“You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life.”
My first World Cup for the 2014 season, Ronde van Drenthe in The Netherlands, blew me away. Literally. Forget the three times we climbed the steep VAMberg climb that has a max gradient of 23%. Forget the four long sections of cobbles. Forget tiny technical Dutch roads. The wind was the hardest challenge of the race. On a scale of 1-10, the wind was an unrelenting 20.
Since I had done three races in Holland before, I thought I had an idea of what Dutch racing was like, but I couldn’t have imagined what was in store for the next 146km. My job was to take care of our team leader and sprinter, Chloe Hoskings. It was the first time I was racing Drenthe but, from my previous experience racing in Holland, I knew how difficult it was going to be to move in the bunch and hold a good position. I knew the best way to protect and help Chloe would be to help her stay where she needed to be, at the front and out of the wind.
My plan was a good one, in theory, but from the word go the bunch was jittery and riders seemed to be all over the place. We all jostled for positions on the narrow roads, flat out sprinting at times just to keep a good wheel. I soon realised I was on the back foot. I wasn’t just fighting to keep a good position, sometimes I was battling to stay in touch with the front group all together and the wind was making it feel impossible. When ever I tried to move up to help Chloe, the wind made it feel like I was hitting a wall and that my tyres were stuck to the tar. I was fighting my bike; I was fighting the wind; I was fighting against myself!
It came down to a fatal left hand corner. With 77km of the 146km done, we took the left corner and all the Dutchies, especially Rabobank, moved to the front, throwing the rest of us in the gutter. It was like they had all been waiting for this one point and, when they moved, the entire peloton shattered into pieces. With absolutely no where to hide, I fell victim to the crosswinds and didn’t make the split.
In all the chaos, confusion, anger and frustration throughout the whole race – I did manage to find some joy! I was defeated by the Dutch wind. I was terribly disappointed in my failure to support my team and frustrated at my failure to perform. In so much defeat, however, I found joy in reconnecting with my fighting spirit. It would have been so easy to throw in the towel and climb in the team car but, no matter how defeated I felt, I never gave up.
I may have got blown away in the crosswinds but fighting every pedal stroke until I crossed the finish line at Drenthe reconnected me with my fighting spirit. The experience reminded me that there is joy to be found in the face of defeat if you can find the strength to stand up to it.