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Sept 8th to 11th 2011
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Copenhagen - Denmark
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Koksijde - Belgium
28-29 January 2012


Melbourne - Australia
04-08 April 2012

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04.13.10 - Elite Women’s European Spring Project

Report by Denise Ramsden

The first week’s flurry of racing has come and gone and it’s safe to say that while it had its ups and downs everyone has been able to find comfort in lessons learned. We started off the week in Belgium at GP de Dottignies. Despite being a UCI 1.2 sanction there was still a stellar field of teams and over 160 competitors, by far one of the biggest fields most of us had raced in. There we got our first taste of cobbles, but it was a softer introduction, as there was a narrow paved shoulder that everyone was fighting for a spare inch on. Well, truly it may not have felt like an easy introduction at the time, but knowing the cobbles to come in the Netherlands now…it definitely was.

After a day recovering back at home base we headed out for the Netherlands. Maybe our trip there should have been an indication of how the weekend would unfold. The van got its second flat of the day about a half hour out from our hotel. Michel, our soigneur showed his handiness with a quick fix but despite this bump in the road we didn’t let the time go to waste.

Things were looking up though as we got settled into our hotel, extremely luxurious by bike racing standards, and got to head out for a little spin around the Drenthe region. We knew we had some tough racing coming based on the flat, narrow roads and brisk wind.

Thursday we raced Drentse 8 van Dwingeloo, aptly named for its figure 8-loop course. The wind, narrow roads and cobbles (or “babies’ heads” as these ones were referred to) took there toll and there was a lot of elastic band action in the pack. Joanie held good position and made it into the front split at 110km, while the rest of us got caught out after the cobbles behind a split that there wasn’t enough horsepower to close. Unfortunately she met with another one of the dangers of the Netherlands roads, “boues de vache” and crashed, but came out of it not too much worse for wear. The rest of us rolled in with the second group. After that day we’d learned a lot about the importance of positioning, if we didn’t already have that drilled into our heads, and had Friday off to spin the legs. Friday night we had the World Cup team presentation and dinner, which was quite an elaborate affair.

The Unive Ronde van Drenthe World Cup course consisted of a larger loop that had three broken up cobble sectors beginning after 40km and then one and a half times a smaller loop in town that included the VAMburg, a land fill dump climb of 23%. The neutral start before also proved to add some excitement to the course. It was reported to be a half hour long but really that included a large proportion of standing in the cold. However, we started inside the same complex the team presentation had been in and rolled out of it into town. Then, for the icing on the cake, they funneled us through a mall with red velvet roping, carpeting and all. I think there were a few shocked people when 160 girls on bikes came storming through. Moriah took advantage of the situation to sneak behind the front desk and into a front line starting position. With that we were off, and while the first 40km were relatively uneventful a km out from the start of the cobbles there was a big crash at the front that left most of us stuck or riding through the grass ditch around trees. That opened up a gap for the front group and the chase was on before we had even hit the cobbles. The inevitable cobble issues arose with flats, cleat issues and other protests from the bikes at being rode over what could be mountain bike trails. While the peloton was pretty fractured over the cobble sections some of the groups progressively came back together over the loop in town. The front group of 11 stayed away leaving the peloton for a group sprint for 14th.

Sunday we wrapped up our week of racing with the Novilon Eurocup Ronde van Drenthe. It covered pretty much the same course as the World Cup had except with a smaller, larger loop and more loops of the VAMburg in town. They switched up the neutral start this time instead making it a pre-race to sign in. We essentially started a kilometer away from the start line, rode in and then everyone scattered their bikes across the town square in the mad dash to get up onto the stage, sign in and get to the start line. The race started off fairly tamely with a few small crashes as we wound our way through town. We hit the same cobble section from Saturday’s race and that again caused the same fracturing in the peloton along with the flatting and bike issues for our team. Unfortunately, although we managed to chase back on through the caravan, we got back on just as the pack stretched out and then were in a less than ideal position as there were small groups splitting all along the road. The bright side was that as a team we are finally feeling more comfortable on the cobbles and figuring out how it is best for each of us to ride them.

Now we’re back home for a few days to get some training hours in and recover. We head off to Netherlands for one day again this weekend and then build up to Fleche Wallone next week. Moving forward we’ve all learned a lot about racing over here, including the fact that positioning can easily make or break your race.

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