Thanks to the sponsorship from Cycling Time Trials I was able to go to the Czech Republic to take part in the UCI 2.2 stage race, Tour de Feminin from 6th – 9th July. It was a massive step up both mentally and physically but an amazing experience!
The first stage was 120km with 1400m climbing, a daunting prospect as I’d never raced that distance, especially not at this level. I got dropped after 80km and after being sent the wrong way more than once, doing an extra 5km, I was just glad to cross the finish line! My legs were in pieces after this stage but was excited to start the next stage.
The second stage was also a long one at 100km, with even more climbing than the previous day! We were quickly realising that Czech Republic doesn’t have any flat roads! This race was a tough one for me because I got caught in the third crash of the day. A rider went down next to me, falling onto my back wheel and buckling it badly, unfortunately just at the bottom of a climb. I struggled on up the climb with my wheel rubbing on my brake blocks as I knew the cars were still a way behind. After getting a wheel change I chased back on but by doing so I used so much energy by the time I got to the bunch, they hit a climb and I got swiftly dropped. A small group of riders including my team mate Sav worked together for the last 40km to the finish. Another day ticked off!
Day 3 was when tiredness really began to set in, the zombie faces appeared at breakfast, only speaking to ask what time lunch was served! Day 3 began with a 14.6km hilly time trial. Although I enjoy riding time trials, this was outside of my comfort zone due to the amount of climbing however I managed to ride myself to my best result of the week coming 86th out of 187 starters so was really happy with that. Amy also did an amazing ride finishing 25th! The second race of the day was a 70km road race. I struggled with this because I had gone really deep in the time trial, however I was happy to finish only a few minutes behind the main peloton.
Then came the Queen stage on the final day. After many abandons, a diminished field started the hilliest stage of the week, which included a 6km climb and 4 times up the dreaded Vapenka. Due to a nasty crash, the race was stopped to wait for an ambulance to re-join the race but once started again people were being shelled after only a few kilometres. Sophie, Savannah, Ellen and I finished in a large group just behind the peloton. We’d finished our first UCI stage race!! An achievement we were really proud of especially as nearly a third of the peloton had abandoned throughout the course of the week!
This experience would not have been the same without Steve and Caroline our amazing mechanics, Anja and Jan-Willen for their feed zone help and invaluable massages, and Rene for organising the whole thing! I’d also like to thank Stan’s Cycling for providing me with my Trek which rode brilliantly all week and was super light up the hills! Now for some rest and recovery…