Finally, my road-season started last Saturday with the Strade Bianche, a favourite for many riders. Even though this race was only the third edition for women, Strade Bianche is a race in which you wish to show your best condition. Racing over white gravel roads and the Toscan rolling hills surely have something magical and iconic.
My preparation has been satisfying. During the past winter, I accomplished a nice, well-balanced cyclo-cross campaign which was an ideal preparation for the road-season. Following the world championship in Luxembourg, I took advantage of 2 more cyclo-cross races in order to, according to plan, reduce the pressure for a week and a half.
Training block in Spain
Shortly after the WM3 Procycling team presentation in Shimano’s new headquarters, we started the 2nd training camp of the year. I followed a somewhat adjusted schedule which turned out to be better and more efficient for me. While my teammates increased the intensity of the trainings, I predominantly worked on basic power endurance. The intensity in that area during the cyclo-cross season had already been sufficient for my build-up to the road-season.
In addition to these specific trainings, we also simulated different plots which could occur during a race. We split the team and raced against each other in fictional finals, which were fun but above all, informative components of the training. Also, you get to know each other better. Who will take the lead role? What about the tactical skills? Which signs, gestures and methodology will we use? Most of us are riding in the same team for the first time, so we need to make new and especially clear agreements.
I have to admit: the new team and environment appeal very much to me. We have already had an introductory camp in Drenthe and 2 training camps abroad. The spirit has been excellent from the start. I notice a big pride of being part of the team and everyone is prepared to go all the way. The fortitude feeling – courage, determination, passion – which we want to pass on to the fans and followers, is for at least 200% present in all of us. We deliberately chose a family-style accommodation during the training block in Calpe rather than having shared rooms in a hotel. By doing so, we got to know each other better. Anna Plichta and Kasia Niewiadoma are the animators; they take care of the entertainment and volume, while others prefer to stay in the background. It works out just fine as everyone can be themselves.
There is also a good relationship with the staff. Personally, I’m very happy Jeroen is leading the team again. We did not need much time to get acquainted because it felt very familiar. What I like about Jeroen is his vigorousness. He is forthright when he has to be and makes something clear with a few words. Moreover, Jeroen is a master when it comes to tactics which will work to our advantage in the upcoming season.
I hope to complete a steady season, having started last Saturday, for the first time, with the Strade Bianche which I was forced to watch from home during the last 2 editions. As expected, it was a tough race in which many riders continuously dropped off. The last 60 kilometers were crucial for those who wanted to ride for the victory.
Kasia showed her condition by finishing second in Siena, same result as last year. I was happy to contribute in whichever way I could, and intend to continue doing so in the future.
The Strade Bianche was not only my first race in the new season, it was also the opening round of the Women’s World Tour for 2017. This circuit with 20 top teams and as many beautiful races (how I love as a Dutch woman the introduction of the Amstel Gold Race!), must increase our recognition, bring the sport closer to the fans, further professionalise the top, and promote the flow from youth and club teams.
Even though I notice that the Women’s World Tour is very much alive within the peloton, in all honesty, it has not yet achieved what we had hoped for. The gap between the different levels is still too big, the dropout of young riders remains and the televised or livestreamed races are still too scarce. We must continue to develop and improve in a sustainable manner, one step at the time. If we are going too fast, chances are that some people and parties will pull out.
At the same time, we are also aware that teams and organisations have done heaps of work in order to make the Women’s World Tour a success. It is now up to us, the riders, to bring a performance, and I can assure you that we will do our utmost best to achieve that, having started with the Strade Bianche!