Switzerland, April 28, 2006
Time definitely does get away from me. Heres a quick run down of where the T-Mobile team has been and where were going. The last time I wrote was after the Tour of Flanders. How ironic that one of the things I remember the most from that race is our team manager, Bob Stapleton, telling me after the race, Kimberly, the most important thing for you now is to STAY HEALTHY. Hmmm...my body did not listen at all, because the next week I came down with the flu like I havent had it in years; chills, fever, nausea, sleeping all the time.
Unfortunately, despite not being able to sit up more than 15 minutes at a time, I still needed to travel with the team to Holland for the womens 3-day Ronde Van Drenthe. Injury and sickness has been plaguing our team since the start of the season, and we still needed at least five girls to even start the race. And yours truly was the fifth. So I travelled up to Holland with the team and the next day signed in at the race, rode about ½ a km (I discovered later I didnt even make it through the neutral section), and pulled out. Considering T-Mobile was fielding a team of just four, they still did very well. Ina won stage one, Christina third in stage 2, and Judith second in the final stage. And this was against teams of eight riders. Nice job, girls!
In our idyllic town of Langerwehe, the weather hasnt been so hot. Rain mostly. Lots of rain. Easter Sunday Ina signed me, Amy, and herself up for a juniors race. I thought it would be good prep for Fleche Wallone that Wednesday. But I got my ass kicked! 155 juniors showed up on the line, and as we rolled out of town, the rain and wind kicked in full force. I was soaked through and miserable in minutes. The group I was in turned around just 20km into the race since we were so dropped. I tried to explain the situation to my husband on the phone later that day, but he just laughed. I really cant say I blame him.
Fleche Wallone, thank God, went much better. It's funny that the three times Ive been to Belgium this year, the weathers actually been much better than in Germany. I honestly never expected that. Race day was a perfect temperature with clear skies and sunshine, and not too much wind. And since the mens race was going on at the same time, the fans were really out in full force. As soon as our cars pulled up, people were surrounding the vehicles asking for signature cards and other memorabilia. Thank God Kim was there to take care of all that for us! She did a great job controlling the crowds and making sure no one took more than one card per rider. Her collarbone is healing really well and we cant wait to have her back.
Andrzej, Kim, Amy, and I had driven to Huy last week to pre-ride the course. Unbeknownst to us, Andrzej had accidentally printed out the 2005 course. Granted, the course was pretty similar, but we missed one important climb. It became rather important because during the race, Amy went back for bottles just as we hit this mystery climb. It was a steep, narrow climb through the trees and I knew she was going to have a tough time getting back on. If it had been me, I would have been screwed. She rode tough though and caught me on the descent trying to hand me a Coke. I, of course, cannot take my hands off the bars while descending, lest I end up in the field or in someones rear wheel. So she had to wait for the roads to flatten out before my handicapped-self could grab the bottle. She then proceeded to bring Coke to Judith but missed Ina before the next climb hit. And that was the last we saw of Amy.
We lost Christina earlier in the race to an unfortunate meeting with the mud. Somehow she got pushed off the road and went face-first into a huge puddle of mud. She said when she finally pulled herself out, she reminded herself of a pig. Despite these unfortunate circumstances though, Judith came through and finished in an incredible second place up the Mur de Huy, beaten only by Nicole Cooke of Univega. I rode up the wall just behind Ina and Regina Schleicher, wearers of the world cup leaders jersey and the world champion's jersey. I wish someone would have taken a picture! Ina retained the World Cup jersey by three points, too. Oh, now the race is on!
After the race, we drove home. That still seems so weird to me. Huy was just about an hours drive away from the team house. Its like going to a local race and being home in time for dinner. Except its a world cup and we just raced the best women in the world.
Two days and five loads of laundry later, we drove down to Berne, Switzerland for the next world cup. When I first saw the race schedule, I thought two world cups in a week would seem like so much. But honestly by the time the Swiss world cup came along on Sunday, it felt to us like Fleche Wallone had been over two weeks ago! Berne wasnt quite as close as Huy, but it was still a gorgeous drive. Andrzej, Kim, Amy, and I took the team car and our mechanic and soignuer were driving the truck behind us. We were about an hour ahead of them by the time we got to the border and were waved straight through. But about an hour later we got the phone call. Our truck had been stopped at the border and customs officials were demanding over $2000 in taxes for the equipment in the truck, thinking that the guys were going to sell it all in Switzerland. It was such a mess. The poor guys had to spend the night at the border and Andrzej drove back the next morning to talk some sense into the Swiss officials. They finally let the truck through and the guys made it to the hotel by noon the next day.
I love Switzerland, it's so beautiful. Saturday I just wanted to ride and ride and ride. But the pressing race the next day kept me focused and didnt allow me to go on the 5 hour ride I wanted to. The race was held in the town of Lyss and was a 21km circuit that we did six times. Honestly, it felt more like racing in Holland to me! It did a disco loop through town with several medians, roundabouts and other obstacles to avoid. Then it headed out on flat, windy roads into the town of Jens where we hit the 1km climb that forced more and more selections with each lap. It rolled back into town with a fast flat finish.
About the third or fourth time through town, I dont think I had my head on straight. I wasnt concentrating very well and hit almost every obstacle in my path. Then I missed a roundabout and followed Olivia Gollan around the other way. All of a sudden Livs bike just went out from under her and she hit the deck. I braked hard to keep from running over her and almost came to a complete stop to avoid carnage. I heard Liv crying and knew she wasnt going to get back up. I was just praying she hadnt hurt herself too seriously. I did talk to her later and she was just badly bruised, thank goodness. I vowed to pay more attention on lap 5 as I chased back onto the peloton.
There was a major split over the climb on lap 5 and Ina wasnt in the front group. So Amy, Kim, and I practiced our team time trialling and chased the front group down, bringing it together as we went through the start finish line. Kim did such a amazing job. It was her first race back after her broken collarbone and surgery. She rode with such strength and determination and was a total motivator for Amy and I. Whenever we saw Kim at the front of the field, we knew we had to get our butts up there to help her. She couldnt even stand up on her bike yet because it still hurt too much to pull up on her arms, so she had to ride each climb seated, which took a lot of strength. It was such a great feeling to have her back with us.
During the final lap, a group of 17 got off the front. Judith, the ever-powerful rider that she is, made the split to represent T-Mobile. I crested in the second group with Ina and immediately went to the front to try and chase. But without teammates there was no way it was going to happen. Zoulfia Zabirova attacked out of the front group with just 1km to go and held it off for the win. Judith JUST missed the podium by less than an inch. I swear. Ive seen the picture. With Nicole Cooke in the front group, she earned enough points to take the world cup leaders jersey from Ina. Damn. Well try to get it back!
Now were on to the Czech Republic, so Ill write more from there. Happy riding!