We longed for this moment!
Didn’t we? It felt like forever waiting for racing again. While we made plans, had agendas, the world suddenly turned upside down and we all fell into the unknown. While being in Turkey for 4 months in pandemic time, yes, it was hard, but I tried to keep myself motivated. I think I would never find a better option for training, so I used those months to bring myself back at a level of training which I couldn’t in the last 4 years. Even if it was 1-1,5 hours sometimes, I went out riding. There were long lock-down days, I went on my home trainer Till.Start. I wanted to be ready for the time when we would be on the start line again. But days, weeks, months passed. I, as well as all athletes, started to be truly hungry for that moment of passion and fight. Finally came that moment! Now with a new team: TEAM AAN ZEE OOSTVOORNE sponsored by Gelderblom Sports Physiotherapy and Restaurant Aan Zee Oostvoorne.
“What an interesting and nice course,” thought I when I was standing at the bottom of the hill and looking up to the top last year. I was having a shoulder injury and a lack of training at that time and I could do 3 laps over 5. I wanted to have a better race this year. I felt stronger. But there were surprisingly (but not surprisingly) 28 riders registered including the World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Eva Lechner. I was actually very happy to see a big field to race and those 2 big riders. I didn’t know how many laps would I be able to ride against the World Champion but even if it’s just 2, my aim was to do my best as always.
From Friday on, we saw it would be rainy in Belgium, I was really disappointed about it because rain means cold and I do not like cold. But there’s nothing to do but keep fighting, right? In the night it rained like cats and dogs, but Saturday, in the morning, was dry luckily. The course was still quite muddy, yet was good to ride. I did two training sessions in the racecourse with Lola and Sem, one in the morning while there were kid’s races and second in the late afternoon after all the races. Training at the drop, I made a really stupid mistake and crashed and injured my right ring finger badly. During the night and next morning (race day), it became more and more swollen and blue. There’s nothing to do. I had to race like this and I relied on myself not feeling anything during the race.
Sunday morning… Sun was shining, the weather was warm. I was hopeful and crossed my fingers that it would stay like that. The race was at 15:00. Finally came the time to prepare. At 13:30, I went out of the car, did three steps… Hey, what is that? OMG! Rain… It suddenly started to rain and didn’t stop until 15:00.
I started warming up and didn’t want to think about the rain because this course, in the rain… would be so slippery. Despite the rain, surprisingly, the weather was soft. I think I was lucky about it. 🙂
Just before the call-up for the start, it stopped raining. I was in the 3rd row. Finally, that was the moment we all missed.
It would be even a faster start than the other races because soon after, the first, steep climbing sector was coming. It was important to go in there as in the front as possible while it was single trail. I was very aware, yet I couldn’t start as fast as I wanted and therefore my position was not good when I went into the first climbing sector.
But this position also spared me some time to recover while climbing before reaching the top. Right after the top, we go into the woods, the other side of the mountain. There are technical, very lovely single trails on that side of the mountain which were so slippery in the rain. I was with a group of riders on the downhills there, but everywhere was a crash. We were all crashing on to each other. It was rather funny than being serious, I had to laugh in the end.
As downhills, uphills were also slippery but if you find the right gear, right traction, they were quite rideble except one at the highest top. Photos above are from the first lap where I had the wrong gear to start the climb. I didn’t make the same mistake on the other laps. Because I’m not as powerful as the other ones yet, I truly had to take care of how to start a climb to finish it to till the end. You know, you learn in the race, even about yourself. 🙂
All the rocky sections, every single stone in the course was slippery. The ones who could stay on the bike at those sections (respectfully) did earn their places. I was slipped off my bike on every stone in the first lap, so I decided not to risk at all and just do the safest way: walk…
In the second lap, I rode mostly alone but I was chasing some riders and being chased. So, I rushed and therefore made so many mistakes on the downhills in the woods. I lost a lot of time there. It also started raining and that made the course even worse. I didn’t do the same mistakes in the third lap. I was more careful. Yet, I crashed once and the pedal hit my left inner calf badly. I couldn’t move for a couple of seconds and when I stood up, I couldn’t stand on my leg. I could see, it became immediately swollen there but I had to go on. If I’d moved it, I thought, perhaps I would’ve felt less pain. I didn’t. It became more painful, especially on the bumpy descents. Hey, by the way, I was already doing the 3rd lap which made me so happy. That means I have done the same as last year even with the World Champion in the race who on the descent (3rd lap) lapped me. But I at least didn’t want to be caught by chasers, so I did my best to climb as fast as possible and reach the finish line defending my position.
I reached to the finish, thought 3rd lap was my last, but no, they let me go into the 4th lap. I cannot explain how happy I was. I’ve made it! I’ve done 4 laps with the World Champion, despite all my mistakes in the course and with a heavily injured leg.
I can honestly say that it could’ve been better but I am proud of my progress. Unfortunately, my leg is still injured and I barely can walk. No training yet, so I think it will not be possible for me to take part in Spaarnwoude on September, the 13th. I will see…
It was an epic race: rain, mud, fight against nature, white in the beginning, black in the end! I LOVED IT!
I would like to thank all the photographers and media for capturing our epic moments under those conditions; marshalls and the crew and the organisation who made it possible for us to race.