GP Wallonnie and Flèche Wallonne - CDM, Belgium, April 17 and 20, 2005
We arrived in sunny Belgium on Friday April 15 after a 'somewhat long' 13 hour drive from our base of Novellara in Italy. The drive was mostly spent with Alex testing her vocal chords and all of our patience with some of her very best 'Cher' renditions! We spent Saturday night in France at a somewhat spacious and luxurious hotel which resembled more a caravan with port-a-loo, and a bathroom which easily flooded.
On Sunday we crossed the border back into Belgium for our first European race, GP Wallonnie. Our team for this race included Alexis Rhodes, Katie Brown, Louise Yaxley, Lorian Graham, Jenny Macpherson and Amy Gillett. Emma Rickards also joined us as a development rider and another set of useful legs. It was a 90km circuit race with the temperature close to zero and many blue lips on the start line. The field of 168 starters wasted no time in cutting loose on the circuit. With the pace too high at 43km/h for any breaks to stick, the bunch stayed together for a bunch sprint. In a great result for us, Katie Brown placed second to Nicole Cooke (Safi Pasta Zara) with one of our 'old girls', Oenone Wood (Nurnberger), taking third.
Following two very rainy days back in Holland we raced Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday 20th April. With Louise suffering from a nasty mouth infection, Emma Rickards joined the rest of us to complete the team. With Fleche being the fifth round of the women's road World Cup it proved to be a challenging yet positive experience for all of us.
The race began in pleasant, dry conditions, with the bunch of 140 riders maintaining an aggressive speed. Natalie Bates (Ton Van Bemmelen) and a French National Team rider were the first to successfully maintain a break, which stayed away for around 50km but did not get further than a minute down the road. The five climbs took their toll, and the bunch dwindled to around 30 riders with the imposing Mur De Huy yet to be tackled. Nicole Cooke (Safi Pasta Zara) narrowly took the win from Oenone Wood (Nurnberger) with Judith Ardnt (Nurnberger) in third. We all enjoyed the challenge that the Huy presented (well almost all of us!) and it was then time to head to Switzerland the following Saturday for the GP De Berne on April 24 and Liberazione back in Italy on April 25. Look out for race reports from the AIS team in our diary, only on Cyclingnews.