That`s what they talk about when they say that racing in Europe is different from racing in the States! It really was everything that I`ve been told my first race in Europe would be like.
First off... on Lipton, we had five starters and the U.S. National Team had four -- that gave us at least nine people out of 200 that could and would speak English throughout the race! Seriously, I didn't understand one thing that was called out by the other riders or officials... not one thing for 140k! As a matter of fact...during the race I just started saying EH!... when I wanted somebody to either hold there line, or Yeah?!.. when somebody said who knows what to me.
Seems silly, but it worked! Two syllables is all it took. Who would have known ;-)
So the race was straight up fast and furious from the gun. Yep.... there were road obstacles that made me feel like I was navigating some kind of crazy video game. As a matter of fact, here were some obstacles (known to us racers as road furniture) that were so dangerous they put people up on them waving large orange flags to direct us around. I never did hit anything and at some point I decided that I could ride pretty damn close to those things with five riders tightly tucked in across the road....and we would all make it through! Actually, most of the crashes (and ...there were ALOT!) happened on fairly straight roads. The problem was not how technical the course was that caused all the crashes... it was more like these narrow roads (that would be narrow with a capital N!) that would be the real issue. Everyone wanted the same spot, or they all wanted to move up at the same time.... that doesn`t work so well when you have nearly 200 women shuffling along, and many of them already on the rivet! I have to admit... I was getting quite the thrill from it! And once I learned how to claim my own personal space with the bunch, things seemed to roll along pretty well.
Here in Europe... one thing that is definitely different... expect to brake constantly. That is a big difference from U.S. racing. And I mean "breaking" .... it`s not just slowing... it`s full on slam on the brakes --over and over and over again, or you will ride right up the "you know what" of the rider in front of you.
Let`s just say that fast reaction time is a much needed skill! for European racing...
I won`t go into the "race details" so much (go to www.womenscycling.net for that), but I will tell you that ALL of the U.S. women raced well. Lipton and The U.S. National Team really made it clear that we can duke it out at this level. That was a cool feeling. Personally, my legs felt the effort at about 110k. I knew I would make it to the finish and I had figured out how how to be crafty enough to get myself in decent position (oh and yes we ride sidewalks and gutters here!), but when it came time to get going into the long 700 meter drag race to the finish out of the final turn.... I just hit my own little personal wall... I was right on Brooke`s wheel, but I got pinched, then gapped and then I suddenly lost my place to contest for a top ten finish!
It all happened so fast.
At the finish, I rolled across the line with a little last bit of umph (!), which earned me a top 25 for my European race --in a finish that did not really suit my strengths at all! (long drag race type ones you know).
Anyway, good enough for starters Hey....
And hats off to the other U.S. riders for their good finishes-- AND to Brooke Miller for sticking into the top ten.
Here are some pictures from the day:
Just before things get going. feeling good feeling calm... ready eddy freddy.
post race. everyone feeling good about the day.
brooke... all smiles.
cheers! all of us at dinner after the race :)