Yesterday I realised that nothing quite prepares one for the race intensity and pace in Europe, like racing in the European women’s peloton does! Of course racing with the veteran men back home has helped to bring us that much closer, but WOW, these women race hard! Yesterday we averaged 39km/h for 131km with 1470m climbing!
The Trofeo Binda World Cup started in Cittiglio, Italy. The race consisted of one big lap and four small, local laps. Each small lap included one 3km climb with an uphill drag to the finish line.
The race started with a very large peloton of 164 women, much larger than most World Cup races. Being an Italian World Cup, many invitational Italian women’s teams were allowed to start. This did not help much, as from the start there were many nervous women and much tension in the peloton.
After a 10km neutral zone, we set off for 121km of racing, and my word the girls set off at quite a pace! This pace continued for the entire length of the race. It was literally full taps from the start to finish, with very little time for recovery!
I held a good position near the front of the peloton from the start. But despite my good position, I still managed to get taken down in a crash on the first small descent of the race, at about 15km.
This rattled me a bit, having crashed twice in last years race, which completely ruined any chances of a good result, I found myself hoping and praying last year’s misfortune would not repeat itself. Luckily enough, my fall was not very hard and I managed to get myself up, and going quite quickly.
After a hard, but controlled chase, I managed to catch the peloton about 10km before the first major climb of the day. I took a few minutes to recover and set off to make my way to the front, before hitting the climb.
The race pace continued to be hard and fast, but unlike last year, we did not managed to drop as many riders on the first two climbs of the big lap. The racing really started on the small local laps. With every lap, we managed to drop more and more riders. But it was on the second last climb of the day, with one lap to go, I found myself in a break away of 11 riders with representation from all the major teams.
Unfortunately just before we hit the final climb of the day, we were caught from behind by the chasing peloton. This complicated things slightly, as on catching us, there was a huge rush to the front before hitting the final climb of the day.
Starting the climb, I found myself somewhat boxed in and had to fight hard to get out again. By this time, a move had gone off the front of the peloton and I found myself chasing hard again. As I rejoined the 10 riders off the front, Marianne Vos (Rabobank) made her move. Having worked quite hard to make the break, I just didn’t have the legs to follow her!
If you give Marianne Vos an inch, she takes a mile, and soon we found ourselves racing for second place. At this point I was literally fighting for survival. I have been struggling with a head cold and allergies since arriving in Europe and after 125km of hard racing; I was not feeling my best!
With a few last attempt attacks approaching the finish line and with a fast approaching chasing peloton, I found myself on the front of our chase group of 10 taking the final corner with about 500m to go. In hindsight, not the best place to be, but not thinking very clearly at the time, I thought I could launch my sprint early and last!
Marianne Vos won and I crossed the finish line 10th, a respectable finish for my first World Cup of 2012, but I found myself feeling very disappointed! I had messed up my sprint, my last chance of a higher finishing position and more valuable points for South Africa!
On reflection, I learnt a lot about myself during the race and after finishing 57th last year, I am happy with my result! Trofeo Binda was my first race back in Europe for 2012 and not feeling my best, I’m hoping that things can only get better from here!
The other South African girls did their best on the day, but unfortunately Jo Van De Winkel and An-Li Pretorius did not finish. Jo was caught up in the same crash I went down in, but unlike me, she needed mechanical assistance from our team vehicle and never managed to rejoin the front peloton. Lise rode strong to finish 62nd in her first World Cup ever!
Onwards and upwards 🙂
For full race results click here