Nothing could have prepared me for this race today, except this race. However, now that the race is over all I want to do is go back and try again. If there was a rewind button, I would utilize it now.
Ronde van Gelderland, UCI 1.2. This race was a big deal. With a
World Cup next week, anyone who is anyone in cycling was at this race. If you took that French Cup race and multiplied it by 3, and then added gusting wind, and sprinkled it with the best talent in the world, shook it up, threw in some salt, bitters and lemon rinds, a few development riders, several World Champions, and multiples of Olympians, then served it over rocks with frozen dust cubes, you would get Ronde van Gelderland.
Things that were cool about this race:
1) I had never raced in Holland.
2) I had never raced with over 200 women
3) When you signed in before the race, the announcer called out your name/team/country over the loud speaker across the whole stadium. “Alison Starnes, Etats Unis, United States, Flemish, USA Femmes Developpment, more Dutch”
4) There was a 7k neutral roll out, and I was in the front for the first 200 meters. I only saw the front a few times after that.
5) The USA National team was there, and some of my TIBCO teammates were there. I liked having matching bikes with some women in the peleton.
6) I realized that Rabbobank sponsors a lot of teams, and must really like cycling.
7) I have never seen so many fit women in one place. The amount of nice legs was kinda scary.
8) They provided us with showers after the race.
9) I got to ride on the World Champion Judith Arnt’s wheel as we were chasing. I just kept looking at those stripes…wanting to be like her someday.
10) Chris yelling into the radio for me to move to the front, “Alison, get to the front, you have to trust the wheel in front of you, and there are a lot of wheels in front of you…the further up front you are, the less wheels”
I know I was just saying how crazy it is that I am here, but I need to be a little hard on myself. Absolutely nothing could have prepared me for this race, but I should have risked it more. People warned me about the winds, people warned me about the huge fields, and people told me to get good position. But I wasn’t that worried. I was nervous, but I didn’t know what to expect. Holy Cow. Position is key.
We started the race, and everyone is jockeying for position. Girls are going through lawns, sidewalks, and bike paths to try to get to the front. Of course the course is closed, but we are blasting through these towns at 30mph doing the whole turnabout thing, and medians…It was wild. With a field that big, I couldn’t see anything, but we all would be winding our way on these roads and I was just lucky to follow the wheel in front of me. Believe me, there were a lot of wheels in front me. All of a sudden, we would split, and twist around a turnabout, and meet back on the other side. Completely wild. Sprinting out of the corners, and trying to move forward the whole time. I flew up the sidewalks to get back to the front, and I use that term loosely. I might have been in the top 50.
Then we took a right turn. The road was the width of the Mill Valley bike path. The wind was howling from the side. Guttered. Echelon. I am on someone wheel, and I am feeling absolutely no draft. Crap. Is that what “beware the Holland side wind” means? Then we take another turn. The wind whips from another direction. The road gets narrower. The peleton is stretched out probably 3k. That is a really long snake winding down this skinny road. I am just trying to find some sort of draft, and none is to be found. And then it happened, a huge crash. A Cervelo Test Team is down and unconscious. Bikes are everywhere. The peleton splinters. The top 75 or so keep trucking at record speeds, and the shattered groups behind desperately look for shelter. There is none to be found, and absolutely nothing to be done. We chase, but it is futile. Two of my teammates went down.
There wasn’t anything selective in this race, like a huge climb or anything really that technical. However, the next time someone tells you to beware the Holland wind—believe them. When the final group entered the final 30k circuit finish in downtown, there were fewer than 30 girls still there. 30 out of over 200! I wasn’t there, and I was upset—I wanted another chance. I felt so unprepared for the circumstances that took place. Was the race hard? Yes and No. It was hard, but the mistakes I made made it not because my race ended too soon. I approached the positioning as important, but not DO or DIE. You can’t be cowardly out there. You have to go for the front, desperately, scratch and claw your way up there or you will not survive. I sure didn’t do that today. Next time I hope I will, but I am afraid that it might take two or three more times to really have it sink in. I want another chance, but will have to wait. That was so brutal out there. Wow. I don’t think I understood how important it was for me to be in good position. I get away with such bad habits in domestic races, but I am strong and get away with it. Andrew, the US National team director gave me some good tips afterwards. He told me that you take what I have, and then put me in that race, and there is 100 other girls with my strength there. I believe him. I’ll be back, and I will respect the wind. I will destroy myself to get in position. I will not rely on my strength to allow me to get back up there later, because like today, it was too late.
Bad Position = No Position
On the brighter side, last year at this time, NorCal criteriums scared me. Yeah right. They make this thing look like a latte brunch ride with chocolate croissant in your jersey pocket. I will get smarter and stronger. Cycling isn’t just about brute strength, I am learning. There are tactics and skills involved, that aren’t just corning and descending. Next year, I will give those girls a run for their money. Until then, I need to practice, practice, practice, which is hard for me. I want to learn now, and I want to be better now, but this will take time—or so I am told.
Back to Limoux, which sounds safe and wonderful now.
Home Sweet Home Limoux.
We were incognito today since the US National team was there, we couldn’t have too many USA National team members there, so we road for Canada Trust. This is Lyndsey and me getting nervous before the race, showing off our new kits. We had no idea what was about to hit us.