Having spent most of the year racing in Belgium for my sponsors Onimpex-Bioracer I had a quite contrasting end to the year. Shortly after leaving Belgium in mid August I headed to Sardinia for a week’s hill training as a ‘booster’ after all the fast flatland racing I’d been doing in Belgium. This seemed to really bring me on as early in September I traveled to Pakistan to compete in the International Tour of the Karakurrams Mountain bike stage race which I had been invited to as a guest of the Pakistani tourist board. I have never raced MTBs before and although a pro roadie, I found the technical aspects scary at first to say the least. We were racing in the high mountains on tracks that you’d think twice about walking on let alone riding! The race was awesome and was held entirely at high altitude which made it easily the hardest race I have ever ridden. In the end my endurance and late season strength saw me secure third place overall on the epic 5 hour stage that finished by going over the Babusar Pass at over 5000metres. I defended my third place overall on the final stages and was really pleased to finish on the podium behind the overall winner, Elizabeth McCluskey of Ireland and Brita Marten of Germany.
After that major excursion into the world of offroad racing I returned to the UK for 5 days of recooperation before travelling to Italy to race in the Giro Del Toscana (tour of Tuscany) Pro womens stage race for the newly formed Team SystemData-Fanini.
Here’s my diary that I kept during the race:
Giro Del Toscana 12-17th September
Stage 1 – Prologue – 5kI was invited to ride for Team System Data-Fanini for the Giro Del Toscana. I rode this race last year and I liked it so I was happy to come back to Italy for some more pain! It’s traditionally seen as the warm up race for the World Championships and is no mean feat at 5 days and 7 stages long. I met with the team in our apartment in Toscana which was located very close to some of the hills we would be doing in the race. Also guest riding for the team was Kristen Lasasso from Team Lipton in America and Betina Hold from Webcore Team in America, they are both really cool chicks!
The prologue was out and back along the sea front, the conditions were dry and sunny with a nice cross wind. Although we had a team of 8 girls only 5 of us worked in the Prologue which was tough on the final lap. We came in at 7min 23sec and the winners from the National Dutch team came in at 6min 37sec.
Stage 2- 57k – Double Stage today
Today’s first stage was lumpy with 4 climbs. It was very wet today and it stayed wet for the whole stage so out came the race capes. The race never got going until the 3rd climb of the day which was long and it had a fast descent. The team was working for Cremilda Fernandes so we got to work on the climbs for her to get her into a descent position. She came in 14th place with Noemi Cantele from Bigla taking the win. I settled into a group and then it dawned on me that it was going to be a long race as my legs were still feeling tired after the Tour of Pakistan! I was pleased with my domistique work today but was shocked to say the least to find that after the stage I had won a jersey (see pic), the ‘Eleganza’ Jersey which is awarded to the ‘most elegant’ rider as voted for by the race sponsors and Media. It did make me laugh! They must have missed my ‘race face’ then!!
Stage 3 – 67k
After the Morning stage we had lunch which was laid on by the organizers and then chilled out ready for the next stage which was a flat stage. It was still raining on and off so I new we had to stay up front as I thought there would be crashes today, and I was not wrong, a few crashes happened early on in the race but the team was safe. Today was a day for the sprinters so we wanted to get Cremilda up front for the finish and every other team wanted to get their rider up front to so it was a fast finish and Cremilda got 10th in the sprint. Not bad going thanks to the team work, I finished in the bunch and Giorgia Bronzini won the sprint.
Stage 4 – 122k
Today’s stage was the hardest stage of the race as we had a lot of climbing to do and it was wet very wet! The team wanted to keep Cremilda up front for the main climb which we did well and then settled into groups. I was with the current World Champion Regina Schleicher and many other’s who were clearly saving their legs for the World’s road race coming up. The team did well with Cremilda finishing in 7th place and Nicole Brandli from Bigla took the win in today’s tough stage.
Stage 5 – 70k
Today was a easier day with one climb after 20k then it was rolling to the finish. The race was quite fast today with Bigla controlling things up front no one could get away, until the last 20k a small group got away with Bigla and Fenix colnago in the break . We chased down the break but could not close the gap so Naomi Cantele got another win for team Bigla . I finished in 36th place in the sprint. Unfortunately 3 of the team were out of the race today as Betina crashed and so did another team member and with another girl out of the time limit we were left with 5.
Stage 6 – 100 k – Double stage today
Another wet day! oh boy this kit is looking dirty as it is hard to clean being white. Today’s stage was close to the team apartment so alot of the locals came out to watch and support the girls. We had 5 climbs to do 4 of which were on a circuit. The bunch split on the first climb but the team stayed in place until the final climb when Svetlana Bubnenkova attacked up the climb with Cremilda on her wheel for a short while then Bubnenkova rode away to a solo victory. Cremilda came in at 5th place a good ride today. I finished in 61st place, my poor legs are complaining today!
Stage 7 – 57k
After a short rest and food we got ready for this evening criterium which was thankfully held in daylight unlike last year! The circuit was very twisty with a lot of corners to sprint out of. The race was quite hectic with many teams trying to get away but no one having any luck so a bunch sprint was on the cards. The finish was quite technical and strung out so it was free for all with T-mobile taking the win with Ina Teutenberg. I finished in the bunch at 68th.
Final stage – 106k
The final stage and it was a dry one. Only 80 girls are starting today and only 70 finished over half the field that had dropped out by now. This made me feel better as although I was suffering with bad legs I was surviving at least. We had a few goes as a team to get away today on several occasions, but team Colnago were controlling things for the current race leader Bubnenkova. The race went through a town which had wet paving stones and this is wear a split started as many people slowed down and left gaps before the climb that lead into the finish. Thankfully Cremilda and Kristen were positioned well so were able to keep in contact with the bunch and my legs were not having any more so I rolled in off the bunch having done my job for the day. Another good result with Cremilda coming in 8th, Kristen at 25th and me in 61st.
A good result for the team with Cremilda finishing overall in 6th place, Kristen in 28th and me in 61st. Well done girls!
I hope you liked my diary. I hope to have some exciting news regarding where my racing is taking me next year very soon but for now my lips are sealed! I’m resting right now and looking foward to a winter of long rides, coffee stops and catching up with my other half, Jez (probably done at the same time!!). I hope to see lots of you out on the cold, wet roads this winter!!