Christine Majerus – How to nail your break

While a lot of riders prepare to race Giro Rosa, unlike last year I decided to skip the Italian race this year. I am not necessarily a big fan of this race, for several reasons which go from “I am not Italian” to “I don’t like racing in high temperatures” . But the most serious reason is that I planned my season slightly different this year compared to the years before. With more races on the calendar, some of the races I planned to be good at changed dates, making a traditional mid-season break in May impossible. So I opted for two smaller breaks instead, one begin of april and one now first week July. I have been racing every week over the past two months starting at Tour of Yorkshire and with two hard stage races, Bira and Women’s Tour, and lots of traveling, it was really about time to put the bike aside for a few days. August and September have some nice races still to offer and if I want to be a valuable rider for the team there, riding the Giro would be the worst idea ever, and I learned out of my mistakes from last year. 

Time to put the bike away for a few days!
Eloise Mavian / Tornanti.cc

So here I am, bikes locked away, thinking about how I can plan those few days to recover in the best way possible but still avoiding boredom. Tip and Tricks to follow:

  • Get off social media

I better start with the hardest tip and trick. I really hope there are still people in the world not addicted to social media, but most of the people I know in cycling definitely are, me included. While it is a great tool to share our stories, to make our sponsors happy, to keep in touch with friends or to kill time while being on the road, it is also without any doubt the most efficient way to lose your time and to prevent you from doing way more important things. While it might help to stay in touch with people you don’t see that often, it also keeps you away from taking a break from what you are doing day in, day out. So better stay away from it for a few days. Most of the time I just delete all or part of my apps from my phone. It might be frustrating at the start but after a while it gets easier. Try it and let me know how long it took you before opening your Appstore again.

  • Get things done you were too tired to do before

I have been feeling pretty tired the past few weeks and doing anything that needed my brain to work a minimum wasn’t really possible to do. I have for example been pushing backwards the writing of this blog for a few weeks already. Now I feel like I have time to settle down and think about an interesting subject or a nice way to write what I had in mind. There is a lot more on my To Do list, but I feel confident that by the end of the week all the list will be well done and not quickly and wrongly done. After a few days off you shouldn’t hide behind a “I am too tired for this” anymore. You can finally mow the lawn, before it turns hopelessly into a jungle, take your friends out to the restaurant because you don’t fall asleep anymore before 8pm or watch a movie and actually watch it until the end. A whole new world might await for you.

Finally time and energy to give the car a well deserved wash…
  • Don’t wear casual team clothing

When I have the chance to go on holiday during my break, I try to pack only non-team casual clothing. This might be a small detail, but not having to wear what you have to wear the whole year turns the break into a real holiday. We are lucky enough at Boels Dolmans to have great casual clothing and after 5 years on the team my stock of team clothing outreached my normal clothing by far. It would actually be way easier for me to just always wear my team clothing, but I have noticed that there is something satisfying about getting to wear the clothing you have actually chosen and bought yourself. Call me mental, but I swear it helps switching off.

We love our Lululemon team clothing but from time to time its nice to wear something different
Eloise Mavian / Tornanti.cc
  • Stay active but differently

In between races, travelling and training we all try to avoid any other physical activity in order to recover well in-between the sessions. While offseason breaks offer the possibility to do different sports (some are even running marathons…) I try to do the same during my midseason breaks but in less extreme. Not doing anything makes me turn nuts, doing too much won’t allow me to get the needed recovery, so I always try to find a good middle way. I try not do to anything for the first half of my break ( 3-4 days) and doing what I feel like the rest of the week. It might just be nothing as it might be smaller coffee rides, a swim in the pool, a paddle across the lake or a sunset walk. Not feeling more tired than before, and feeling happy and satisfied about my activity is all that counts. No Garmin, no rules.

Do something different
  • Break the rhythm

My normal training days are well scheduled. I get up at 8 am (my teammates like to tell everyone I am always the first one to be awake but that is just a rumor) and if the weather is ok I will get on my bike at 10 am. From there on, it is my training plan that dictates the rest of my day. If for a reason or another (appointment, bad weather) I am not able to leave for training at 10 I get a little bit annoyed. It just feels like I have to run behind schedule the whole day. During your break you shouldn’t have any schedule. I know not putting alarms is a luxury professional athletes have and I promise I don’t abuse of it out of respect of everyone else, but during my break I feel like I deserved staying in bed a little bit longer and not having to stress about being on my bike on time. Just let yourself float through the day.

It’s ok to hang around a little bit longer!
  • Watch Giro Rosa  and the Tour de France

Finally this time of the year is actually perfect to turn yourself into a lazy couch potato, probably the most efficient way to recover from anything. Because even if I might not be racing Giro Rosa, I still follow the race and especially my teammates. We have a strong team aligned so I am really curious about how they will race. The good thing this year is that I will be able to see some more race coverage, as Voxwomen will provide a one hour highlight show everyday. If you add this to an afternoon watching the Tour de France, my afternoons will be super busy. 

Unfortunately this break only lasts one week, so before I can apply all these tips and tricks myself, I will be back to business as usual and sitting in the car driving to the BENE Tour will come way too early. But because it does I will enjoy the few days off even more.

“This is a dream for me” – Riding Tour de France with InternationElles

In our latest InternationElles blog, we meet team rider Helen Bridgman

I started cycling about seven years ago when my knees, hips and frankly most of my joints were screaming at me that it was time to give up netball finally after 25+ years! I dabbled with a bit of triathlon first but got bitten by the cycling bug good and proper when I started racing two years ago. Since then I’ve done a bit of crit and road racing and TTs and I’ve just become accredited so I can give track racing a try too. I love the thrill of racing and the camaraderie. We may be rivals in the race but we have a laugh together the rest of the time!

After having a blast racing in the London Women’s Racing (LWR) leagues, I became a volunteer on the committee and I am now co-chair of LWR. In this role I try to demystify everything around racing, help make it more accessible and encourage more women to give it a try and discover the thrills of this cycling discipline.

I’ve taken part in many different sportives and events over the years. My problem is I just say yes to everything! My very first one was the inaugural London Revolution in 2012. I had to buy a road bike and learn how to ride in cleats just weeks before I did it with a team from work to raise money for charity. I cried at least once – when I fell off my bike because I was so tired I couldn’t unclip – but I loved it! Never shy of a challenge, since then I’ve done the Marmotte, Tour of Flanders, Maratona, Red Bull Time Laps and the Vatternrundan to name a few. I also rode for GB in the World amateur GF champs in Italy last year after breaking my collarbone in a race just eight weeks earlier.

I dabbled with audaxes earlier this year too, the longest of which was a 300km ride which took us from London almost to Stonehenge and back! Nothing, however, will come close to what I am about to undertake with my fellow InternationElles in July.

In every day life I work in marketing for a global law firm. It’s a very demanding job and it’s always been difficult to juggle work and training. I am very lucky that they have let me take a three month sabbatical to enable me to focus on the Tour. I’ve been making the most of it and training hard – lots of long rides mixed with interval training and plenty of double days too. I’ve been lucky to have lots of friends to ride with to keep it fun and social so it doesn’t feel too much like hard work!

The opportunity to join InternationElles was a dream for me and one that was too good to miss. I am passionate about equality in all walks of life and was quite frankly gobsmacked when I started to understand the uphill battles there are for women in cycling at every level from grassroots to professional. Everything from lack of media coverage, lack of races and paltry prize money needs to change. There’s a lot of infrastructure that needs building around the sport to ensure that having another grand stage race for women is successful. I am really hoping that this summer we can shine a spotlight on these issues to help bring about change as well as inspire others to get on their bikes. All of this will drive me to keep pedalling, even when things get really tough in the mountains!

IG: @helebridg

T: @CunliffeHelen

 

“I am so honoured to be part of InternationElles”

In the latest update from InternationalElles, we caught up with rider Lucy Ritchie… 

My name is Lucy Ritchie, and I am 44 years old. I hail from Aberdeenshire in NE Scotland, I am married to Kyle (also a keen cyclist). We have no children but two Labradors, Maggie and Pele. I have cycled since childhood but took up road cycling more seriously aged 39. I had been a runner previously but was suffering on/ off from pain in my hip and so turned to cycling for fitness.

Initially, I started commuting to and from work – a 35-mile round trip – and it was great stress relief. Sitting in traffic for two hours a day was soul-destroying! I started riding with my husband and his mates and was quite surprised that I could keep up, being described by them as ‘strong’! So, I guess after a bit of a mid-life crisis …(!) I decided to throw myself at cycling and see just what I could achieve.

I hired a coach, bought a better bike and started entering Sportives and small local races. By 2018, I had gained my Category 3 racing licence and represented Team GB at the UCI Amateur Gran Fondo World Championships in Albi, France (2017) and Varese, Italy (2018). Riding as part of the InternationElles seemed the next logical step in my journey, just the right level of craziness, pain, endurance and hopefully satisfaction when we have completed the route!

Training has been tough – not so much cycling but fitting it in around a full time, sometimes intense job, working as a geologist/ team lead for Shell U.K, whilst keeping house and trying to have some social life. Without Kyle picking up the slack, this would have been so much harder. He has been the perfect soigneur. I’ve returned home from some miserably cold and wet rides to find the bath run and a plate of food waiting. Thanks Kyle!

My coach, Rich, has been equally supportive, using my commutes to minimise time on the turbo and as constant source of encouragement when I literally could not face getting on my bike for another miserably cold and wet ride – bit of a theme here…

Kyle Mowbray

I am so honoured to be part of this amazing team and I hope our efforts go some way to changing attitudes and paving a way for future generations of cyclists, both male and female. It’s all about creating a balance but we need equal opportunity to achieve this and we should be celebrating the differences between men and women with inclusion not exclusion.

“Bring on those 21 stages and the voices to come out of it”

InternationalElles rider Alex Chart tells us her story… 

Our Year 11 leavers book had the theme of the Mr Men and I was Little Miss Extreme Sports…. slightly ironically given I had been put in the “reject” PE class (i.e. those of us with no hand eye coordination the teachers simply couldn’t be bothered with).  This was because I spent my holidays either skiing in winter or scuba diving in the summer (UK and abroad).

Little had anyone realised what was to come; 5 Ironman events, Half-Ironman’s, 14km river swims, World Championships road racing (amateur cyclists), Marathons, ever increasing distance cycling and now this… I was never the sporty type, and only knew of road cycling as that annual event where men cycled up mountains for 3 weeks in France.  A few friends’ dads had gone out to ride a stage of the Tour de France here or there, but never a female was spoken about on a bike.

So, when I was asked if I wanted to be part of this epic adventure of the InternationElles I didn’t need to think twice.  So much of my life has been in a “man’s world”.  Studying maths at university the majority of students around me were male, working in corporate finance – again all male and cycling in my local club, which is 95% male.  Every aspect of my life I have trodden a path that fights against the gender “norms”.  I’m a stubborn, determined person and will never allow someone to tell me what I can or cannot do. Cycling is no different.

I’ve joined this team to help bring the gender imbalance in the sport I love to light and to force people to talk about it.  The first step to equality is acknowledgement and discussion as to what the right thing to do is, this event can help that.

I’m terrified of the stages to come; the cobbles, the climbs, the descending, the weather, the saddle sore, the lack of sleep and the long journeys between stages.  I’ve loved the training building up to this; structured, focused, with a purpose.  Despite training as much as feasible, there is still so much unknown in what is to come.

Yet the one thing I know for certain is this needs to be done.  We need to speak out and we need people to listen.  We need to inspire the next generation to get on their bikes, regardless of gender, ethnicity or background.  Everyone should experience the freedom cycling brings, whether it be to move around their local town or to race with the world’s best.  Bring on those 21 stages and the voices to come out of it.

“I am nervous, I am excited, I am ready to suffer”

My name is Louise. This picture is me 30 years ago, in July in France on my bike. In fact, this picture was taken in 1989 – that was the last year there was a women’s Tour de France.

Now, if you’d have told 11-year-old Lou that one day she would ride the whole Tour de France she would have been amazed. Wind forward 10 years, 21-year-old Lou wouldn’t believe you, she had just finished uni and didn’t even own a bike. Another 10 years later and 31-year-old Lou wouldn’t have believed you either, she had a six-month old baby and still didn’t own a bike. 

Then something happened over the next decade of my life. Change. Massive change. The positive changes were I had another baby and I bought a bike to get some of my pre-baby fitness back. I’d been recommended to start cycling after repeated running injuries. The not-so-positive changes were the breakdown of my marriage and the dark days of some mental health issues.

It was at this point I threw myself into my cycling. I was a bit angry , but it made me train hard. I was also often in a rush between school drop offs, but it made me ride fast. I have never looked back. I have got my life back. I’m independent, I’m happy and I’m a great Mum again. I’ve got time for myself and time for my children. I trained alone a lot and finally got enough courage to join a local cycling club. Since making lots of cycling friends I started entering races and events. I’ve truly loved the last couple of years, all the places I’ve been on my bike and all the friends I’ve made. The cycling community really is fantastic. Last year was my proudest moment when I got to represent Great Britain at the Gran Fondo World Championships in Italy. 

About a month after that, I heard that the amazing French team Donnons des Elles au Velo were inviting people to join for their next summer’s project. I jumped at the chance but was truly heartbroken to find out they were keeping it French-only this year. Thankfully all was not lost and I received an email a couple of weeks later about the possibility of forming an international team. I did everything I could to make this happen. I didn’t care what it took, I was in. I brought a few of my friends in with me too. We were going to do this. This was our chance to make some changes in this massively unequal world of women’s cycling.

And now, here we are. Five months after signing up for this huge challenge, we are three days away from riding all 21 stages of this year’s Tour de France a day ahead of the professional men. I am nervous, I’m excited, I just can’t wait. 

@attacuscc


My training has been spot on. I have a coach and I have stuck to my training religiously, it’s the only way I will get through July without seriously suffering. I think I will still suffer but it’s for a good cause. We are showing the world what women are capable of. Enough is enough. Women deserve the same opportunities as men. There should be a multi stage race in France for women, women’s races should get better coverage, prize money should be the same, the sexist advertising needs to stop and don’t get me started on podium girls! Women’s sport is fantastic, it’s exciting and it’s massively underrated. 

So if you tell 41-year-old Lou she’s going to ride the whole Tour de France she’ll say, YOU BET I AM AND I CAN’T BLOODY WAIT!!!

The OVO Energy Women’s Tour

Last week I flew to the UK for my favourite stage race of the season, the OVO Energy Women’s Tour! This event is proof that a stand-alone women’s race can be wildly successful when given the right support. Everything from the organisation, crowd support, prize money and race coverage make it a highlight of the season for many teams and riders.

I chose an interesting preparation heading into the race, first taking part in Chrono Gatineau in Canada, and then rushing straight to the airport for my international flight to London. I sadly didn’t even have time for the podium ceremony, but the organisers were kindly accommodating. I would not necessarily recommend this plan for recovery, but as one of the six riders to race in every edition of the Women’s Tour, I was determined to not miss it for anything!

Cyclopark – England – wielrennen – cycling – radsport – cyclisme – Lippert Liane (Germany / Sunweb) – Moolman-Pasio Ashleigh (South Africa / CCC Liv) pictured during Women’s Tour of Great Britain stage- 2 in Cyclopark – photo Anton Vos/Cor Vos © 2019

Everything about the Women’s Tour is simply World-class. All of the best teams and riders are there in top shape to race for the win, and everything from the hotels, food, logistics, race details, and course routes are held to a very high standard. The race organisers have made it clear that they value women and men equally, and this is also reflected in the prize money offered at the race, which is generous and equal to the men’s Tour of Britain.

Blenheim Palace – England – wielrennen – cycling – radsport – cyclisme – illustration – sfeer – illustratie fans school kids pictured during WomenÕs Tour of Great Britain stage- 3 from Henley-on-Thames to Blenheim Palace – photo Anton Vos/Cor Vos © 2019

Every day there are thousands of fans who show up rain or shine (and there is a lot of rain) to cheer us on. People are just crazy about cycling in Britain! My favourite part is racing past so many schools with students lined up on the streets to cheer us on. Students from different schools also help present the teams at sign on every day. This fan support gives me so much hope for the future of the sport, and gives me the feeling that we might be inspiring the next generation of cyclists with our efforts.

Stowmarket – England – wielrennen – cycling – radsport – cyclisme – Team Sunweb pictured during Women’s Tour of Great Britain stage- 1 from Beccles to Stowmarket – photo Anton Vos/Cor Vos © 2019

The Women’s Tour also does their part to bring the race to a larger audience with a 1-hour race highlights programme available every evening. The race has played out dramatically in every six editions. The GC is usually determined by seconds, and this year was the closest margin yet, with Lizzie Deignen (Trek) taking the victory over Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon) by only 2 seconds after six days of racing and a lot of drama throughout the week as the jersey switched shoulders almost every stage. The next step will be securing live coverage, as so much happens in the course of our races that I want fans to be able to understand the full narrative!

Pembrey Country Park – England – wielrennen – cycling – radsport – cyclisme – Niewiadoma Katarzyna Kasia (Poland / Canyon SRAM) – Deignan Elizabeth (Lizzie) (Great Britain / Trek Segafredo) – Pieters Amy (Netherlands / Boels Dolmans) pictured during Women’s Tour of Great Britain stage- 6 from Carmarthen to Pembrey Country Park – photo Anton Vos/Cor Vos © 2019

One thing I also love is that despite the success of the race, they still want it to be better. This year the race expanded to six stages, where they added a bike park circuit race stage, the first uphill finish, and also featured what I think was the hardest stage to date on a hilly course in Wales. The organisers talk and listen to the teams and riders for ideas on how to improve, and then figure out how to make it happen for the next year.

Builth Wells – England – wielrennen – cycling – radsport – cyclisme – illustration – sfeer – illustratie peloton in the mountains – de bergen Kirchmann Leah (Canada / Sunweb) – Yonamine Eri (Japan / Ale Cipollini) – D’Hoore Jolien (Belgium / Boels Dolmans) pictured during Women’s Tour of Great Britain stage- 5 from Llandrindod Wells to Builth Wells – photo Anton Vos/Cor Vos © 2019

I always leave the Women’s Tour with shattered legs, but with a mind full of hope and excitement for the future of our sport. I already can’t wait to see what the Women’s Tour 2020 will bring!

I will be back in July with a racing update, until then you can find me on social media @leahkirchmann on Instagram and @L_Kirch on Twitter.

Leah

This little big something

It’s June and we have changed from cold and rainy one day races to stage races. And so far, different than expected, they were mainly all cold and rainy too 😀 Even in Spain.

 But what can I say, no matter if it’s rain or sunshine: I do love stage races!

Stage races are a time when the team is really close together. Spending the daily routine around the races with one another and fighting together on every stage, brings you even closer. Those weeks are completely planned around racing and our staff does everything to make it possible for us to perform on our best level. A feeling and mindset that I really relish.

Furthermore every new day gives you a new opportunity. Every new stage is another chance to correct the mistakes you might have done the day before.

And I am glad I can say, that with every stage in, my legs do work better. Eventhough I can also feel the pain and a deep appreciation for elevators rising.

 

Image: Jojo Harper

The latest stage race I did was the Women’s WorldTour race “Emakumeen Bira”. When I saw the race on my schedule in January, I was kind of worried about it. Let’s say it’s a “well profiled” race and does not exactly suit my strong leg. Furthermore we already raced a climby 4 day stage race in Burgos. That ended just 2 days before Bira started. Still I knew after my last years experience at the Ardèche stage race (TCFIA), that I can surprise myself especially in the hilly and climby races.

So nervousness but also excitement were the main feelings going into Stage 1. I was supposed to go for the intermediates and therefor for the sprint jersey. The first sprint came up early and my teammate Rotem put me in a really good position. In a photofinish situation, Emilie Moberg took the win by an inch and therefore the lead in the classification. This made her my main competitior for Sprint Number 2.

Climbing several steep climbs into that second sprint, the both of us were dropped from the main bunch, chasing back just 500 m ahead of the sprint. I used the momentum, just went and took it. Making Moberg and me now even in points. So the decision would’ve been made on the finish line. Gladly I made it to the finish ahead of her and won my first ever WorldTour jersey.

Image: Jojo Harper

Still in disbelief and not that routined in ceremonies, I found myself getting ready inbetween riders like Jolien d’Hoore and Elisa Longo Borghini with the biggest smile on my face. And I was sure about one thing: I want to keep this jersey! No matter what!

Stage two had other plans for me though. I had one of my darkest days on a bike. A day where every pedalstroke and every km feels painful and the race just never seems to end. From km 40 on, it was a real fight for survival and I started to think about making the timecut. When I heard on the radio that Elena and Alena took the points in both sprints to keep me in the jersey, I felt so happy, honoured, thankful and moved. The motivation my teammates gave me that day was, what brought me up that final climb and to the finish line. And in the end it was also them, who brought me to my second WT podium and held me one more day in the jersey.

Tanja Erath (GER) of CANYON//SRAM Racing cools down after Stage 2 of 2019 Emakumeen Bira, a 111 km road race from Aduna to Amasa, Villabona, Spain on May 23, 2019. Photo by Balint Hamvas/velofocus.com

Taking that motivation into stage three I managed to make it into an early move, after an uphill(!) attack and out of that move I could take maximum points for the sprints classification. I could extend my lead in the second sprint being the first on the line out of the peloton behind a two rider breakaway. One more uphill finish. One more podium. One more massive smile on my face.

The fourth and final stage was supposed to be the hardest one. 156 km with four categorized climbs on the menu. But doing the math, we knew that a win or a second place in the first intermediate sprint would be enough to take the jersey home. So my teammates kept me at the front from start and led me out till the line of the first sprint. Once again I felt the feeling of gratitude I knew from stage 2 and again a motivation I’ve never felt before. A motivation that was so high, that it even brought me over three of those four categorized climbs within the peloton. On top of the last climb with around 15 k to go and not a big gap to the main group, I knew I would bring this home. The relief and the pressure falling off of me, the exhaustion of the last 10 days, the happiness about the win of the jersey, the gratitude towards my teammates suddenly overwhelmed me and tears of joy were rolling down my cheeks. But in the end, the fourth and final time on the podium, it was all smiles again.

CANYON//SRAM Racing riders line before Stage 3 of 2019 Emakumeen Bira, a 98 km road race from Murgia to Santa Teodosia, Spain on May 24, 2019. Photo by Balint Hamvas/velofocus.com

 

When I came back to the camper and opened the door, all the girls were waiting for me. Cheering and hugging me when I came in, knowing that this was a huge success for me personally and that they all played their role in making this possible.

Sometimes it’s hard to describe “this little extra something” that makes you so happy to be a part of this team. This moment in that camper. That’s the extra. That´s the little big something that makes this team exactly MY team.

Thank you for reading my blog, Tanja Erath.

Introducing InternationElles – Riding for Equality

Hello! We are InternationElles, a team of ten female cyclists and four support crew from all over the world who are brought together through our passion for cycling, adventure and equality. This July, InternationElles will cycle all 21 stages (3,460km) of the world’s greatest bike race across France a day ahead of the male professional Tour de France race. We will join the Donnons des Elles au Vélo J-1 project, which comprises a French team of 13 riders and eight crew.

We are excited to document our journey on Voxwomen over the coming weeks.  This is our first blog to give you an idea of what we are aiming to do…

A Team Born Online

Our InternationElles team is comprised of amateur female cyclists, including Ironman triathletes, Guinness World Record Holders, Ride Across America record holders, Red Bull Time Laps 25 hour Race Champions, Haute Route winners and endurance athletes like none you’ve ever met. We are from all over the world and were brought together in February by the powers of the internet. We will meet for the first time in Brussels the day before we begin our three and a half week adventure.

The team are all from different riding cultures and varying professional backgrounds, from accountants to marketeers, game designers to consultants, journalists to scientists.  We range in age from 27 to 46 years old and there are a number of children between the group.

Riding for Equality

InternationElles has been created to promote and champion equality in every walk of life.  We firmly believe that every person should be respected as an equal, regardless of gender, colour, cultural background or social economic status.  To us, the medium of cycling is just one way to raise this agenda and to focus on the gender inequalities in cycling in particular. We believe there should be a stage race for females in France equivalent to the men’s race. There was once a stage race for women in France, so why not now? Or why not work with the professional female teams and invest in creating something new?

Women’s equality is continuously being discussed at greater levels, but if we can’t fix something as simple as a bike race how are we to fix the far wider inequalities experienced by women and girls around the world? We hope to empower female riders of all ages to get on their bikes and enjoy the great outdoors, get interested in women’s racing and to support the fact that women need their stage too. The female pro-peloton has shown time and again (when it’s been televised) that they are more than capable of incredibly exciting racing across single and multi day events. We want to see more!

The 2019 Route

We will be riding 3,460km from Brussels on 5 July to Paris on 27 July, via the Alps and the Pyrénées. The ride takes place over 23 days and comprises 21 stages varying in length from the time trials, which are just 27km, to the longest stage, which is 230km from Belfort to Chalon sur Saône in NE France.

With 30 classified cols and five summit finishes, the 2019 route will be the most mountainous in the 106-year history of the event so it will be challenging for the pros just as much as for a team of amateurs with day jobs!

Some of the Alpine climbs that avid followers will recognise include the Col d’Izoard, the Col du Galibier, and the 2,770m-high Col d’Iseran – the highest paved mountain pass in Europe. The final stage before Paris ends with a 33.4km climb up to the 2,365m-high finish at Val Thorens.

Training for the Ride

Each team member has her own training programme planned, with everyone fitting training around full time work and family commitments. Thankfully the days are getting longer and warmer in Europe, and cooling down in Australia so those early morning starts and late night rides will be slightly easier to do. Commitments don’t stop, so it will be about having the discipline to train, even when we don’t feel like it, to train smart – sometimes shorter can be more effective if done the right way – and also to get longer rides in as much as possible. Increasing time on the bike and riding multiple back-to-back days in training will be key. During some of the bad weather we’ve had this year, we have been motivated and encouraged each other to train indoors when outdoors isn’t possible.

Our riders have already participated in a number of amateur events this year, such as Revolve24, Mallorca312, Tour of Flanders, UCI World Champs in Greece, Haute Route Oman, 300km audaxes and the Race Around the Netherlands. All good preparation for both fitness and a mental toughness, as well as testing out nutrition on and off the bike – key elements to ensure twe make it to the end of each stage as well as to Paris in good shape.

A number of the team in Australia are friends and will be training together when they can. There’s also a concentration of riders from the London area, who similarly will try to train together at least once before July – busy schedules depending!

Behind Every Great Team

This ride wouldn’t be possible without a dedicated support crew. The “Fantastic Four” will do everything from drive support vans, man social media accounts and help keep the team fuelled and their bikes on the road over the 23 days. The logistics of such a ride are massive and a huge amount of planning has already gone into putting everything in place.

The crew will come into their own out on the road where we will have two support vans to follow us and then transport us to and from the start each day, as well as on to the next resting place each evening. The longest transfer will be between Val Thorens to just outside Paris, some 600+km away. Thankfully the final stage starts at lunchtime!

Follow The Journey

You can follow InternationElles and our journey on Instagram (@InternationElles), Twitter (@InternationEll2) and Facebook (InternationElles), and our website is www.internationelles.com.

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Laura Winter
Presenter
Voxwomenw: www.voxwomen.com
e: laura@voxwomen.com
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That time when Boels-Dolmans sent the sprinters to Bira

Not so long ago, May was a pretty relaxed month in our calendar.  Most of the riders would take their midseason break just now, recovering from a busy spring and preparing for the second part of the season. I used to do the same.

But since, women cycling grew. And what was the most relaxed and easiest month of the year suddenly became one of the busiest with big races happening (nearly) at the same time all over the world. If you try to gain some Miles and upgrade your flight status May has literally been designed for you. With Worldtour races in China, then America and finally in Spain you could have travelled once around the globe by having to race your bike.

Picture: spending more time in air then on earth

I checked, no one dared taking the challenge this year.

The new look of May is reflecting one of the major problems womenteams and race organizers are facing. On one hand everyone wants to see all the most famous men races organise a womenrace as well. But on the other hand we often forget that there might eventually not even be enough girls to race all those races once they are on schedule. With most UCI womenteams only having maximum 15 riders, far from the 30 riders team of a menteam, it might be enough to race a double program, but very obviously will never be enough to race a triple program.

Picture: Yes we are ready for Paris-Roubaix!

So teams need to make choices. Choices in order to protect their rider’s health by allowing them to rest as well from time to time. Choices in order to stay competitive by sending well prepared riders to the different races. Choices in order to keep your only 6 staffmembers fresh, alert and productive.

Picture: trying to negotiate an extra day of rest April 07 2019
16th Women Elite Ronde van Vlaanderen / Tour des Flandres (1.WWT)
One day race: Oudenaarde õ Oudenaarde (159.2k)
Photo: Eloise Mavian / Tornanti.cc

It is only natural that the major UCI teams will choose by priority the World Tour races over the smaller UCI races. Not only because they have to race the WWT races, but also because they quiet simply give more exposure. And sponsors are paying to get exposure.

Having WWT status gives you a certain security to attract most of the big teams. Majority of the teams raced 2 out of the 3 WWT races held in May, one team even raced the 3. Boels-Dolmans aligned a team at both Tour of California and Bira. We skipped California last year because we had several injured riders and as a consequence were running out of riders, but the team was back this year. Our climberteam enjoyed their time over there taking impressive uphill stage win and GC win before deciding to stay a little bit longer for an altitude trainingcamp.

Picture: California treated us well this year

Which left us without climbers for another climber race, Emakumeen Bira. Usually I say that we always try to go for the win with Boels Dolmans, stage or GC win. But this time we travelled with a different mindset to Spain. We kindly laughed at ourselves calling us the sprinter group conquering the Basque mountains. Against the real climbers from Michelton-Scott and Trek Segafredo we kind of knew we wouldn’t stand a chance for the GC, so we took it step by step, going for smaller goals which were stage win on the easiest stage, stage podiums for every other stages or more if possible. It was fun racing once with less pressure and no high expectations, just doing your best and see where it brings you at the end of the day. It was a good week, but I hope our climbers will be back for the Giro.

Picture: When the speaker in Bira asked us who our leader was…May 21 2019
32nd WWT Emakumeen XXXII.Bira (2.WWT)
Team Presentation
Photo: Eloise Mavian / Tornanti.cc

But with so much WWT in May the risk of seing a sprinterteam in a climberrace is only a minor risk. Because it is not all about WorldTour races. Unfortunately May isn’t a really nice month for being a non WorldTour race unless you are called Tour of Yorkshire offering really good pricemoney to the riders. Too bad for me, my homerace Elsy Jacobs, seems to suffer every year a little bit more from the overbooked calendar in May. A few years ago all the best teams would travel to Luxembourg to race this 3 days stage race, but especially this year most of the big teams decided not to race. They were either racing in China or preparing their travel to the States.

Boels-Dolmans was one the teams that decided to skip the race and I got quiet a lot of criticism for that at home. I was obviously disappointed as well when I discovered our race schedule. I have been performing well here the last couple of years also because I had a good team around me. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to count on them this year made me realize pretty quick I probably shouldn’t focus too much on this race this year.  On the other side I do understand that we can’t race every race. Maybe it was just unlucky that it was my homerace we had to skip and not someone elses, but truth is our north American riders had already been traveling to the States some while ago and 2 more would join them during the weekend while others had their mid-season break planned in that week. On the end I prefer being part of a team that respects its riders rest periods, then racing for a team that makes riders constantly race without taking care that they get the rest they need to make it through the whole season and the training periods they need to be able to perform well in the races they actually start at. But not sure people in Luxembourg were convinced by my explications.

I believe that with the amount of races on the schedule we will see more and more a 2 league system coming up. Whereas before even the big teams raced the smaller races in the future the big teams will race the big races and the smaller teams the smaller races. Even if this sounds pretty logicial to everyone, it just hasn’t been the case yet really in womencycling, so race-organizers will need to get used to this new situation even if it might be frustrating for them at first. But above all I think we shouldn’t forget that also smaller teams or less known riders can produce great racing. We should see it as a good thing for womencycling, because it will allow young girls to grow step by step as a rider by first racing smaller international races before stepping up to the WWT level. The step from junior to elite is for most of the girls just a step too high and taking on the intermediate level will probably help most of them not to get discouraged and to stop their career before it even started. Because if girls stop young, it will be impossible for the teams to increase the minimum numbers of riders per team (which is probably part of the UCI’s plan for the future) just because there aren’t any available.

Competitive cycling is a complex system with lots of different parties. Take away one or more of those and the system will collapse or work less good. We often only think of the importance of schools, clubs, mentors, coaches, teams, staff, nationalteams, sponsors or teammates for reaching the highest level in any sport. But we tend to forget the importance of the races themselves and even more the importance of those most of us would consider as less prestigious. They are part of the game and above all part of an important base. That’s why it is important to keep promoting them. The goal should be to not see them disappear because that would mean taking away the possibilities to offer newbies a much smoother and easier step into the world of professional women cycling.

Reminding myself of the bigger picture

After some nice winter training in the UK, and I’m not being sarcastic; the weather was actually rather mild so I wasn’t having to go out training with numb fingers and toes! I set off to Gran Canaria for a training camp with my 2 teammates, Cille and Lizzy, as well as Annika Langvad. I have a photo of myself and Annika from the MTB World Championships in Czech Republic, where I came 4th Junior and Annika won the Elite title! So sharing an apartment and training with her was so cool, as she’s a rider who I’ve looked up to and have lots of respect for.

We all got along really well together, and took it in turns to cook dinner most evenings. Most of our rides were together, but we just incorporated our own individual training efforts where and when. On one of the days we did an epic 6hour ride with over 14000ft of elevation! Chantal Blaak-one of Annika’s teammates-joined us for this ride which again was great to be riding in the company of 2 World Champions!

I always have a smug feeling when I’m in 24 degrees heat and it’s 20 degrees cooler back home! It was the first time I’d visited Gran Canaria and you can tell from the first ride that it’s a volcanic island; first half up, 2nd half downhill, as well as the ride profile on training peaks looks like a pointy volcano 🌋
Training was going very well; good feelings, good numbers, good food. It was also great being with my 2 teammates and getting to know each other more, which is important for the busy year to come with each other.


However, at the start of the 2nd week of the training camp I developed a sudden knee injury. I was in the middle of doing an effort uphill, and suddenly I felt a twinge. Ooooh. That didn’t feel too good. Get home ASAP.
I’ve had knee injuries in the past, and have just committed to the training session and completed the ride, but it’s so not worth it. I’ve learnt you’ll lose more than you gain. A couple more efforts? Another hour? Is it worth it? Nope, it will most likely just prolong the recovery process.

It’s so easy on a training camp, in 24 degrees in the mountains, to push on and get the most out of the trip you’ve planned and payed for but I controlled myself and ride back to the apartment pronto.
To cut a long story short, it wasn’t getting better. I was icing it, stretching, foam rolling and ride really steady some days to test it but it was the same a week later. Shame to miss half the training camp, but at least I could start working on the tan and getting a plan to solve the issue when I was back home. Luckily the team have support from Crossklinik in Switzerland where they could help my injury and discover my leg length discrepancy also!

By this point it was coming up to the end of February and the race season was about to kick off with a 4 day stage race in Valencia. I was on the pathway to be going well in Valencia with good form, but my injury prevented this unfortunately. I don’t like to miss good races which I’ve trained and prepared for, but I had to look at the bigger picture. It was only February. Yes I’ve missed a month or so of training, but I’ve got 8 months left of the road season with much bigger and better races on the horizon. I’m not a very patient person and when I want something, I want it pretty quick! But I must remember that I’ve hopefully got 15+ more years in professional cycling, so that’s 15+ more seasons to achieve success. This is my first year as a professional, so experience and learning is going to be a huge part of it aside from just results.

Injuries are very annoying and disruptive, but it’s all part of the job, the sport, and actually an opportunity to learn about your body if sometimes you just need to back off a little. Listen to your body. I get told this a lot.