us knowing that we all talk to each other about everything. Nothing stays secret in our team for very long, I don’t know if it’s the same on other teams. 

The last month in particular has brought us together. I couldn’t have imagined it was possible for us to get any closer, but apparently it is, and I know personally I wouldn’t have known how to deal with everything without them. We are truly a single unit off the bike…and on the bike. Watch out world.

I’d like to dedicate this to the Rally UHC Cycling Women’s team, without whom I don’t know where I’d be, mentally. You kept my head and my heart strong and for that I am so grateful. Abby Mickey