Rhonde van Drenthe World Cup.
Apparently you are supposed to roll your “r’s” and make the name sound dramatic and romantic. It is a World Cup after all, shouldn’t it contain a dramatic flair? It is a race that has been called the women’s Paris Roubaix. If there was a “Hell of the West” for the women, this may be it. The race contains 5 sections of true cobbled pave through Hollan farmland in a grueling 132k. If that isn’t Spring Classic romance, I don’t know what is. Just say it. Rrrrrhonde van Drrrenthe…
I have been racing in Holland 5 x now. I should be used to the chaotic starts. The 174 women. The Dutch language. The local folk music ensemble playing, “Oh When the Saints…”. Yet, I was filled with nervous energy. I thought racing in Holland was challenging enough.
This wasn’t just any race. This was a World Cup. A real World Cup. My first one.
Welcome to the big show.
The race started as they normally do. Crashes and sprints within the neutral section. Blind corners. Bricks. Roundabouts. A GPM of 26% 9k into the race. Wait a second, isn’t Holland supposed to be flat? Apparently the waste needs to go somewhere. We would climb “trash hill” 3x within the race, in addition to the cobbles and the narrow roads. Trash hill was like it sounds. Over a dump. A little smelly, and with a grade of 19-26%, but just a short pitch.
The VAMberg it was called. Much more romantic than “trash hill”.
It was lined with fans. The road was painted. It was a wall. A trash hill wall. It was as romantic and dramatic as a dump can get. I think the folk band was at the top as well.
“Oh when the saints…”
After the first GPM, the peloton strung out to begin the large loop through the farmlands and cobbles. Attacks started occuring. Why settle to be pack fill? Why just let the race dictate itself. Why not make a difference? A difference I made. I countered an AUS attack, and found myself with a Nederland Bloeit rider and a gap. She was protecting the WC leader’s jersey within her team, and wasn’t allowed to work initially but eventually was allowed to contribute some to the breakaway effort. I could smell the pave sections coming up. I put my head down and went for it. 30s turned into 1min which turned into almost 2min. For 80k.
Finally, we were caught by a splintered peloton that was whittled down into several groups. But I had absorbed all the pave points. I was in the Pave Sprinters jersey. The race then looped back up and down, and back up and down the VAMberg before sailing into town. Vos won the bunch sprint.
I was called to the podium. I won the Pave Sprinters award, which apparently is translated at “Keienprijs Wereldbeker Borger-Odoorn 2011”. Instead of a trophy, it was a piece of the cobbles. Even though the little guy is pretty heavy, you better believe he is coming back to the states with me. I love my keienprijs.
I then returned to the podium again for the “Most Active Rider”. In the US, we may call this the “Most Aggressive”, and in France it is called, “Most Combative”. Apparently in Dutch, it is “Most Active”. I will take it.
They said they were impressed with my ability to “time”. I think that is time trialing. Yes. He asked if I would go to the Olympics. I said I sure was going to give it my best effort. With this honor, came a World Cup jersey honoring my stamina and racing. Not bad. First World Cup, and I was on the podium. Twice. Next time, I should just try that breakaway the last 80k. Not the first 80k. A big step towards a big future.
The pomp and circumstance of the races never ceases to amaze me. The band returned. Accordian and all. “Oh, When the Saints…” resumed. I had a jersey, a cobble, 3 bouquets of flours, 3 bottles of wine, Villeroy and Boch china, chocolate, glass figurines, and multiple kisses.
Rhonde van Drenthe World Cup. You were a success. I will be back for you. I will be queen of the cobbles again, but maybe I can win you sometime, or at least do my best.
The Rhonde van Drenthe World Cup had offered all the drama, romance…and more…