Heal Report: Europe – The Story So Far
The Heal Reports are occasional updates we get in from Rachel Heal, our Women’s sporting director while she is on the road. They are brief and a little different from our usual content.
Enjoy, and keep up with our women’s team while they are in Europe on Twitter and Facebook. #RollWithUs
Coming in from various corners of the globe (Indianapolis, California, Spain, London, Oman and Netherlands) the women’s team reconvened in Belgium this weekend for the first weekend of racing on our schedule of spring classics.
First up was Het Niewsblad, but before that, it was time to see the chateau which would be home for the next 7 weeks
After a day or so to get over the jet lag it was off to Ghent for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Our team for the race was Coryn, Iris, Diana, Katie, Annie and Hayley. Once we arrived at our hotel in Oudenaard, we went for a ride to check out the course, and were able to see the most important climbs where the race usually splits.
An early start the next morning, meant a very cold mechanic, and a wait for the ice on the car windshield to melt before I could head to the managers meeting.
The meeting itself made me wish I’d paid more attention in French class at school, as everything was said in Dutch and French only (apart from “the UCI schedule of fines is applicable” ….. not sure why that was the only thing in the whole meeting they decided should be translated into English) but the meeting ended on a high note. We drew car 1 and when there are 33 teams in the race, a good caravan draw is important.
An hour and a half later, with plenty of warm Vermarc clothing on and embro applied it was time for the off. With 198 riders on the start line, and the course turning onto roads barely wider than a car, the fight for positioning is vital, and from the gun we were focused on making sure we were up near the front. That fight hit a slight road bump when first Coryn and then Katie crashed and almost ended up in a ditch inside the first 20km, but both were able to get back on and back into the bunch. Over the first of the climbs the race split and then regrouped repeatedly, until the effort finally took its toll and over the Molenberg a front group of 25 riders went clear, from which current World Champion, Lizzie Armitstead would win solo.
Iris finished in the second group, and Coryn, Annie and Diana in a group behind that. Katie unfortunately crashed again, and having hit her head hard, we decided she should finish the race in the team car.
Back at the Chateau, the adventures continued, as the power went out, luckily not until dinner had been cooked, so we had dinner by candlelight!
Sunday morning it was time for race 2, Omloop van het Hageland, with a reduced but determined team of Iris, Hayley, Annie, and Diana.
The race covered a large lap of 50km, followed by 5 small laps of 15km, with a climb coming just 5km from the finish. As could be seen on the live coverage of the race, Iris was feeling good, and put in several strong attacks, at times taking small groups with her, but each time the group was chased back, and the race ended in a bunch sprint won by Marta Bastianelli.
Next up for the team is Le Samyn on Wednesday, where if the forecast is to be believed, we will have our first race in the Belgian rain!