Saturday 11 March saw Team FBUK – Schwinn riders from around Europe descend on the team’s Belgian base for the start of a training and racing week. The week was the first chance for the team management and riders to get to know each other in race situations and build on the team spirit carried forward from 2005.
Following everyone’s arrival during Saturday morning, the team set out in the rain for a steady ride to help loosen any stiff muscles after flights and car journeys. This was the last preparation before the Omploop Het Volk which took place on Sunday. The Het Volk is a very famous semi-classic for men, held in February, and this year was the first year that the race has been added to the calendar as a women’s UCI race. It was the perfect way for the team to start, at the top!
With representatives from major sponsor Fat Birds Don’t Fly (www.fatbirds.co.uk) at the race to see the event, the team were hopeful of a good start to the season. The course was 91km in length with 4 cobbled sections and 4 climbs. All of these came in the first 46km before the race entered a 15km finishing circuit for 3 final laps.
With the blend of European experience and international racing novices, the key for the team was to place riders well in the bunch over the early climbs and ensure we were ready to get in front section of any splits in the peloton.
On the approach to the 3rd climb, Lorna Webb punctured and following a quick change was paced back onto the bunch by Emma Silversides, who defied her inexperience in the European Peloton with a mature piece of riding. This effort from Emma allowed the team to place 4 riders in the front group (Lorna, Cath, Helen and Emma Pooley). Line Ramsrud and Emma Silversides followed closely behind in the second group on the road.
Having entered the final circuits, the race was destined to come down to a sprint and the team concentrated themselves on keeping their position on the final laps. However with many of the worlds best sprinters and their lead-out trains in the race, the 3 remaining FBUK riders found themselves out of position going into the final corner, but still finished in very good positions for the first UCI race for the team in 2006.
Het Volk Results:
1st Suzanne De Goede
2nd Mirjan Melchers – Van Poppel
3rd Tanja Hennes
52nd Cath Hare (Team FBUK)
57th Lorna Webb (Team FBUK)
58th Helen Wyman (Team FBUK)
98th Emma Pooley (Team FBUK)
Time Limit Line Ramsrud (Team FBUK)
Time Limit Emma Silversides (Team FBUK)
Following the race, the team then returned to their Belgian base to train for a week together. Key elements were introduced to riders throughout the week like riding with race radios, using team cars and collecting bottles. All of these parts of pro racing need to be second nature to the riders if they are going to succeed in the European peloton.
The final part of the week was a short trip to Holland for a 60km Criterium in Oud-Vossemeer. Again, this was a testing challenge for the riders without European experience. With the race going from the gun, with an average speed around 44kmph, all riders must hold their nerve and hold their line if they are to succeed.
With a small group of 5, 30 seconds up on the bunch of 119 riders, Helen Wyman attacked the bunch and quickly formed a group of 13 riders who gained a lead of 30 seconds within 2 laps of the 1.5km course. With Cath Hare working hard in the main bunch with Line and Emma, Helen’s group successfully stayed away, with Helen finishing 11th. Cath Hare finished in the main bunch in 31st.
It was a great end to the week for the girls who had worked hard in training and looks to be a promising start to the 2006 for the team.