Writing this blog was the last duty on my to do list before finally being able to put my 2019 road season behind me and leave for holiday. It should have been written, sent and published earlier this month already but September was just a “wow-month”. I could have written about something new & different everyday. From winning my first World Tour race to falling sick, from sponsors leaving announcements to epic World championships conditions & performances. By the end I just couldn’t decide anymore, and now you will get it all in once.
I started writing these lines during take off from Manchester. It was pouring rain and going through the cloud direction sky took way longer then usually. Weather has been seriously outstanding for most of the races in Yorkshire. I, most of the time, like racing under bad weather conditions, but even I was quite relieved that the women race on Saturday was held under perfect sunny conditions. I have been battling a cold for the last 2 weeks. It got better, then worse again and I don’t know if my body could have handled another last day in the rain. And while I am pretty sure the race scenario would have been completely different, I quiet honestly at this point of the season and my state of health don’t really care anymore. I am happy I can finally relax and give my body time to heal up before the winter.
picture: done & dusted
Unfortunately not everyone was as lucky as us, and while I was watching the different races held under epic conditions I couldn’t decide were ever I found it great and inspiring or if I found it stupid and dangerous.
From a spectator point of view there is of course no way to no love the epic character of this kind of races. It’s a heroic battle. Man versus nature, which is actually quiet representative of what is going on in the world at the moment. You want to give every single rider hero nicknames, no matter if they won the race, animated it, survived it or dropped out. The worse the conditions the more you can feel, appreciate and respect the fighting spirit and grit of the riders. And I guess that’s why we love watching sport. To see people do things we wouldn’t doing ourself. They sell us the dream of making the impossible possible.
picture: no matter the weather
On the other hand, I am an athlete as well. I have raced multiple times under epic conditions too. While, once it is done, you are proud on what you achieved even if it is only having survived to what nature has been trowing at you the whole day, on the moment itself, I have as well been questioning my life choices more then once. Who decides to draw the sensible line of what is safe and what is life risking? Up to which point do I have to trust someone else’s decision in the name of good entertainment, spectator satisfaction or flourishing business. As a coach, do I need maybe to step forward especially with young athletes mostly unaware of the risks they are taking and decide for them about what is safe and what isn’t?
And while we have the extreme weather protocol, it is hard to really apply it and I completely understand that. It is hard to reschedule races. We don’t play tennis. We cannot ride during the night, we can not make people stay longer to finish the race the day after. We cannot close the roof, turn on the heater or turn on the aircon. We have to deal with what shows up. Either we race or we don’t. There is no middle way. Of course we can always shorten the race, but mostly if it isn’t safe to race 3h in a storm very logically it wont be any more safer to race 2h under it. You just lower the probability to hit it hard, but the probability to get hit hard will still be there.
picture: stage 19 TDF: done before the line
There is no good way and I guess everyone is struggling with taking the right decisions. In Yorkshire, maybe the people in charge didn’t anticipate enough the possibility of floating especially in the U23 TT. Actions were taken for the races after but I would have like to see more direct actions during the race, because these riders also deserved to have a fair and safe race. Changing the route of the Elite men race was of course the good decision, but maybe you can question the fact that the initial race was planned to be nearly 300km. Even if you shorten 300km it is still too long under these conditions. Shortening fex initially planned 250 km would make a bigger difference I guess and especially make it more human again. Because even if we see in the riders superheros, the people in charge should never forget that even a superhero, when he goes to bed at the end of a rough day becomes human again.
picture: Superheroes do cry!
At least I am human. Winning the Boels Ladies Tour didn’t change that. I was super proud to finally be able to win a World Tour race, and the fact that it was a true team effort to defend the jersey the last day made it even better, but it didn’t change anything to the rider I am or was. It was just finally all coming together. And while I thought it was really flattering that this victory made that my name was all of the sudden showing up in top rider selections or Worlds favourites, I also didn’t really understand the sudden change. Because I didn’t change. My level is the same then before my victory. I worked as hard as before, raced the same then before. Maybe I moved up 1 step compared to my best World Tour results beforehand but in the end it’s still the same Christine. And I was never even close to make it on to one of those lists. What I want to say is that there are plenty of really good riders in the peloton. Maybe they will never win a race but that doesn’t mean they are not phenomenal strong and respectable. The win, the nice messages from lots of people or the sudden change of status for the rest of the season I got after this race made me realise how much this it is a privileged feeling unfortunately only reserved to the winners. But eventually everyone deserves that rewarding feeling, winner or not because we are all smashing it from time to time without being necessarily able to turn it into a win. I am happy I saw the other side of medal. Having that experience will help me look at my but also to others performances in a different way. This being said I want to rethank everyone that has been part of the victory and without whom the orange jersey would be anywhere but not in my closet: Teammates, staff, sponsors, family, and friends. People will recognise themselves so no need to get any more personal. Thanks for making my September a wow-month!
picture: when current and former worldchamps bring you to the line
And while I mentioned sponsors, just a quick word about the recent announcement of Boels-Dolmans. Unfortunately Boels Rental as well as Dolmans Landscaping our two major sponsors over the past 10 years will stop their investment at the end of 2020. I got a lot of feedback of people being speechless and sad about it. And while I can understand them, I try to see things differently. I think we should all be really happy about what they did over the past years. With their help the team has been able to develop towards the best team in the world. Not only they have allowed riders to develop into world-class athletes, but they also helped improve women cycling in times where no so much other big companies would have taken the risk to put their money into such a unsure market then women cycling. They believed in it by sponsoring a team and by sponsoring races and helped it grow into what has now become a sport at the start of a great professional future, something unimaginable 10 years ago. Instead of seeing what they won’t do in the future, lets remember what they did in the past because everyone took profit out of it, even those who haven’t been racing for the team. I wouldn’t be here writing this blog if I hadn’t been lucky enough to ride for them. So yes it is a pity we loose historical sponsors, but it won’t take away what they did before. I am pretty confident for the future of the team itself after 2020. But we only just finished 2019 and I think everyone of the team is really motivated to make the last year under their label count. Making it a successful 2020 season will probably be the best way we as riders can thank them for their involvement over the past.
picture: final sprint for Boels & Dolmans
See you when 2020 season preparation has started!