Spring Season

The spring season is now underway, and the racing has already been explosive and unpredictable!

My season started with Het Nieuwsblad after a late call up after Coryn came down with a cold. With non-stop cobbles and climbs, this is quite a hectic way to start the season. Floortje showed her strength there to make it in a decisive move over the Muur, but the break was brought back before the finish, with only Chantal Blaak (Boels) holding off the charging peloton in an impressive solo move. 

We also can’t forget the famous race stop that made international news when almost caught the men’s peloton. I think the outrage was a little misplaced with this situation, and it was an honest mistake from the organizers who otherwise put on a great event. Considering the bigger picture, everyone saw this all play out on a livestream!

The next day we raced around my old training grounds with Team Canada in the Belgian town of Tielt-Winge for Omloop van het Hageland. I was pleased to ride strong and sprint to third from a select group of riders for my first podium of the season!

Tourist moment in Italy 


Just over a week ago we tackled the first Women’s World Tour race, and my favourite event of the whole season, Strade Bianche. My training partners know that I love a good adventure ride, and these rides usually involve gravel. We have a lot of gravel roads rather than cobbles in Canada. Strade Bianche is a yearlong excuse to train on these roads and justify my dirty bike. 

The race itself is just epic and beautiful, tackling some of the toughest gravel sections and climbs around Tuscany. There is always a worthy winner, as it takes grit and perseverance, along with smart tactics to come out on top.

Before heading to Sienna, the team had our one tourist moment of the year in Pisa. Usually we travel, race, then leave a country without seeing or doing anything a typical tourist might do. I would rather experience a country by bike anyways and meet locals through racing, but it is also fun to occasionally play the tourist game.

For Strade Bianche this year, we wanted to race dominant from the start, and decided to put the pressure on from some of the very first gravel sections. I suffered driving the pace with Coryn and my teammate Juliette. Lucinda put in a strong attack on the fifth and longest section, and then it was non-stop attacks and reshuffling until the end. My day was done at this point having given everything to set up the team and also suffering from a bit of a cold, so I tried to enjoy the rest of my ride through the Tuscan hills. Janneke was our top finisher in 8th at the end, not the result we were hoping for, but I am sure if we keep our fighting spirit, then the results will come!

Time to get all that dust out of my ears and my lungs, kick this cold, and recover for the next races. 

Siena – Italy – wielrennen – cycling – cyclisme – radsport – Kirchmann Leah (Canada / Sunweb) pictured during Strade Bianche for women, on 9 march 2019 – UCI WWT – worldtour – photo Anton Vos/Cor Vos © 2019

In light of the heart-breaking recent news, I also just wanted to send my condolences to the friends, family and teammates of Kelly Catlin. We are all a big family in the cycling world, and her presence will be missed in the peloton. Kelly made a lasting impression on me when she rode as part of the Nature Valley Grand Prix Collegiate All-stars team in 2014 when I was there racing with Optum. She was new in the peloton, and just so strong, winning the best amateur jersey at the race. I also heard that this powerhouse rider was majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Chinese. It was clear that this smart and talented woman was going places! RIP Kelly, you will be missed. 

Photo of Kelly on Nature Valley podium ( photo from Jonathan Devich)


I will be back in April with an update, until then you can follow me on Instagram @leahkirchmann or Twitter @L_Kirch

Leah 

Dani Rowe’s Trofeo Binda Preview

So my predictions weren’t bad for Strade Bianche with Anna Van Der Breggen finishing 9th Ashleigh Moolman Pasio finishing 6th & unfortunately Amanda Spratt crashing out of the race. Massive congratulations to Annemiek Van Vleuten for winning the race in spectacular form after coming back from injury, I believe she’s going to be so dominant this year after following her journey back & seeing how much hard work she’s put in over the winter. 

Coming up next is the next round of the UCI WWT, Trofeo Binda another one of my personal favourites which includes some short steep power climbs which usually decide the final of the race after laps of attrition or race deciding moves going on these climbs. The race is a total of 131km and starts with a big lap which is generally quite controlled before entering the finish circuit of 4 laps with 2 major climbs. One being short & steep with the critical part being positioning near the front before the narrow entrance of the climb. The second isn’t as steep but longer at around 3km at 4%. It’s harder for the pure climbers to drop the more powerful riders on this climb so the damage is generally done on the stepper one before hand. 

Usually the winning move goes on the short steep climb with a small group getting over the second longer climb to battle it out to the finish. Last year the race was won solo by Kasia Niewiadoma with a 23 second lead over Chantal black who won the sprint of the small group for 2nd & Marianne Vos in 3rd. 

I spoke to Kasia who said “I like this race and coming back to Italy always gives me good feelings! Personally I think that this race is very interesting! You cannot say that it suits climbers or sprinters! Everyone can win this battle, it depends on your team plan and others tactics! It’s very unpredictable and you have to be attentive and ready to fight ever since the start is given! Last year was brutal mostly because of very bad weather! We were fighting with mother nature more than with each other! I felt good on that day and being from Poland somehow helps me to survive or just ride better in bad conditions so I could use that advantage ! Going to Italy this year I don’t think about defending my victory but about racing well and smart with my team! Once we do it I believe we can surprise ourself with a great result.” 

So having ridden this race a few times before it’s so hard to predict as like Kasia mentioned both climbers and sprinters are in for a chance. My predictions for this year are:

  1. Chantal Blaak 
  2. Marianne Vos 
  3. Marta Bastianelli

The wind of change by UCI

I have never been to the HQ of the UCI in Aigle. But at the moment I do imagine it being a little bit like a start-up company in Silicon Valley where every employer has to come up with a new idea daily.

There have been a lot of new things being announced by the UCI lately. Some have been highly needed and inevitable like introducing a women junior race during Cyclo-cross Worlds, some don’t even deserve that we talk about it again like the mixed TTT Worlds. Others have been long awaited, like the one announcing minimum salary for women. Latest was of course absolutely necessary even if I believe that that project still needs to be finalized a bit more in order to satisfy everyone, the riders of course but also the teams and mostly maybe the small development teams.

Quick review for those who missed the news. In 2023 Glasgow and its Scottish surroundings will host the World championships of not only road cycling but literally of every UCI discipline except Cyclo-Cross. It will include all Track events, all MTB events, BMX and Trial events, paracycling, Indoor cycling and the not to be missed trendy Grand Fondo event. During 2 weeks, just like the Olympics, the best cyclists in the world will meet in Scotland. The first edition of the Cyclympics will be 2023 and it is supposed to be held every 4 years, just like the Olympics. Why not add a e-race as a 14th event? The Zwift Kiss Super League still has time to grow a bit until 2023.

picture: Cycling is more then road racing 

It is a good idea and there are obviously lots of reasons to be excited about this novelty. It will be a mega event, and people love mega events. So do the TV and the sponsors. The recent multi-sport European Championships held commonly by Glasgow and Berlin have been the latest prove. During the ten days of competition a total of 567 million hours of sport have been on schedule through 44 different broadcasters, TV and radio mostly. In Germany f.ex 43 million people watched at least on event. The broadcasting also allowed smaller events to rise their audience, just like during the Olympics.

The same could happen to the Cyclympics. The UCI probably won’t have any problem selling the TV hours to the broadcasters. It is only a guess of mine that the UCI expects a bigger financial benefit of one mega event then trying to sell the events separately. Selling a– all or nothing- package to the public will of course mean we will get to see all the events. The less known disciplines such as Indoor cycling or trial will be delighted and the para-athletes can show that they compete not only during the Paraolympics.

Picture: The change for other disciplines to step up! This is Laura Rissé from Luxembourg!

It isn’t a surprise that, still inspired by the success of the European Championships, Glasgow offered themselves to be the first ever host of the Cyclympics. Well, it could be a surprise nevertheless. The 91 million £ hosting costs of this event could have stopped Glasgow to invest again a huge amount of money into a sport event only a few years later. Europeans might have helped the Scottish economy due to the perfect coverage of the event, but will the Cyclympics have the same impact?

And while Glasgow appears to be the perfect partner for this kind of event (it has the political will to promote their city through sport and all the biggest infrastructures are already existing), which city can take the relay in 2027? If we consider only infrastructures, we have to go back to Copenhagen in 2011 to find a city that has already a Velodrome ready to be used for competition. But do they have the BMX and trial infrastructures needed? Bergen probably held one of the most beautiful and brilliant road world championships of the last few years but the public success of the event didn’t avoid putting the Norwegian federation under bankruptcy threat. Now imagine they would have to build all still needed infrastructures to host the Cyclympics. So, who’s next?

picture: Bergen 2017 the big party was followed by a financial disaster (picture berger2017)

And the athlete in all this? If you look at the idea with innocent eyes you will find it great. It looks like it will give us athletes the opportunity to come together, to share the experience of worlds together, to bring together disciplines that never meet, to help smaller events become bigger, more popular, share our passion with more spectators and help inspiring the next generation through a wider spectrum. That’s the usual drill.

But what about the details? The Olympics are well known to bring athletes together because of the Olympic village. We share the same accommodation, the same food, the same transport facilities. All this encourages to exchange with other athletes, countries, cultures. I don’t think the Cyclympics can create the same spirit. There won’t be a Cyclympic village. Every nation will be on is own in their own hotel. The bigger nations, all the disciplines reunited, will have a that huge delegation that it will probably not even fit in one single hotel. I am afraid the sharing and caring won’t even happen within one country’s team.

Photo: Take me to the future: Olympic village plan for Paris 2024

But more important let’s talk about the sporting terms. I know traditions should be broken from time to time but I do have a little concern about the change of calendar the Cyclympics will bring us. Bringing worlds from September forward to August isn’t much of a deal for the roadies. It might even bring new opportunities for several riders. Staying at the highest level until end of September isn’t always possible especially if you have a big program throughout the year. Having the most important race a month earlier will make it maybe easier to peak for worlds without having to sacrifice on other races during the year. The same counts for MTB riders.

On the other hand if you are a track rider, moving worlds from March to August is a big change. Also knowing that the World cup series probably won’t be moved and will still be held during the winter, there won’t be so much races beforehand Worlds where riders can efficiently prepare for their biggest race of the season.

And now imagine you are one of those riders that successfully combines two or even more disciplines during a year. You do so because the calendar allows you to do so. There was enough time to prepare specifically for one event, then rest and move on to the other event later in the year. Having everything together now will make things way more complicated or even impossible.

But everyone loves multi-discipline riders. The UCI is the first one proudly talking about riders like Neff or PFP who compete in three different disciplines. But bringing everything together will only reinforce specialisation of the riders and we might not be able to see riders racing and winning across different disciplines anymore. Even Peter Sagan had to choose between the road and the MTB during the Olympics in Rio. And if Superman Sagan has to choose means it really isn’t possible, because with Sagan normally nothing is impossible.

There is another point of the calendar that bothers me a little bit. Here is the picture: You become world champion on the track in August 2023. When are the championships held the year after? Logic wants the normal schedule to be back in between two Cyclympics, meaning February/March 2024. Does that mean the World champion 2023 won’ t be World champion for a year but maybe only for half a year? If that’s the case 2023 probably won’t be best year to become world champion.

Picture: The moment you realize you get to wear the jersey only 6 months

I love new ideas. Doing always the same thing can be boring and boring is never good. Unfortunately these days I have the feeling the UCI wants to bring up new things at all costs without considering everyone’s opinion, especially the athletes opinion. Ideas are great but don’t they need a bit more time and reflection and discussion in order to develop into a great long-time project? Because the wind of change needs to be a steady wind and not only a windblast that comes and goes.

Christine.

Rivals and Friends.

Cycling is different from other sports in a myriad of different ways. One of the things about professional bike racers that I find the most intriguing is that, although riders ride for trade teams (that are technically based in different places around the world) they live in cycling havens that tend to attract a bunch of different racers from different trade teams that then all ride together every day, get coffee together, have dinner clubs, but when the racing rolls around they are racing against each other.

Tell me, in what other sport do the rival players literally do their training together?

For other team sports (because cycling is a team sport), they live in the same city and have practices together almost daily. Soccer (football…), hockey, basketball, etc, they all train as a team. For cycling, if you find yourself in Girona, Spain you’ll probably spot group rides that consist of 3+ members of all different teams riding out to train together. This is actually super bizarre, if you think about it. You’re letting your competitors know exactly how strong you are, what form you’re in.

The riders themselves don’t think of it that way. Everyone is friends off the bike. There are classic cycling BFF’s that ride for different teams, one that comes to mind was the iconic duo of Loren Rowney and Carlee Taylor that gave me serious jealousy feels following them both on social media. In theory, training can only fill you in on so much of someones fitness and most riders prefer to do intervals solo, however, the fact that rivals will spend hours and hours joking and laughing together and then go to races and be fierce competitors is one of the true beauties of cycling. And it’s not just the women. The men also have buddies on different teams who ride together on the reg. There are some guys who will be just as happy to see a friend on a rival team win as their own teammates. Some of this I think comes down to that there are a lot of races throughout the year and someone new will win tomorrow, so it’s not a massive loss.

Of course, everyone would rather their own team win, but I still get all kinds of feels when my favorite humans on other teams win races. At the end of the day, in this professional circus of bike racing, we’re all on the ride together. It’s hard to have friends outside of the sport because of all the traveling and time away from home, so cyclists find friends in each other regardless of the colour of the jersey.

We’re brought together by a mutual love of two wheels, pain in the legs, and sun on our faces. We also tend to have other things in common, since the sport attracts a specific type of mind. Conversations in the peloton barely touch on the sport itself or gossip, but rather talk about life, deep topics from the heart, and most of the time food. Personally, I came to this sport for the bike but I’ve stayed because I’ve found a community of people like no other, regardless of what teams they ride for. Some of my closest friends ride for opposing teams, and some ride for the same team as I do. There are riders who I know from living in Girona who I’m not teammates with but dream of some day having the same colours on our backs and going to the same training camps.

It’s an incredible sport, cycling, really unlike any other. 

Tour of Scotland the silver lining for Katie Archibald after Worlds disappointment

“Yes I’m well, thanks…. Actually, no that was a total lie.”

Fresh from the Track World Championships in Pruszkow, Poland, Katie Archibald isn’t sure how she is feeling, or indeed how she should be feeling. The Olympic champion and world record holder crashed out of the omnium in the final points race, and despite finishing, was told to withdraw from her chosen event, the Madison on medical grounds.

She had stepped up to take Laura Kenny’s spot, after the four-time Olympic gold medallist withdrew with illness, after the duo, joined by Elinor Barker and Ellie Dickinson, rode to a silver medal in the women’s team pursuit, behind Australia.

But this cloud does not have a silver lining. At least not yet, for Scotswoman Archibald.

“I am hideously sad,” she admitted. “But there’s not just one emotion. It’s a confusing and painful mix and I’m in a position when I’m trying to figure out how I should feel, what’s justified, what’s not. I had spent 12 months targeting the Madison and then not being able to contest it… I didn’t take it very well. But it’s my birthday next week, so maybe I can reflect with a bit more grace another year older.”

Straight back to it, Archibald was speaking from the launch of the Women’s Tour of Scotland, a brand new, stand-alone women’s race to be raced across Scotland, from Dundee, to Glasgow, to Edinburgh.

Women’s Tour of Scotland Katie Archibald MBE

And while the 24-year-old readily admits success on the road is not her calling in the next 12 months with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games looming, it will be the biggest part of her road season this year.

“It will be amazing riding for the Scottish Cycling Team. Outside of the Commonwealth Games, we don’t get much chance to do that. I’ll take a lot of pleasure from that,” she said.

“It’s pretty cool we have a stand-alone women’s race in Scotland and I’m very proud. It’s not a piggy-back event, this is going to be a first. The organisers are putting the sort of prize money up you’d expect from a men’s race of this standard, so there are lots of things to shout about.

“This is a three-stage race but the organisers have the vision to keep expanding. That is so cool. There is longevity and this race should be a prominent feature of the UCI. It will be a fantastic event and putting this event on shows event organiser, sponsors, fans have confidence that women’s racing can stand on it’s own two feet.

“The best teams in the world are turning up for a stage race in Scotland. That is pretty cool.”

The Women’s Tour of Scotland is on 9-11 August. The three-stage race will cover 360km.

Stage One: Dundee to Dunfermline – 103km

Stage Two: Glasgow to Perth – 139.4km

Stage Three: Edinburgh to Edinburgh – 118.3km

I train to race. Part Two.

If you didn’t read my previous blog, I’d just had an awesome time on a ‘training holiday’ in Majorca after a tough start to 2018.

I returned home at a pretty perfect time; just after the chaotic ‘Beast from the East’ weather event had hit the UK. Brits seem to be known to talk about the weather, and with us being in a temperate climate, you can imagine the shutdown the country went into when the temperatures dropped below 0 degrees and some fluffy white stuff fell from the sky!!

My friends and family were pretty jealous of my Spanish tan, and it didn’t fade much as I returned to great weather in Norfolk; sunny and fairly warm, so yeah, pretty good timing!

I was soon into my training routine back at home and focusing on some exciting upcoming races. I had been working with my new coach since the beginning of March just before heading out to Majorca. We were still getting to know how each other work but I could tell from the first few conversations that we’d get on well; and he’s still coaching me a year later so all must be good!
He used to be a pro rider himself so has lots of experience as well as more formal knowledge involving numbers, and I have always had an interest in the numbers and analysis. In fact, I think if I wasn’t cycling I’d probably be involved in sports science and human anatomy subjects.


I can call Dan whenever I like and he’s always got time for me. I think It’s great to have this kind of rider/coach relationship where we’re both open and respect each other. 
I’ve always been one to ask many questions, and Dan will definitely agree here! But I like to know why I’m doing something, what, how, when etc so I can commit and am on board with the plan; mainly in my training but also in life generally.

So next up on the calendar was actually my first ever Elite UCI race: The Tour de Yorkshire. I don’t really like the ‘it was a great experience’ phrase because I kind of feel like I didn’t achieve much and was just a passenger, but for this race- and I’m sure more to come in the future as I’m now a first year Elite rider- this seemed an appropriate phrase to use. I expected more of myself, but with it being my first road race of the year (in May) I think I went in at the deep end to be riding my first Elite UCI race as an early 19 year old with World Tour riders and champions! 


Yorkshire put on a brilliant show in ‘God’s own country’, the home crowds were sometimes 6 rows deep and my no.1 supporter-Dad-was cheering amongst the buzzing atmosphere too! 

For the first time I felt what it was like to be in the middle of a World class peloton; initially a little intimidating but that soon fizzled out and you just get on with racing the other bike riders around you. In front, behind, left and right. I dislike being in the middle of the peloton, so where possible I try to keep to the edge and near the front. Yes it does take more energy, as one’s pushing the wind more, but it’s a decision I make on the road. 

Overall my results were nothing to write home about, however, ‘it was a great experience’.

Next up was the first round of the British Elite National series beginning at the well-known Lincoln GP. This was good to get my race legs going again, and a result (6th) which I knew I could improve upon in rounds to come.

Thanks again for taking the time to read this. My next blog will talk about getting myself out to Germany to race a MTB World Cup, almost getting the win at the next British road race round and winning my first  National Elite Women’s MTB race.

Happy International Women’s Day #BalanceforBetter

Happy International Women’s Day! To celebrate, as the female cycling community and its wonderful fans and followers continue to push for greater recognition and equality, we asked our brilliant bloggers to tell us about a woman in their lives that has inspired them AND a quote that has motivated them in their cycling career.

Get ready for goosebumps. Get ready to be inspired. Here’s what they had to say.

Leah Kirchmann – Team Sunweb

For International Women’s day, I want to give a shout out to my friend Lynne Laporte in Vancouver, badass business owner of the gym Enhanced Performance along with her husband Cian (who is also an amazing human being!)

I first met Lynne when she travelled as my female chaperone for mountain bike races as a junior. We reconnected out west in Canada when I moved for university and we became good friends, spending lots of time on mountain adventures and cooking delicious and nourishing meals. Lynne’s warm and open personality draws people to her, and clients quickly become friends and part of the community.

She is one of the most open and non-judgmental people I’ve met, and encourages everyone to get the best out of themselves. Lynne inspires me to dream big, take risks, contribute to the community, and strive for balance in all parts of my life!

Leah Kirchman and teammate Coryn Rivera

A book that I would recommend for female athletes to read is ‘Roar’ by Stacy Sims. She understands that women have specific needs when it comes to health and performance, and that we cannot simply rely on data from studies done using only men!

Ella Harris – Canyon SRAM

A woman who inspires me in cycling is Kate McIlroy, a New Zealand Olympian and a three-time Commonwealth Games athlete in three different sports.

There are two quotes that I keep close to me and use:
“I feel very adventurous. There are so many doors to be opened, and I’m not afraid to look behind them.” Elizabeth Taylor, British-American actress.

Ella Harris

“I never, ever grew up as a young woman believing that my gender would stand in the way of doing anything I wanted.” Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

Dani Rowe

When people think about who inspires them you generally hear about famous sports idols who have achieved the pinnacles of their sport but for me as much as I am inspired by these women I also have so many friends & family members who inspire me on a daily basis. One of these is my sister- Sarah.

She sets her alarm for 4.40am on a Monday morning to do a HIIT workout session before driving 2 hours to work in a school where she is not currently being paid to complete her training to become a PE teacher. I’m constantly asking her for advice… from outfits to wear, house inspiration or some new workouts for me to try, even though she’s my younger sister.

Dani Rowe, Jess Roberts and Ellie Dickinson at the 2018 National Championships

Looking back I can only now appreciate how supportive she was throughout my cycling career. She would joke that she was the ‘shitter’ daughter but I never felt she was jealous, only ever my biggest supporter. She used to tell me how proud she was of me but I always felt she deserved so much more credit for how she lives her life and works so hard. She is the most thoughtful person I’ve ever met.

Tanja Erath – Canyon SRAM

I worked in visceral surgery with a young doctor in her 30s. Visceral surgery can be a pretty male-dominated function. She was the only woman working full time with one female senior, who worked half time. She used to be a nurse before studying medicine, just like me, and I loved watching her and the way she worked.

Not only was she technically really good, it felt like she looked at her patients in a different way to the men around her. She would listen, she would ask questions, show respect and never treat somebody from “above”. She always seemed to find the right words and the right way to treat someone, whether it was a patient, nurse, chief or me as a junior.

She showed me that surgery doesn’t mean you have to start getting “cold”, less empathetic or snooty in the way you treat others. She showed me, that you can be a badass surgeon but still be a nurse at heart.

And here’s to all the nurses that I worked with. For sure there are a few male nurses, but the number is very, very small. A lot of women I met there were so caring, so selfless, but so strong and powerful. During that time I met the most impressive characters in my life.

Tanja Erath and fellow riders from the women’s peloton

Elena Cecchini – Canyon SRAM

My Mum is my example and the woman I look up to. She’s never been a sportsperson but she supports me through my journey and I hope I will be as good as her as a mum and wife one day.

World champions – Elena Cecchini and Canyon Sram teammates

A quote I use in life is “Ad maiora”, a Latin sentence that means “always fight for better” or “always strive for more”. I think is a cool idea to follow, in my job and in my life in general, as a cyclist and as a woman. 

Dani Rowe’s Strade Bianche Preview

So my blogs are going to look a little bit different this year. Now I’m not racing myself we thought it would be cool for me to write from a different perspective and do some pre race previews. 


The first UCI Women’s World Tour race of 2019 is the prestigious Strade Bianche- the white roads classic! This is the women’s 5th year of having this race in the calendar & is one of my personal favourites. The race is 136 kilometres long, racing from Siena to Siena with 30 kilometres on gravel roads.

The finale is at the illustrious Piazza del Campo after a short and steep climb which has always been the deciding factor of the race. The race requires strength, race craft & the ability to ride over gravel on all terrains. The winner of this race is always a worthy one & in fine form for the beginning of the season!

Hannah Barnes, Canyon // SRAM Strade Bianche 2018.

Last years winner was Anna Van Der Breggen who went on to win multiple races topping her season off with winning the ultimate World road race championships. 2nd was Kasia Niewiadoma & 3rd Elisa Longo Borghini. The race is generally most critical before each gravel section with riders wanting to be in the best position possible to allow themselves to avoid crashes and make sure they are in contention to follow any attacks. 
I also believe you have to have luck on your side in a race like Strade with so many gravel sections, puncturing or a crash is more likely so will always make for a super exciting race.


I spoke to Annemiek van Vleuten who said – 
“Last year was first of all a big battle against the extreme weather. And the race has a beautiful but really hard final which I really like. The race has some steep climbing, of course the off-road sections and sometimes also a lot of wind and rain so I guess you have to be able to handle this.”

Anna started the 2019 season with MTB racing which lends itself perfectly to this race. There are so many different places to attack with multiple climbs, gravel sections and twisty roads, I cannot wait to see how it pans out this year. 


It’s hard for me to predict a winner of the race, with it being the first women’s world tour race of the season but what I can guarantee is that the winner will be hugely deserving. 
I’m going to put my neck on the line and go for the top 3 being: 
1. Anna Van Der Breggen

2. Amanda Spratt

3. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio 

Make sure you follow @voxwomen on twitter as they will be bringing the race coverage to you, watch this prestigious race unfold. Tweet your predictions of who you think the top 3 will be, by tagging them @voxwomen.

Good luck to all riders racing on Saturday, Dani!

A SHORT WINTER

Hello again to everyone, 

What I didn’t expect around this time in 2018 happened: 
I extended my contract with CANYON//SRAM and therefore I keep on living my dream. 

I’m happy to not only be back with the team, but also as a Blogger for Voxwomen in 2019.

Furthermore the extension allowed me to have my first proper and professional season preparation after last years start was kind of “throwing myself in the deep end”:

With The Zwift Academy finals in December, a small break afterwards, one team camp in February and the season kick off right afterwards. 

Before I became a part of the team I always wondered how a „pro season prep“ looks like. That’s why I’d like to share the progress of my current season preparation with you. 

Spoiler alter: It was a short winter! 

The preparation started in November, around a week after my last race of the season 2018 in China, with a training camp in Mallorca. The camp with the German Track National team. Luckily for me, the track team is not very interested in a lot of climbing (because neither am I ;-)) So I could start with some easy miles and not too much suffering. 
Summed up: ten days of mainly flat, a few hilly and some strength endurance climbing rides in the legs. I guess my muscles even forgot what lactate feels like. But that wouldn’t last for long….

Only a few days later, according to the upcoming Track World Cup in Berlin, we all met again. This time in the less sunny Frankfurt (Oder) for the team pursuits final preparation. My legs were suddenly and painfully reminded what lactate feels like (a lot of lactate), during a week of high intensity and maximum effort sessions on the track. 

A roster of five girls, four riders and one backup rider, made their way to Berlin and extended the preparation till race day. I got selected as the backup rider, which I was pretty pleased with as this was my first time in the TP constellation ever. Even though I didn’t race in the end, it was an amazing experience. I enjoyed every second, well not every second. Actually a 16 second lead can be pretty long 😀 And who knows? Maybe the next time I’ll make it one step further. 

One step further in the preparation and five days later I left to team camp with CANYON//SRAM in Málaga. 
On the menu: Basemiles, teambuiling, sponsor meetings and loads of climbing!!! 
Our „epic ride“ up to the Sierra Nevada included 3721 altitude meters and was followed by a two hour hike in the snow. Pizza and tiramisu afterwards were very well deserved. 

Peaceful and calm Christmas days at home followed, before I left to my third training camp on New Year’s Day. 
Again with the National team and again to Mallorca. We continued the build up of the last two months with even more base miles, more climbing, some strength endurance and some speed work for the legs. Of course we always combine our rides with core sessions. In Mallorca I also try to swim every day after the rides. For me swimming is a combination of core training, stretching and some relaxation. 

Due to snow and cold weather I spent the 3 weeks after the third and prior my last camp mainly on Zwift for intensive sessions and my easier outdoor rides on the Mountain bike. 

So it was February already when I left for the final camp in Gandia, Spain, with CANYON//SRAM. This time less climbing, but good basemiles and quite some speedwork for the legs. After the first campweek six of us even raced the UCI 1.2 race Vuelta CV Féminas and we were able to start the season with a success. With a young and rather inexperienced team, my roomie Alice (Barnes) took second in the bunch sprint. It seems that even with tired legs you can race fast 🙂 

So overall my cold winter “month” were 6 weeks long. Can’t complain about that, I still remember what 5 month of winter feel like.  

Most important I stayed healthy with a good mindset and I am ready for racing. 

Let’s get this season started!

Tanja!2

World champion Anna van der Breggen relishing new challenges in 2019

It’s not often the world champion feels like “a new girl at school” on the bike. But that feeling of nervous-excitement is exactly what is motivating Anna van der Breggen ahead of the 2019 season. 

She is a rider who has basically won it all. From Strade Bianche, Fleche Wallonne, Tour of Flanders and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, there is barely a big race left in the calendar the reigning Olympic champion has not conquered. And last year, she completed a “perfect” season with a 40km solo effort to win the World Championships on a brutally tough course in Innsbruck, Austria. 

Jip van den Bos

While racing in the rainbow stripes offers motivation aplenty to make 2019 a success, Van der Breggen also finds a mental and physical refresh off-road and has big plans for the season ahead, including racing the Cyprus Sunshine Cup Afxentia stage race, and the brutal Cape Epic alongside 2016 mountain bike cross-country world champion Annika Langvard in South Africa in March. 

“When I go to race on the road, you do the same things every year. I don’t even do recces anymore! You know the circuits, the hotels. But in mountain bike everything is new and it feels so different, that’s a feeling I like,” she told Voxwomen.

“I have this opportunity to do this really tough, hard stage race. I have only just started really in mountain bike, but I am trying to be as good as possible – to race like this, I don’t know how to do it, so it will be one big adventure. And it is really special Annika is doing it with me – to have the world champion as your teacher is really special. It is nice for me to do something different. 

Etienne Schoeman

“Mountain bike riding is great training for me as I’m not really an explosive rider on the road. In mountain biking, they train so hard, they are so strong, so tough. I have to recover really well after it, and it’s training I do not get on the road. It works really well.”

The 28-year-old’s road season starts at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Strade Bianche, before she heads to Cape Epic. And while she readily accepts matching the jaw-dropping success she had last season will be incredibly difficult to match, proudly racing in the rainbow jersey is simply a source of pleasure, not pressure.  

“You think about something for such a long time, every training session, and in the moment you stand on the podium, you realise that jersey is yours. It felt so special and it still is. Everytime I look at my bike, at my kit, I train in the rainbow stripes, I am so proud,” Van der Breggen reflected. 

George Deswijzen

“I am going to enjoy wearing that jersey. I have worked so hard for many years to get it and it is really special you get to ride in it for one year. 2019 is a year for me of enjoying being a cyclist and being part of a team who are really motivated. 

“As cyclists, there is always pressure, there are always goals. One goal this year is to enjoy it all a bit more.” 

Speaking to Van der Breggen before a race, you are struck by how relaxed she is. There are no obvious signs of jitters or nerves, no peaks and troughs in mood or stature. She is calm, poker-faced, and ready. She has a pragmatic and mature approach and attitude to racing befitting of a champion. The World Championships however were slightly different. 

“I was nervous before the World Championships, more than other races,” she admitted. 

“I knew the circuit was suitable for me and I had a good opportunity to win, to become world champion. That doesn’t come around often, you only have one chance. I was focused, excited, but the prospect is also a bit scary. 

“But ultimately, all you can do is your best. If someone is faster or stronger than you, and you did your best, that’s all.”

George Deswijzen

A chatty and relaxed Van der Breggen was speaking from training camp in Spain, after an off-season which saw the four-time winner of Fleche Wallonne get married and enjoy her honeymoon.

And with four new riders to welcome into the Boels Dolmans family, the threat of new superteams Trek Segafredo and CCC, plus the likes of old enemies Mitchelton Scott and Team Sunweb, Van der Breggen is excited by how women’s cycling continues to grow. 

Jip van den Bos

“Girls are getting stronger and better, and we need that in women’s cycling. It is exciting in a new season to see how young girls are developing. Cecilie (Uttrup Ludwig) will always be a good climber and she’s developing now Ashleigh (Moolman Pasio) has moved to CCC. Ashleigh of course is one to watch in the Spring Classics, as well as Amanda (Spratt) and Annemiek (van Vleuten). 

“In the sprint, Letizia Paternoster is a young rider to watch, and got the first win for Trek Segafredo. It is nice we have a new women’s team like that, good for women’s cycling and I’m curious to see how they go. They look really strong.” 

And what of former teammate and Trek Segafredo rider Lizzie Deignan, back after having a baby last September? 

“Lizzie is a really strong rider and I really enjoyed that period when we were teammates,” Van der Breggen said. “With the World Championships in Yorkshire, this is a very important season for her. It’s great that she tries again – it shows it’s not impossible, not limiting to have a child and come back on the highest level. I really have respect for that and hope she does well in her own country. 

“The climbs are shorter and steeper in the Worlds this year, and that kind of racing suits a lot of riders. It will be hard to defend the jersey. I’ll see how the season goes, and then work towards them again.” 

Relaxed and motivated, resplendent in the rainbow stripes, pressure is off for Van der Breggen in 2019. And that might just mean she is a bigger threat than ever before.