Named in honour of the first female world champion, the Festival du Luxembourg Elsy Jacobs 2012 is a 3 day tour in Luxembourg from April 27-29. The first stage is an evening prologue of 1.7km, stage two is a 102km road race, and the final stage is a 99km road race.
Prologue: Rain and Risk
The evening prologue took place in heart of Luxembourg city. It had rained earlier in the day and the roads were wet. Being in the centre of the city, each corner was covered in white and yellow paint for pedestrian crossings making them very slippery. Since we weren’t allowed to have following vehicles, if you crashed you would have no support and would have to accept the time of the last finisher. So, although there were only four corners, I was nervous about them even before we started.
The race had attracted a very competitive field and all the popular favourites were in attendance, most of them on full TT bikes. I was only on a standard bike, so I focused on having a strong race and hoped the rain would stay away. As the race started, the weather seemed to be holding out and the first riders, including the winner Annemiek van Vleuten, were lucky enough to enjoy drier roads. Literally, as I was about to start, it started to rain and the rain just got worse and worse as time went by. With a wet course and no vehicle support, I knew the race would come down to a question of how many risks you were willing to take.
I gave the prologue a good effort and felt strong, but as I rounded the first corner, and each one after that, I could feel my nerves. When you find yourself thinking too much about technical aspects, like corners, you start to doubt yourself and then it is pretty much game over. I took the two most technical corners really easy and lost quite a bit of time on them but I didn’t want to take any risks. I decided rather to limit my loses time wise and focus instead on upcoming road stages.
I finished in the middle of the field, 14 seconds down from the winner Annemiek van Vleuten and was happy to finish with no incidents.
Full results for the prologue here.
Stage 2: Making the Split
Stage 2 was a 102km road race including one big lap through the rolling hills of Luxembourg countryside and 5 local laps, in and around the little town of Garnich. The local lap included two short climbs, a tough cross wind section at the top of the second climb, some technical downhill and an uphill drag to the finish line.
Having raced the same route last year, I was very familiar with the terrain and route technicalities. Despite some lingering clouds, the weather had improved drastically overnight and standing on the start line, we were all hoping for a dry race.
Last year the big lap served as a great warm up with racing only really starting on the local laps. Very soon after the start, it became clear that this would be the case again this year.
Entering the local laps, about 50km into the race, I felt great and excited to get down to some action! There were numerous attacks throughout the last 50 km of racing on the local laps. It was really fun being aggressive myself, trying my luck at a few attacks, covering moves and driving breaks.
It came down to sprint from the group of 12 and dammit, I certainly made a good job of messing up my chances of a great finish! I finished 9th and Jo 10th. Good, but not the result we were looking for.
Last year, I missed the split in this same race. I was caught positioned too far back in the bunch at the critical moments and found myself in the chasing peloton.
This year, my confidence has grown. I can take part in creating the racing and I have learnt how to make the split. The next step is to learn how to read the sprints.
I finished stage 2 with all the hill prime points and the climbers jersey.
Full results for stage 2 here.
Stage 3: Crash in Sprint
Stage 3 was a 99.1km road race including the same big lap as stage 2 and 5 local laps in and around the town of Mamer. The local lap included one short, undulating climb, a fast down hill section and a very technical sprint finish in the town of Mamer.
The big lap was not quite as laid back as yesterday’s race. The race started hard and fast, with much attacking. With only seconds separating the top 20, anything was possible and the peloton went mental. Just about everyone tried their luck at getting away, but to no avail.
Having the climber’s jersey, I decided to wait for the hill primes, with the aim to use them as a launch pad for a break away.
There were three hill primes on the day and on all three occasions I tried my best to get away. On the second prime I managed to get away with two riders, but we were quickly chased down by Marianne Vos. On the last prime, I tried once again. Marianne Vos came with me, but did not want to cooperate and we were once again brought back by the peloton.
Approaching the final lap, it became clear that Rabobank wanted a sprint finish. They did everything in their power to control the racing and with success, as the sprint was won by Annemiek van Vleuten. Marianne Vos finished closely behind her in second place and with the overall win.
Unfortunately, a crash happened on the last technical corner entering the final 500m. This took world champion Georgia Bronzini down and ended the chances of many of the sprinters. I found myself caught behind the crash, disappointed that the race had come to a premature end for me, but relieved to have finished safe and sound.
Teammate Cherise Taylor was lucky enough to escape the crash and finished 5th, a great result for her and our Lotto Belisol team. I finished the tour, winning the climber’s competition and in 11th position overall. Teammate Jo Van De Winkel finished 12th overall.
Full results here.
Luxembourg was great! It was a great opportunity to experiment and bond as a team. We all learnt a lot and had fun doing so 🙂
Onwards and upwards!
All photographs courtesy of Wim Hoste.