5 March 2022
Wow! It’s only been a month! I still find everyday living in Belgium to be an adventure! Today was my first Belgium kermesse race - a Dutch style of road bike race that involves riding laps of a fully closed road circuit.
There was no easing into this race. Kermesse races are also known for their very fast starts. I had to be ready from the gun, properly warmed up and my mind in race mode.
The distance was 100km around an 8km circuit, with roughly 120 female riders competing in the event on the small country roads of Belgium. Three girls ended up in a breakaway which I unfortunately missed and was left to sprint in the bunch finish. Myself and one of my teammates rode the 40km distance to the event and back as well as racing which made this my longest ever ride of 180km completed in 5hours 50minutes!
16 March 2022
The weather was lovely and with a balmy 19’C predicted, I decided to organise a day trip to Antwerp to explore the shops and the city centre (training completed early of course).
Arriving by train from Niel, I was memorised by Antwerp Central Station, nicknamed the Railway Cathedral, its beauty is famous worldwide. Inaugurated on 11 August 1905, it is a grand old lady of stone glass and metal who owns its nickname to its large dome, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.
Meeting up with a friend, I spent the day shopping - even though I am hopeless at shopping and as usual didn't buy anything! I did learn the hard way that you must pay for public toilets in Belgium (usually 40-70c).
9 March 2022
Today I competed in the GP Oetingen 1.1 130km UCI race around the town area of Oetingen Belgium. Being an UCI race, it gave me another opportunity to compete alongside my IBCT teammates.
Unfortunately, I crashed on the cobblestones – they've caused chaos again! Instantly, my elbow showed a golf ball-sized bump and severe bruising. This meant I had to abandon the race and attend hospital for x-rays. The x-ray showed no breaks, thank goodness! As this would have affected my training and racing schedule, however, due to the swelling the doctors weren't 100% sure there was no further damage. It was a wait, watch and see situation.
But it didn’t stop me from being on my bike! As the week continued, thankfully my range of movement increased meaning that no further medical treatment was required.
24 March 2022
Today was my first ever UCI World Tour race and my longest ever race; BRUGGE – DE PANNE. Starting in the historic city of Brugge, I joined a field of top tier professional competitors cycling the 160km course, including an 8km neutral zone, to the seaside resort of De Panne.
The Brugge – De Panne has become known as a race for sprinters as it features hardly any climbs. Knowing this meant that it was likely a bunch sprint finish was high.
This race is known for its crosswinds that can play havoc with riders. These strong high winds often create echelons that reduce the peloton size a lot. An echelon is a small group of riders in one line that span diagonally across the road. A team will gain an advantage by splitting the peloton into multiple groups. Although this year, the wind was predicted to be 13km/h, meaning echelons were not able to form and the peloton stayed together.
With 15kms to go there was a crash toward the front of the peloton taking out multiple riders. Fortunately for me, I was able to go around the crash but by this time, the leading bunch was gone.
I finished in 64th place out of 135 riders. It’s my best finish yet! My IBCT team had a rider in every breakaway, and teammate Alice Sharpe ended up winning the most aggressive award.
Considering this is my first world tour race, I am happy with mine and the team's combined performance.
29 March 2022
Today was spent celebrating my younger twin sister's 15th birthday via a virtual breakfast. This is the first of their birthdays that I have not physically been with them. Thanks to modern technology, I was able to sing happy birthday to their faces. Luckily for me, this also means that I can communicate with my twinnies daily. Love you, Kayla and Imi XOXO
30 March 2022
The Dwars Door Vlaanderen UCI 1.Pro has been a UCI race since 2017 that has evolved over the years from a largely flat race with 1 or 2 major climbs to a really hard day out with 10 climbs and 3 stretches of pave over 120km. In the earlier years, the race was won by sprinters like Kirsten Wild and Lotta Henttala. Since the extra climbs have been introduced, a sprinter hasn’t won.
The narrow roads and climbs, as well as a few cobble sections throughout the distance, made it hard for me to improve my position. The peloton split into pieces over a cobbled climb which myself and my teammates missed as we were distanced from the front of the race. This race proved how important positioning is in Belgium's classic races and was a good learning experience for me.
1 April 2022
Snow covered the backyard and the fields of Belgium today. It was the first time I had ridden while it was snowing. I now can say I’ve got icebiking (or snow cycling) under my belt!
Today’s challenge was the Scheldeprijs UCI, a 138km race that is traditionally a sprinters race as it is held on the flat roads of Antwerp province.
I faced rainy conditions for the first hour of the race and during the neutral section, my handlebars dropped after I hit an unavoidable hole. Frustratingly, I had to stop and get fixed by the team mechanic. Luckily for me, this happened in the neutral zone, therefore the race couldn't start until I was back.
My positioning during this race improved from previous races, which I’m really happy with, yet I still have a lot more to learn which will hopefully come with more racing experience. My IBCT teammate Megan Armitage was in the breakaway of 3 riders for roughly 100km and they reached the 2-minute mark.
Unfortunately, the second crash of my European journey happened after a rider stopped in front of me on the cobble section, and I was left with nowhere to go as riders were on either side and not enough time to break. (I promise I do love cobbles, sometimes these things are just unavoidable though). I suffered a mild concussion but got back on my bike and finished the race. I was devastated I couldn't re-catch the peloton to be able to help the team in the finish and devastated I lost my wahoo computer during the crash.
Thank you to my supporters, especially those who have watched my racing (streamed in the early am) and followed along on my journey. My chance to travel and grow will never be lost to me. I love every experience. The highlights, the lowlights (forced learning), and the adventures I have had so far have been my building blocks to a stronger, happier, and more determined lady.