With my left foot in the pedal as well, I realize my first race has started. But there is no time to think about that. From the start it’s full speed straight away and I have to shift a couple of gears to stay in the peloton. Without even thinking about it, I follow the line of my competitors through the corners and it feels like I am flying through the first couple of corners. With the speed rising, my heartbeat, respiration and adrenaline are rising as well. “Try to stay at 1/3rd of the peloton, that’s when you are situated in the best spot!”. The advice of the young cyclist is pounding in my head. Because of the number of riders in front of me, I know I am too far behind. But how do I move myself to the front?
I am turning into the fourth corner now. After this bend there is a climb. A short one, but maybe it is just steep and long enough to gain some spots in the peloton. According to my training buddies I am a good climber. If I take the corner on the inside, giving some extra power should do the trick. Done! Suddenly I move a couple of places. So this is how it works?! Now keep up the good work, stay focused and try again until I’m in the right spot.
It’s completely quiet in the peloton. Nobody talks, everyone is looking at the wheel and asphalt in front of them. The only sound I hear are the leavers which are going up and down the cassettes. Ultimate concentration is key. This is racing.
And there it is. Out of nothing I meet with what will later become my major competitor in my racing career: the wind. An invisible wall is waiting for me just around the corner. Immediately my speed drops and I have to push extra hard to stay in the wheel of the cyclist in front of me. Without saying a word, the peloton is stretched into a line of 35 riders on the left side of the road. Still with all the power on the pedals I manage to secure myself in the wheel of my competitor. Slowly the pain is building into my legs. It tingles, prickles, what is the right word to describe the pain I feel? I have never experienced this before.
How long will this last? I can’t take this anymore. When I take a glimpse ahead, I see the first rider crossing the bridge and descending to the final left corner. If I accelerate just once I get out of the wind into the last corner.
“Go on Anne Loes, this is what you wanted so badly? Keep going!”, I shout at myself.
We turn onto the last straight line, I managed to stay in the peloton. Because of the wind I lost five spots, but I managed to stay in the group during my first round ever. De next rounds are a repetition of the first. Uphill I manage to gain five spots, which I have to give up again riding the straight line into the wind.
Do I really hear a bell ringing? A bell? Yes! The bell which indicates that my peloton is in the final lap. I will make it! I will finish my first race ever in the peloton! Completely exhausted, but with a smile from ear to ear and a great feeling of pride and euphoria I cross the finish line. My first race ever is over. And I know for sure now, this tastes like more.
@ Marianne: Road, track or cyclcocross, the Giro Donne or a Belgium classic, wind, warmth or cold circumstances, it seems you can win anything anywhere. I am wondering, are there any circumstances or races you find difficult to ride and why?