Elena Cecchini – My very personal Ronde van Vlaanderen

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April 1 – the day before

I’m lying on my bed after a huge dinner and the traditional team meeting.

During days like this, I always think about how hard our staff are working for us, day and night, in order to make us the best cyclists we can be the day of the race.

From my window I see the mechanics cleaning and fixing our bikes, our soigneurs going up and down from our camper, our sport directors checking that everything is done properly and our incredible sponsors taking pictures of our pre-race day, giving us everything we need before such an important day.

Tour of Flanders is the race every cyclist with any kind of talent dreams to win. I don’t know if it’s just the nature of the race, the history that lives behind it or the atmosphere that media and fans create around this day, but I feel goosebumps if I think about tomorrow, and my stomach gets a little bit tight. On the other hand, I know that I worked hard in order to perform tomorrow and I will be at the start line with a strong and motivated team.

Credit WMN Cycling
Photo: WMN Cycling

Trixi is one of the most experienced riders in the peloton, she talks to us with her eyes and if something is going wrong, she shouts to us in a very direct way – having her around tomorrow will be so important to me.

Lisa is one of the biggest engines in our team, she is powerful, she can suffer, she’s able to keep good position during the most hectic moments; her way of riding in the peloton is really similar to mine.

Pauline is our new force. She’s simply a winner, a girl who loves her job and a true talent. I love racing with her because everything she does, she does it with style.

Tiffany is our brain, she reads the race perfectly, she has a formidable visual memory so she always knows which climb we are going to hit and what’s going to happen after a corner. Tiff is a real worker, I trust her 100% and if I want to stay in first position for a climb, then I know I have just to ask her.

Hannah will make her Flanders’ debut tomorrow but I’m sure she will not let emotions affect her performance. She’s super strong at the moment, every race she does she shows that she’s improving not only her physical strengths, but also her tactics. She will be our surprise tomorrow.

Me? I’m just happy the big day is almost here, I’m proud and grateful to be at the start of my fifth Ronde Van Vlaanderen and I will have an extra motivation having my parents and some friends from my home village cheering for me along the roads.

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Time to sleep and dream…

The day after

My Tour of Flanders was a 153km of pain and fun, raced at 37.7km/h average speed in four hours and four minutes, during which my average heartrate was 163 bpm and my maximum value was 196.

2700 calories later, we’re coming home with sixth place.

For sure, it’s not the result we fought for but sometimes, after race day, I take some time to analyse how the race went and how many mistakes I made, and if my team mates and I could have done something different to improve our result. I must admit this time I have no regrets.

Elena Cecchini approaches the base of Leberg at the Women's Ronde van Vlaanderen 2017. A 153 km road race on April 2nd 2017, starting and finishing in Oudenaarde, Belgium. (Photo by Sean Robinson/Velofocus)
Photo: Velofocus

The team rode perfectly all race, the girls supported me from km 0 to 153,  keeping me in a good position along the climbs and the cobble sections as was decided in our meeting. We were not able to follow the four strongest girls, but we committed to each other and were able to bring them back in the last kilometre. I started my sprint in Coryn’s wheel, so I was in the perfect position, but my legs were not fast enough. Simple. I gave it my all, and that’s what has allowed me to not have regrets and instead look ahead to what’s coming next.

Cycling is a character building kind of sport: sometimes you have to wait more than a while before hard work, proper rest, clean eating and team work pay back.

Now I’m ready to fly home for a few days of well-needed recovery and to focus again on another important week of racing for me and my team- the Ardennes.

But first I make a promise to myself – Ronde Van Vlaanderen, I’ll be back stronger!

Photo: WMN Cycling