Last Friday me and the other girls from the team took the team car to Jutland to race the yearly Marcello Bergamo Cup. Daily speaking we call it “Pinsecup” (“Whitsun” Cup must be the English translation) and it is one of the only races on the calendar where Women A (Elite), Women B and Women Junior race together. That meant that for the first time us girls could race together as a team.
Stage 1: Silkeborg
The first stage was hilly and even though we had an early start before 10:00 it was hot and without wind. The race was 86 kilometers with six laps and one long hill that could really make a difference.
I was a bit more nervous than usual before the start. A bit nervous because of the big peloton, but also because I was afraid of failing. Afraid of not being good enough to be in the top. The feeling of not being good enough is something I’m trying to get rid of. I guess we all feel it sometimes and mostly I don’t give it too much attention, but this time it bothered me more than I needed it to.
In the peloton there were two big teams with around 10 riders each – and strong riders – while we were the third biggest team with five riders and the rest of the peloton was club riders and a few professionals being home.
The two big teams were aggressive from the beginning and attacks was ongoing, but only a single rider got away. It took me some time to relax in the peloton, so I used too much energy being in the back and struggling to get to the front.
Finally, my nervousness went down, and I could be to some use in the front. On the final lap I tried to get away right before the last hill. It was a make it or break it moment and this time I didn’t made it. I had the gap, but I was caught midway on the hill and then I had to dig deep to hang on to the finish line.
I finished 15 in the Women A class and 18 in the Cup. Even though we ride together, we still have separate prizes/points. I was happy to be able to stay with the front group throughout the race and for being active when I could and for having the guts to gamble even if it meant I lost a few places in the ranking.
After the race we had to wait for the men to finish because they used the team car for service. We waited 3-4 hours and helped give out bottles, tanned in the sun and payed over-price for things to drink and eat from the food truck. Probably not the best way to rest for the race the day after.
Stage 2: Herning
On the second stage we changed car with the guys, so we could go straight home after our race. The route was almost pancake flat, not much wind and 95 kilometers with only four laps.
Again, the pace was high from the beginning and attacks was flying left and right. Again, I struggled getting to the front and on the second lap I punctured. Luckily, we had neutral service, so I was given a new wheel and paced back to the peloton. I think five or seven girls punctured – did they put out thumbtacks??
Well, two got away, but the attacks kept coming and I also tried my luck now and then. On the last lap everyone was tired, and things were starting to slow down, so I took a long lead.
With around 10 kilometers to the finish three girls attacked and I was just able to get my ass with them. I had used energy on the long lead and even more on closing the gap to the three riders, so I really struggled just to wheel suck and had to skip taking my turn a few times. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I simply couldn’t.
The peloton was chasing us, and in a corner, they were close but then I heard a crash behind me and I could hear a familiar scream. I looked back and saw team mate Josefine on the ground and thought “crap!” but I had to continue.
The four of us managed to keep the peloton distanced, but in the finish a car was in the final corner blocking our road. We had to brake and yelled to have it moved, but when it did, it was in the same direction as we had to go, so we had to brake again. Then the car decided to turn left, and we almost hit it, so we had to block the brakes again and start the sprint from zero on an uphill finish.
I was last in the sprinter train and unsure if being fourth was too long in the back, so I sat on the side of number three, but in the wind, which was not a good idea either. Luckily, the third rider decided to start the sprint early and I caught her wheel for a short period and then passed her.
I could see the finish line, but it felt so long to get there, and I was constantly afraid of someone getting passed me from behind. I managed to hold on and win the sprint and the last spot on the podium. I was very happy because sprinting is not my thing, but I have been working on improving it and it finally pays off.
Unfortunately, happiness was quickly changed to worry when I was called to the judges telling me I had to go to the hospital where Josefine was being treated. They only told me it didn’t look good, so I was very worried and just wanted to get the prize ceremony over with, so I could go see her.
Me and the other girls went to the hospital and Josefine looked like, well, like she hit asphalt with her face – as she did. Her face was all bloody and she had a deep cut in her chin and eyebrow. Fortunately, nothing was broken, but she had 14 stitches and a concussion. No more racing for her in a while.
So, instead of getting home early and rest, I spend a few hours at the hospital and didn’t had food for a long time. When we could finally go back to the hostel, we had to go to the store for food and pick up Josefine’s bike. I needed to do some other stuff also and my head was mentally on limit when I could finally take a break late at night. What a roller-coaster day!
Bonus info: This day we had a rider on the podium in all classes: Women A (Elite), Women B and Men A (Elite)!
Stage 3: Hammel
On the morning of the final stage I didn’t feel good. I didn’t have much sleep, I was tired in my body as well as my head, and the motivation for racing the longest and hardest stage was non-existing. But I had too and I’m not a quitter.
It was another early start and a bit colder than the other days plus windier. The route was almost flat except for a 600 meters long hill with an average of 9,7% called Pøt Mølle Bakken and a long downhill before it went up. We had 100 kilometers of racing with seven laps. That was seven times up the hill!
I thought the hill would make the difference, but again attacks went on from the beginning. The pace was high and every lap the speed was increasing. Four riders managed to get away while I was sitting in the back being without energy or motivation. I just wanted to have an “easy” day, but a race is never an easy day.
And the problem with being in the back was that every rider in front of me was braking a lot on the descent before the hill, so I had to do the same. When I then got to the bottom of the hill I already had a gap to the peloton. Closing the gap was damn hard and I used a lot of energy on it, but I didn’t learn and made the same mistake repeatedly. I don’t know how I managed to keep closing the gaps but somehow, I did. It was stupid and a waste of energy.
I was hoping to feel better after an hour (it often takes my body a long time to warm up) but after 1:15 hours I was still tired. Riders were falling from behind on every lap and two more got away in the front. Then I started to wake up.
When another rider tried her luck, I had enough of feeling powerless, so make it or brake it I decided to use what I had left in the pursuit. Unfortunately, we were only two riders willing to use energy on chasing the solo breakaway and when we were passed by the Men age 50 peloton we had to give up the pursuit.
Instead I decided to take the lead for the rest of the lap because I didn’t want to be put back in every corner and downhill because of braking riders in front of me. That meant that I could go full gas on the descent getting a good momentum uphill and then I just pushed with all I had. The finish line was 1600 meters after the top of the hill.
A few riders passed me up the hill, but I caught them again and then we were four together (I think) going for a sprint. I started it too early – thought the line was closer than it was – and regretted. The sprint was in head wind, so I tried to go back on the train but lost too much speed to be able to pass two of the riders again and came in third in the bunch and 9th in Women A just outside the prizes. Damn it!
I ended 8th in the cup and I was proud of my racing despite still having a lot to learn. I have improved a lot since last year and I could focus on improving my positioning and even had energy to be a part of forming the race. That is sometimes the problem with three different levels racing together and only a small part being willing and able to race aggressive. The rest are happy just to sit in the peloton – as I was last year – and I don’t blame them, but it would be nicer with more active riders willing to take risks. You never know if you don’t try 😉
This year we were almost 60 female riders and I think this was the biggest and strongest peloton ever and the increasing interest of women’s cycling is awesome! 😀