It was the queen stage. Stage 3 of the Aviva Women’s Tour had a climb as steep as the Muur de Huy, as wall-like as you could get. We had one teammate, Clara, up the road. But just as the race was heating up to take on the climb, we lost Stephanie to a crash. We had only started with five riders. So it was just Lotta and I against all the big teams.
The peloton was in full lead-out mode, racing full speed and then some toward the climb. A one-woman lead-out isn’t a fair match against teams like Boels Dolmans with six riders but Lotta, on my front wheel, took me and put me on the back of the Boels Dolmans train. Now, it was just up to me.
When you feel like you’re alone trying to make a difference, the task ahead can seem pointless. Even if you know you have the capability, there are so many uncontrollable elements and outside influences that can throw you off before you even begin. But adversity can be channeled into victory. So what if I was alone against all the big teams? Their lead riders still had to get to the finish line and we all had the same climb to ride over first.
I attacked right at the bottom. I didn’t wait to see what everyone else was going to do, I just went. Elisa was the only one that could follow but then Lizzie caught up. We smashed up the climb, catching the break and then leaving all but Amanda Spratt behind. As we rounded the final corner and hit the cobbles of Chesterfield, Lizzie found a small gap while I sprinted past Elisa to take second.
Now sitting second on GC, we did exceptionally well on stage 4 to hold our position, especially when Marianne Vos won all the time bonuses at the sprint hot spots and the stage. On the final day, we really showed our team skills and not only managed to defend my second place again, but Lotta won the stage.
Cervelo Bigla isn’t the biggest team on the race circuit but we never let that stop us from racing like we are. We don’t let what is perceived to be missing make us blind to what we have. And what we have is a whole lot of heart, grit, and drive. That’s a spirit that channels whatever adversity we encounter into victory, and it’s the same spirit that sets the Aviva Women’s Tour apart.
The Women’s Tour is setting the benchmark for women’s racing. So many complain about the viability of women’s cycling but the Women’s Tour has demonstrated once again that women’s cycling can be successful. They operated the race on a business model that took advantage of a proper marketing campaign, and strategic planning that involved the community to run a markedly professional race.
They too showed heart, grit, and drive and the quality of the racing, the community and spectator support, and total success of the tour leaves them with a winning reputation that not only demonstrates how viable women’s cycling can be, but sets the standard of success.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio is a world-class athlete who races for the Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team. You can read her blogs on Cyclingnews, and also find them on her website, and follow her on Twitter @Ashleighcycling.