In March 2015 the women faced a tough early season test at the Gent Wevelgem race on a testing parcour. It didn’t go quite how they hoped but it was a great learning experience
It was a perfect classics day: Wind, Rain and very cold, as we stood there freezing at the start line just waiting to get out there. It’s not until you get moving you can heat up a bit and on the down side, get properly muddy! We had a plan as a team to show our colours at the front and animate the race at a specific point. We’re a new team, and not the biggest out there, but there are times when we can see an opportunity to make the race rather than follow. Unfortunately with a very fast and nervous start, we weren’t really able to action our plan with many riders held behind sprints in the peloton very early. After only 5km everything was splitting up in the crosswind and before we hit Ieper (start town) again after less than 20km the damage was down and the race was split up into pieces.
I looked around and it was only me and Molly who had made the split, which changed our plans. We now had to, obviously, stick to the front and watch out for the bigger teams. We both got over Kemmelberg and Monteberg really well, both riding strongly in the top 20 and it wasn’t until we hit some really open pieces of the course with the worst crosswind that I began get tired. Like you saw in the mens race with Geraint Thomas being blown off the road, I thought that would happen to us aswell, it really was extreme conditions.
The race continues on with a loop back towards the Kemmel for the 2nd times, and without any real attack it suddenly just split and it didn’t regroup. Molly was in the front split and I stayed put in the 2nd group. There isn’t much you can do then, just hope your team mate can stay in the group, and set yourself up the best you can to win the sprint in the group behind.
As the race went into the finish, it split in the front group again and Molly ended in what was left of the first group ending up in 15th. I didn’t really go for the bunch sprint, but it opened up, and I stayed in the front to avoid possible crashes, and I ended up crossing the line first which gave me 20th place.
Two top 20’s is pretty cool on a day where our plan didn’t work out at all – on what we wouldn’t call a perfect day.