It is a beautiful, cozy clubhouse in the center of the Netherlands. Just outside the city where I live, at a perfect distance to cycle to from my home. The closer I get to the clubhouse, the more cyclists I see. A couple of them got here with their bikes in the back of their car. Most of them are cycling in with a small backpack, and get to the clubhouse the way I do. Although I mainly see men between twenty and fifty years old, I am relieved to see a couple of young girls standing in the crowd as well. I’m happy to see I’m not the only woman here. The excitement is getting stronger now and I feel the stress level in my body is rising fast. To be honest: I’ve been nervous about this all day but the view of this group of cyclists makes it even worse. My hands are shaking and it feels as if I’ve got a rock in my stomach. Am I sure I want to do this? I can still turn around and go home.
No, who’s in for a penny is in for a pound. This year I wanted to train for something else. Not for a cyclo or a sponsor ride, but a challenge less ordinary and more difficult. I wanted to know how it feels to compete. To pin a number on my back and “be in the race”. With my 32 years of age I’m certainly not the youngest one in the peloton and it has only been five years that I have a beautiful but simple race bike. Nevertheless, can I participate in races as well?
There’s my number. Blue, 28. As careless as possible I hand over two pieces of two euros. The man behind the desk gives me my number without even looking at me. I walk to the nearest table, put down all my stuff and pin the blue number onto the back of my race shirt. As I look around the clubhouse I see several cyclists with blue numbers on their back as well. These are my competitors for today.
Waiting any longer is useless. Only six minutes before the start and it’s time to go to the circuit. The blue number 28 burns on my back. Is it clear to the other participants that this is my first time here? A friendly young female cyclist sees the hesitation in my eyes. ‘Do you know this circuit?’. With all the confidence I’ve got I tell her that this is my first ever race. She will do a lap around the circuit with me to give me some practical instructions. As we are getting near a very sharp corner she says: ‘this is the only corner where you.... ‘brake, I think to myself ‘.... don’t pedal’.
I want to get out immediately. Pardon me!? I do not use my brakes anywhere on this circuit? There is no time left to think about it. De start/ finish line is within 30 meters and the A riders (white numbers) and the B riders (yellow numbers) are ready to start their race. ‘A-riders, you are off!’. 1 minute left. ‘B-riders, you are allowed to go as well!’. 30 seconds. Slowly I am getting closer to the start line. Three meters separate me from the my first race ever. 36 blue numbers are waiting for their signal. We are the slowest and therefore the last group to start. ‘C-riders now it is your turn!’ I click my left foot in the pedal and take off. It is time. I am in my first race ever. It is racing time!
@Marianne: I was so very nervous before the start of my first race ever. When did you race for the first time and how did you manage the nerves if you had them at all of course?
Next time: ‘I have never experienced anything like this before’.
Anneloes Kokhuis (NED)