This year I’m all in on stepping up a level in cycling. So, I really want to race internationally and participate in UCI races. The only “problem” is that you often must be a team of minimum four riders to be able to join these races and on Team Integra Advokater – Giant, we are only two Women Elite riders.
Therefore, I was lucky that a Swedish team needed a rider for Tour of Uppsala. The team, Bianchi Cykel Klubb, is brand new and consist of five girls. One is abroad and another injured, so we were four girls on the team for the stage race.
I got the message on Sunday, bought a flight ticket on Monday and travelled on Wednesday. I had a very warm welcome from the team and felt part of it immediately.
This was the first edition of Tour of Uppsala and a two-day stage race consisting of three stages. Thursday started with a prologue of 4,7 kilometers and I was off at 11:48. The course included a lot of corners, hills, cobblestones and even a gravel section.
Before the start, I did the course a few times, but traffic wasn’t closed so I couldn’t do the cornering as fast as I wanted to know how much to push it when things got real. Also, I had never riding gravel before, so I wasn’t particularly happy about that part.
It was difficult to warm up without a roller or home trainer, so it felt like a cold start. I was riding on my road bike like most of the other girls but there were also girls on time trial bikes.
I went as fast as I possible could from the beginning not even looking at my Garmin. The first part was very technical and hard while the finish was very fast with a steep downhill where you could hit more than 60 kph.
It took me 7:29 minutes to finish and gave me a 22nd place among 50 riders, being 26 seconds slower than the winner. Looking at my numbers afterwards I don’t think I could have pushed harder, but I lost some time in some of the corners and on the gravel. You can find the results for stage 1a here.
Now we had six hours to recover before the race in the evening. The road race was on the same course but expanded and we had to 7 laps making it 80 kilometers.
We were just hanging around the race course waiting, eating, watching a men’s race and mentally preparing. I had never done two races on the same day before, so I didn’t know how my body would react. When it was finally time to get started I felt tired and not really in the mood for racing.
There was a neutral start and I started a bit too long at the back and because of the technical route it was impossible for me to get to the front. When the race was kicked off things got hectic and the speed was high. I struggled with the corners being in the back and riders in front of me losing the peloton, so I used a lot of energy on overtaking and closing the gap. When I finally reached the back of the peloton I was so tired and couldn’t hang on for long.
In the beginning I was alone, because I was the last to lose the peloton, and I didn’t have a motorbike in front of me to show me the way. Suddenly the road split in three and I didn’t know which way to go. There was no sign, no official or anything, so I went straight forward which I soon found out was wrong.
I waited a bit hoping to see other riders and find the route again and luckily it didn’t take long before five girls made the same mistake as me. We got back on track and I was happy not to be alone, even though the pace in our group was a bit low for my taste. But I thought it was fine to save some energy for the next day.
After hitting the gravel section again there was a gap between two of us and the rest of the group, so the other rider asked me if we should go ourselves. I’m always up for trouble, so I said “OK” and we speeded up. I took a lead and when I wanted to switch nothing happened, so I looked back and I had made a gap to the other rider.
I thought about waiting but I could see the rest of the girls coming closer to her, so I decided to go myself and ended up riding 4-5 laps om my own. Constantly worrying about getting caught it was a very tough race for me. I came in as 33rd and even though my only goal was to complete the race and avoid crashing, I was a bit disappointed about not being able to stay with the peloton. You can find the results for stage 1b here.
The next day we had to go on the same route again but expanded even further with 8 laps and 130 kilometers in total. I was again very tired, because I couldn’t sleep the night before and my body was also tired from the earlier races.
The sun was burning, and the temperature was at about 25 degrees with no clouds. The race start was delayed with 1,5 hours making all the riders sit in the street looking for shadow, keeping hydrated and fueled. We started the race at 12:30 in the heart of Uppsala.
This time I was determined to start in the front, so I kept fighting for my position in the neutral start and succeeded. Again, when the race was kicked off, pace was high from the beginning and people were very aggressive about positioning, so already on the first lap we had two crashed. After the second crash the peloton relaxed a bit, but then the attacks started, I failed in holding on to my spot in the front and I was too tired to hold on at the back.
I lost the peloton after about 30 kilometers, but I was happy with my performance so far, so from there anything else would be above my own expectations and a bonus. Therefore, I decided just to enjoy the rest of the race, find a group and get to the finish without killing myself like the day before.
Maybe it sounds strange since I’m a competitive athlete, but I had already got what I came for and I was beyond exhausted. I found a group of six riders and tried to get some kind of teamwork going on, but it was difficult, so I did a lot of the work getting us forward.
Suddenly, we could see the peloton again and I was at one hand thinking “damn it, now I have to work hard again” and on the other hand thinking “I don’t believe it, but awesome”. We pushed a bit harder and reached the bunch where things had slowed down a lot since the start.
Every time we went uphill my legs were screaming, so I lost the peloton several times, but somehow, I caught them again. It was like my mind was sleeping but my legs just kept pedaling. After losing the group for the fourth time or so I stopped counting and just laughed inside myself because it was so surreal to me.
It all ended in a bunch sprint and I managed to get a 13th place which was more than I had ever thought I would get in my first UCI race. You can find the results for stage 2 here.
I know that this race had the lowest UCI rank and there were not any of the very big and strong teams but there were still a few National Teams and World Tour riders.
It was a good experience and learning, and I’m so happy that I could do this race and show myself that I belong at his level. I still have things to work on, like positioning, but now I know I’m capable.
Fun fact: After riding on the gravel so many times I ended up liking it a lot! But the cobblestones I don’t need anytime soon.
I have one last race in Uppsala tomorrow, Skandis GP, which is a criterium with 15 x 2,6 kilometers including an awful hill. I will take it as another experience and I have no expectations other than having fun and enjoy the 26 degrees with no wind and a blue sky.