#FlashBackFriday: Thank You Italy!

This week’s #FlashBackFriday comes from my first year in Europe, 2009, and the Sparkassen Giro which I raced in early August. After starting the Giro Rosa with the Australian national team and struggling in every stage until I abandoned on stage seven or eight (I’ve mentally blocked out the memory) I returned to racing with my club team, Moving Ladies, and finished third behind Rochelle Gilmore and Suzanne De Goede.

I thought this blog was fitting to share (again) as I prepare for my first race after this year’s Giro Rosa. While the race isn’t the Sparkassen Giro – which I will unfortunately  miss this year as I’ll be competing at the Commonwealth Games – I’m hoping that, like in 2009, I’ll reap the rewards of suffering up the mountains and I can turn my string of top tens into podiums.

After a week of ‘aggressive recovery’ after the Giro Rosa I’ll be lining up for the new two day, three stage, BeNe tour in the Netherlands and Belgium tomorrow. I’m hoping the race will be ripped to shreds in the crosswinds.

In the meantime, enjoy my blog from 2009…

As it turns out my time in Italy and the suffering I endured in both races and training when the gradient of the road tilted upwards has come back to lend a helping hand. The Sparkassen Giro, held in Bochum Germany the past weekend helped prove that all those hours of agony spent off the back of the bunch were actually worth it after I finished third behind Rochelle Gilmore and Suzanne De Goede.

The race, carrying a UCI ranking of 1.1, one classification below a World Cup, was 6 laps of a 14 kilometre circuit. It had two power climbs and a long, fast downhill to the finish line so was raced at an average speed of 37km/hr. With crowds lining the course there was a real party atmosphere surrounding it and I found myself feeding off the crowd’s energy as I powered over the climbs each lap with the front group.

As I stood waiting for presentations I saw riders like Mark Cavendish and Henrich Haussler casually ride past me to the start of their race. I realised that the crazed crowd weren’t hear to see me, rather these athletes who carry superstar status. Nonetheless, it was still pretty amazing to ride infront of what was possibly a hundred thousand people or more.

Donning the Moving Ladies colours for the first time in a little over a month is was great to race with all the girls again. Emma was very aggressive in the race and found herself in a break with two laps to go which had all the major teams in it. Nurenberger, however, were obviously unhappy with the composition of the break as they dragged it back with a little over 15 kilometres to go. And so it was to be a sprint – was I happy? Was I ever!

The long descent into the finish line meant that the speed of the peloton in the final kilometres was around 60km/hr and there was no one team controlling the front of the bunch. The last two kilometres were truly chaotic as all the teams were vying to get their sprinters into the best possible position for the final right hand corner which was only 200 metres from the finish line.

Since arriving in Europe and growing to know and love the European peloton I have learnt many things, one of which is this; if you want to sprint and succeed in Europe you need to have guts, and be willing to take risks.

After a few very close calls and wheel touches while travelling at 65km/hr I arrived at the final right hand corner in fifth wheel, not necessarily the ideal position with only 200 metres to go. It was great to see the Australian team taking a firm hold on the race with Vickie Whitelaw giving the new Australian sprinter, Kirsty Broun, a fantastic leadout as she took her into the final corner in second wheel with Suzanne De Goede, Rochelle Gilmore and I strung out behind her.

As we all exploded out of the corner the noise of the crowd thundered in our ears as banners and flags were waved madly. Rochelle proved too strong, taking out the win narrowly from Suzanne and myself. It was a close and exciting sprint with thousands of people watching on and yelling wildly for no-one in particular.

I was extremely happy with my third in one of Europe’s major races. What was also great was having the three Australian sprinters, Rochelle, Kirsty and I all racing against each other in a quality international field as it really demonstrates the strength of female cycling in Australia.

While no longer riding for the Australian team it was fantastic to see how they took hold of the race, trying to control it. But it was not only the Aussie team that really impressed me; my Moving Ladies team mates were really active throughout the whole race. All the girls seem to be going from strength to strength as the season moves towards its climax, the World Championships in late September.

The Sparkassen Giro is definitely going on my list of races I will do again. With any luck I’ll be back next year and hopefully I’ll be able to improve on third.



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