Recently I decided to give Cheshire classic a miss to ride in the Borsele 3day event over in Holland. The standard of competition was high with national teams competing such as; Great Britain, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, and Denmark.. it was going to be tough!
I’ve been riding in Holland since I was 11years old and I’ve made Dutch friends along the way, such as Karen Elzing. Her parents emailed me a week before explaining that due to the volcano she was stuck in London on a school trip, her flight had been cancelled and she is unable to get back in time for the race. Lucky for her the volcano also meant everyone was jumping on boats instead of planes, and the usual trip from hull to Rotterdam was fully booked, so instead we did a 5hr drive down to Ramsgate, and picked Karen up along the way.
After a 4hr crossing and a slight struggle through passport control, we made it to the grandparent’s house. All her family were delighted to see us, and gave us a warm welcome. They said “Come on in, we have an Elizabeth dog” ..(which actually meant they had a corgi) The whole family was fascinated with our crazy English ways, believing; that everyone always drinks tea, we have a full English breakfast every morning, and that every cyclist gets up at 6am to find a flat piece of road to Time Trial on! It’s a different way of life compared to here, seems to be more relaxed, a cycle friendly place and its normal to have chickens in your front garden!
After a long journey I eventually made it to signing on, where I met my team; (Marion Meerkerk, Kelly Markus, Charlotte Lenting, and Claudia Oranje) At 6:30pm we cracked on with the first race of 42k. I made the mistake of being at the back of the gridding, making it hard for myself on the first lap, but then settled in and got used to riding in such a massive group of riders.
Unfortunately the race was very similar to the Windsor race back in England that me and Annie Simpson did the week before. Because the Dutch riders were being spotted, they weren’t going to let any other Dutch riders break away. This made it into a very negative slow race, and lots of harsh breaking created dangerous surges in the peloton. Resulting in 4 crashes within the last 3k.
I had to do 2 standing start efforts just to get around riders on the floor, which didn’t do my confidence any good as I finished further back than expected. Good news, anyone affected by the crashes were allocated the same time as the main peloton. So.. Another day, another race.
Day 2 consisted of another short, flat 48k race and an 11k TT in the afternoon. This day I got a better start on the grid which helped me stay determined to hold my position. I had improved greatly from the day before and on the last lap was near the front. In the sprint to the finish I limited myself by riding on the inside and got caught behind the wrong wheels, but then again finished safely and with the same time as everyone else.
Now I must admit I’m not a fan Time Trials and am very unfamiliar with them! I got asked at gear check “why don’t you have a lo pro bike like the rest?!” I Dont really know how you ride them, but my legs killed and I just gave it my all!! The winning time was so impressive and I was about 3mins down. So there’s a lot of work to be done if I’m going for an overall result in future stage races! So if I start practising some TT’s you never know I might turn into a Tester!
Finally, the last day, the last race, 78k.. Smash it! This distance suited me better because and I knew there would be a fair few tired legs. Unfortunately I missed the break of 3 riders that stuck. But it meant I had a 3rd and final chance to master the sprint finish in such a big peloton. I almost 100% knew there was going to be a crash but decided for some reason, to hold my nerve and just go for it. I didn’t want to go home, knowing I hadn’t given my all. I decided to position myself in the middle of the peloton this time, to try and open up more passing lanes and opportunities to get around slower riders. However, there was a massive crash 250m from the finish!! Which I just managed to avoid by breaking and swerving to the left. I crossed the line in one piece, in a not bad.. 28th place. The crash affected many riders, but worse off was one of the French girls who actually broke her pelvis!! While a few had broken collar bones, and others rode into the barriers to try and avoid it. Lots of expensive bikes were being thrown to the sides as injured riders buried underneath were placed into ambulances. It was such a bad way to end the tour!!
On a brighter note, I gained loads of experience from 3days. I Learned lots from my Dutch friends about positioning, TT’s and working as a team. I also met a very friendly Alice Monger-Godfrey who’s living the dream out there in Belgium, and got to see the GB girls and Nicole Cooke in action.
I’m now looking forward to the Bedford 2day this weekend, as I get to ride with the Horizon girls on my Birthday!!