Events: Omloop van Borsele - International Junior Womens Stage Race
Published: 1st May 2013
Article By: Louise Borthwick
Last weekend I travelled to Holland for my first international Junior Womens stage race. The race was 3 stages over 3 days, a 13.2 km time trial and 2 72 km road stages. Because it was such a big race all the riders had to enter in teams, unfortunately I didn't have a team to enter with so we wrote to the organiser and he wrote to some dutch teams to ask if they would let me ride with them. Luckily some came back saying they would and I chose to ride with the RWC Ahoy team from Rotterdam.
So me and my mum set off on Thursday to get the ferry from Hull, this bit all went smoothly, the issues started when we got off the ferry in Belgium to get lost almost immediately. The Belgian road signs made things more difficult than they should've been but after a few detours and a tour of a town we didn't need to do we final made it into Holland. The drive seemed much easier after this and we made it to the place we were staying. Just as we were arriving a team car with RWC Ahoy written on it pulled up and I got my first chance to meet the girls I would be riding with for the weekend. They all seemed very nice and invited me to stay in their room with them. This was quite an experience, 6 of us in quite a small room with bunk beds, safe to say there wasn't much floor space.
Once we'd unpacked a bit and had lunch we headed down to the time trial course for a ride round it. It was pan flat, with a good tail wind section but then, obviously, a hard head wind section and some good corners. I was happy with how my bike felt and settled nicely into my tt bars. We rode back to the place we were staying and changed before getting in the van and heading to the start of the TT. I pretty much went straight to warm up because I only had half an hour till my start time. I headed to the start and soon I was at the top of the start ramp ready to go. I had the count down in dutch (vaguely understood) and I was off and immediately being battered by the cross winds, I tried to get the bike into as big a gear I could manage and just hold it. Soon I made the turn into the tail wind section and a quick glance at my garmin showed I was going at nearly 50 km/h, at the top of my junior gears, and I could see the team car behind the girl in front. I found a nice rhythm and held it down the turn before I was into the head wind and just trying to keep a high enough gear turning over. My legs were seriously hurting by now but I could still see the girl in front so I kept pushing. I didn't quite manage to catch her but I finished in a time of 21.02.22, which was 2.24.16 down on the winner who was Nicky Zijlaard, whose team I was on! Nicky was over the moon with her win and it gave me a purpose on the team, I had to help keep the red jersey.
So onto the first road stage and after a mental ride out to the start behind the team car I was feeling a bit nervous. We lined up half an hour before the start but were still nearly at the back of the 92 girls in the race. I then got very confused as a commissar started telling us all to move back and everyone started turning their bikes around, I thought we were starting in the other direction or something but it turned out everyone was checking their gears. So after that and signing on I made it to the start line, quite near the back. I knew I would have to move up on the first bit of wide road before we turned onto the super narrow ones where the crashes would happen. Eventually we were off and almost immediately there was a crash to my left, I just managed to avoid it but had to come almost to a stop and sprint to get going again. This happened a few more times and sometimes I would just have to slam on my brakes for no reason and then go again. It was mental, but eventually it settled down a bit and I tried to move up, the issue was the bunch was covering the width of the road. I decided I had to do something so went up the bit of rough track just off the road, I got a few funny looks but it worked. I just kept trying to move up but always seemed to be nowhere near the front. It was really hard to be near the front and on the right side of the bunch in the cross winds, I often found myself struggling for shelter just getting battered, but we had 3 laps of the same course so I learnt where the wind was coming from in each bit of road and tried to move so i wouldn't be in it but it was really difficult! Coming into the final 2km stretch on the last lap I was way too far back and almost got dropped as the whole bunch strung out but luckily they eased up a bit and I got back on and finished somewhere towards the back of the bunch. Nicky still had the leaders jersey though so we were happy with that.
The next day and the last stage, I was determined to do everything better today. So that started with getting to the start earlier, which I did meaning I was on the 2nd row. Going into the first tight corner I was in the top 10 and although I slipped back a bit on the big 40km loop we were doing as we came into the last 3 finishing loops I moved up and helped Nicky chase down some attacks. We were soon on the last lap and the girl who was in 2nd overall, only 14 seconds behind Nicky, had attacked. I did my best to try and pull her back but my legs were just giving in by that point. Luckily Nicky is an insanely strong rider and even though no one wanted to help her she managed to keep the gap down and take the overall win by 1 second. She was overjoyed by this, as was I and the rest of the team. It was a great feeling to know I'd contributed a bit and the whole team had our photos taken with Nicky in her red jersey and it was great!
I ended up in 47th place overall but it didn't really matter, I'd learnt a lot and had a really good time with all the girls on the team. Really wish I could go back every weekend!
On Tuesday I was straight back into the racing at the first ERC Ingliston crit, a 3rd place was all I could manage with my tired legs but I hope they have recovered by Sunday when I've got the next round of the British Series down in Cheshire.
Some more photos from the weekend...