“There is always noise around us. No matter how crazy life becomes, keep your focus on the end goal. You never know when success might strike.” AMP
If there are ever any races that aren’t over until the line, it’s the spring classics. With tough technical courses, bad roads, cobbled climbs, big bunches, and intermittent spring weather – the one day races are as crazy as it gets. Since it’s my first season racing the classics, I’ve been on a steep learning curve racing in such chaotic conditions.
As I’ve learned, the crazier the race, the more reason to believe it isn’t over until the line! Whatever the conditions and no matter how much noise around you – you just have to keep your focus and continue fighting to the end.
I lined up for my second spring classic, Le Samyn des Dames, and immediately got overwhelmed by the big jittery bunch, the constant road furniture, bad roads, and technical turns. And that was just the first 27km of the race! When we started the 4 laps of the finishing 21km circuit, I was struggling to stay at the front end of the race. The straight fast descent just before the cobbled climb had me fighting for position lap after lap. I kept trying to hold my position but just couldn’t get it right.
On the last lap with under 10km to go, while I was busy fighting my way back to the front, Orica Green-Edge put the pace down leading into the final cobbled climb and managed to force a group of 20 odd riders up the road. Try as I might, with the break gone, my race seemed to be over.
Even though my race wasn’t going as planned, I had four teammates in the break – one of which was our sprinter Chloe Hosking, so our team was in a good position. For the first time in the race, I found myself feeling more relaxed and focused. I knew my teammates were all strong, but it was still no time to give up, we hadn’t crossed the finish line yet.
With my focus now on watching for any riders looking to bridge the gap, things seemed to turn back in my favour. I followed a wheel and tagged along to the front group and was now part of the front group of about 40 riders.
Just like that, I was back in the race.
Back in the race meant I was back fighting for position while I negotiated the cracked concrete slab roads, the endless traffic furniture and, most importantly, how I was going to handle the tight technical corner onto the finishing straight. With 800m to go, the bunch approached the final bend and, not wanting to pop out at the back, I chose the shortest and fastest line I could. I may have been in completely opposite places but, like the the 111km before it, I came out of the corner in the worst possible position: I was first wheel!
With a split second to figure out what to do, I decided to do what I had done all day: fight for it! I wasn’t going to give up until the line, so I put my head down and launched into my sprint early. In full flight, fighting for the line only one rider, Emma Johansson, was able to come around me. My never-say-die sprint rewarded me with second.
I’m still can’t believe how I managed to negotiate the 112km of everything a classic’s race can throw at you, but I do know I got on the podium because I never gave up. What I did in the final 800m was just what I had done all day, because as long as you keep your focus and you keep fighting, you always have a chance.