From behind mountains stretched out in front of me, I see three helicopters coming our way. An impressive sight. I hear the sound of the rotating blades. My hair is tied in a ponytail under my helmet, but it still waves in the wind due to these large low hanging dragonflies above me. It must be an incredible sight from the helicopters. To see 12.000 cyclists in one long line, waiting for their race to start. Some are here to set a time, others are happy with just crossing the finish line in time. Today everybody rides for themselves but still there is a feeling of solidarity. We have one thing in common: everybody will suffer today during this 28th Maratona Dolomiti.
I’ve been awake for almost two hours and even though it’s only 6 am, I am wide awake. Yet, the loud bang makes me jump a bit. This must be the start. Indeed, a couple of hundred meters in front of me I see the first participants of the race get on their bikes. The quickest riders may start first. Behind these riders, in a stretched line, 12.000 cyclists have to wait impatiently. Full of eagerness I am waiting in the second group with 1.500 riders in front of me. After a minute or three I can start as well. Here I go, 6 ½ hours of suffering, at least if everything is going according to plan. After 300 meters I hear the beep of the chip while riding over the start line. 138 km and 4000 altitude meters to go. My race has started.
138 km later I hear the same beep. My chip crossed the finish line. Totally exhausted and soaked by sweat and the pouring rain which surprised me unpleasantly during the last 20k, I’m hanging over my handlebars, gasping for air. It takes at least five minutes before I feel the energy and power flowing back into my arms and legs and before I can control my breathing again. Slowly the thought is coming to my head that, because I crossed the finish line, there will be a time connected to my name in the results. I barely dare watching my bike computer. What is my time and have I achieved my goal of a place in the top 25 ladies ranking?
It is real. 6h and 25 minutes. With an almost scientific precision I predicted my time for the Maratona. Last year this time was enough for a place in the top 25. After a decent bowl of pasta I return to the hotel. Once I arrive at the hotel I see a Twitter mention on the screen of my mobile phone: “ Wow, Anne Loes, what a great result!”. I’m in shock. This means there has been placed a final number before my name and total racing time. Equally curious as nervous I open the link in the Twitter message. I follow the names from top till bottom and scan the Italian and German names. And there, suddenly, it is. Much earlier then expected in black and white: 14th: Anne Loes Kokhuis NLD.
The next morning I, somewhat slower than other days, open my eyes. I grab my phone from the nightstand to see the time and see several missed whatsapp-messages I got the night before. When I open the app my eyes are focused at the last message I have sent yesterday evening: ‘Of course I am beyond happiness! But next year there will only be a maximum of four names in front of me.’
Marianne: First: congratulations on winning in Paris! What an impressive victory. I am wondering, how do you keep yourself motivated for competitive racing after winning practically everything anywhere?