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Elizabeth Hatch

Liz Hatch - freezing in Belgium

Two for two, hoping for better luck

By:
Elizabeth Hatch
Published:
March 23, 2010, 14:18 GMT,
Updated:
March 23, 2010, 14:28 GMT

The first races of the season didn't go as planned for diarist Liz Hatch

Ciao from Italy! I'm at training camp with my Lotto teammates before the start of the World Cups and taking advantage of the downtime to check in with you guys. Sorry for the long interlude, things have been a bit busy!

I'm still trying to process all of the places I've been, miles I've ridden on bike and traveled by train, drove, flown and other various means of travel. Minus by horseback I think I've covered them all so far this year and it's just getting to the real meat of the season.

Qatar chaos

Just getting to my team in Belgium in order to catch our flight from Paris to Doha was a bit of a nightmare. I had been in Javea, Spain training for 7 or 8 weeks and needed to catch a flight from Alicante to Charleroi.

If you've ever flown from this area of the world perhaps you can understand the frustration of traveling in and out of this airport. Every time I've done it something goes wrong - lost luggage, missed flights due to insane scenarios involving 40 people with hunting rifles checking in before you (don't ask), and general apathy to help the customer, minus the nice German lady at the info desk named Beate. Look for her if you ever need help there!

Anyway, after being bumped off two separate flights in one morning I was forced to drive home and try to catch a flight the next day and meet the team on their way to Paris. It was touch and go for a while as it was snowing in Charleroi, they weren't sure if I'd land or not. Thankfully the plane did arrive on time and I was scooped up and shuttled off to Paris for our flight to Doha.

For this race I was particularly excited for a few reasons. First, it had been almost seven months since my last race (too long), second Doha held a lot of interest for me as I've never been east of Europe and third the accommodations provided by the ASO for this race were said to be the best of the year so of course I was looking forward to seeing what the Tour of Qatar was all about.

The race itself turned out to be something I enjoyed very much, one where you must pay constant attention and really fight almost every minute for position.

The first day was quite a shock of course, getting back into racing, but by the second day I was feeling good enough to try a move off the front. Ultimately it was futile but for my head it was worth it.

By the third and final day my legs were feeling quite good so as a team it was our job to watch after Rochelle, our sprinter, who was just a few seconds off a podium place on GC. She was confident she could pull back the two or three seconds needed by winning the intermediate sprints which she did. All that was needed was a good placing at the finish to secure third overall.

Unfortunately this is where Qatar showed what a bitch of a race it is... On the finishing circuits with 2.5km to go there was a crash directly in front of me and with Rochelle on my wheel. I couldn't avoid it and ended up flying through the air with enough time to watch the two girls who crossed wheels in front of me come to rest on the tarmac and then WHAM, I joined them. End result- Rochelle crossed the line on my bike and finished the race but was unable to improve on her fourth place overall, me in hospital for x-rays on my right hand - three fractures.

The Omloop

The next two and half weeks were difficult for training and I was really nervous I wouldn't be able to make the start of the first Belgian race of the year, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Thankfully after about five days I took off the partial cast they put my hand in and was able to get some rides out on the road, nothing really intense but at least something.

I told Dany, our manager I think I would be able to start and flew to Belgium two days before the race. Race day was miserable - cold and rain but as cycling is an outdoor sport you just accept it and shut up.

I didn't feel too bad considering my preparation going into Het Nieuwsblad, so for the first half of the race I kept myself at the front to help Grace as much as I could knowing I wouldn't make it over the heavy climbs with her. After the first two climbs I found a group to get into and hoped for a good result for Grace at the finish and to make it to the finish line in reasonable time myself.

40k to go and next thing I know I'm laying on the pavement again looking at the sky, Lazer helmet destroyed, hand bleeding like a stuck pig (left hand this time). Godverdomme! I'm two for two this year, perfect score for crashes. Not the record I'm looking for Lady Luck!

For the team Het Nieuwsblad was a good race as Grace pulled off a podium spot at third. She's a really talented, driven rider and I'm excited to be on the team with her this year. Look for big things to come from Grace Verbeke.

After Nieuwsblad I returned to Italy for a bit of training, then back to Belgium the next week for a smaller national race with Grace placed second behind Emma Johannson of Redsun.

Following the race, the original plan was to stay in Belgium for a while until training camp in Italy, but the following day it started snowing pretty heavily in Aalst where I stay when I'm in Belgium so I decided to drive back to Spain and do a small training stage down south in the sun.

Little did I know the trip that normally should take 17 hours or so would take double due to a freak snow storm that closed the border of France and Spain for many hours. Adventure!

So here I am, getting back in the swing of things and looking forward to some better luck for the rest of the season. I'm really enjoying my new team and looking forward to what the rest of the year will bring.

On a side note - as you probably know by now Cyclingnews has welcomed a new diarist, the inimitable Pippo. I, along with everyone else, am enjoying his diaries for the colorful descriptions of races and general outlook on life, but felt I needed to add my two cents and say - God might be the only one who can judge him but for me my Mom also gets the "privilege" to do so. Disappointing la mamma, there's nothing worse I think!

Addio per ora!

Lizzer

Liz Hatch in her new Lotto team gear near Javea, Spain.

The state of women's cycling

By:
Elizabeth Hatch
Published:
January 26, 2010, 14:37 GMT,
Updated:
January 26, 2010, 15:01 GMT

Hatch debates what's needed for the sport to grow

It's been a while since I checked in last and a lot has been happening. So, where shall I start?

Well, I've been in Spain for the last six weeks, Javea specifically, training very hard for the start of the new season. I'm in better shape and lighter than I've ever been thanks to my new coach Chad Andrews. He's given me renewed motivation and understanding of training and my body and what I'm capable of mentally and physically. I'm working with an SRM now, which is also something new for me. It's a vital and amazing tool when racing at a high level these days, gone are the times of just getting on my bike with no specific goal.

But with all of this extra attention to training and preparation for 2010 comes a load of frustration. The off-season is always an interesting time of year with new teams coming and old ones sometimes leaving. Of course, always with the hope that an exiting sponsor is replaced with a new one in order to keep a team infrastructure intact and riders with the team as well as support staff.

Cycling is always in a precarious situation, but even more so for the women's side of the sport. The shocking news that the former Nurnberg team - which was set to be taken over by a new sponsor Skyter - would not fulfill their obligations left many of the top pros’ futures hanging even before the racing had begun this year. While I have no inside knowledge or real idea of what happened, what I do know is that this is bad for the sport!

Nurnberg was a team with a long and rich history, and to see women like Nicole Cooke and Amber Neben left without a concrete idea of where they would be racing for 2010 was for me, unfathomable. These are some of the best athletes we have. Both have world champion jerseys to their names as well as Tour wins and Olympic medals.

To add insult to injury, we now hear of the loss of one of our World Cup races in Montreal along with the Tour of PEI. Given as one of the reasons for this was the creation of new men's ProTour races in Canada and the funding being directed in that direction instead, it's the case of big fish eating smaller fish.

It leaves me with two questions: What can we do to strengthen the sport of women's cycling? How can we help it to grow and give it the recognition it deserves?

I tweeted about this subject a week or so ago and got an astounding response to the question and many varied perspectives. There were many responses from men and women alike that were also eager to see more women's races, better funding for teams and races and more publicity overall given to the sport. And of course there were those who said it would never happen because women just aren't as fast and the racing isn't as interesting.

Call me biased but I can attest to the fact that this is simply not true. The women's peloton has grown in size and strength over the years and while we might average a bit slower speeds, the tactics and heroic wins are not lacking! Of course when you cannot follow a race in detail on television it's very hard to get a good idea of what's really going on so I'll excuse the notion as a lack of understanding.

If you look at the World Championship road race the year Nicole Cooke won it was a textbook case of perfect tactics being employed and also a nail biting finish. Emma Pooley's win last year at the Montreal World Cup (yes, same race that has been cancelled) was OUTSTANDING!

For god's sake, the girl attacked in the first 400m and went on to win solo by over 1:14. And the funny thing is people will say "yes, because there is less depth of talent in the women's peloton so it's easier to do things like this" but if the shoe were on the other foot and a man is attacking and winning in this style it's lauded by the cycling milieu as something remarkable.

Emma and every other woman racing can tell you, this was no easy feat and was not aided by having no rivals to challenge her. Her own teammate, Claudia, gave her a bit of a fight in the women's Giro last year and ended up winning the overall. So I dispute these claims wholeheartedly.

In the long run, women's cycling needs nurturing from "the ground up". Better development of juniors and support of racing moving through the ranks. In my opinion for it to become a sport more closely related to its brother it has to be seen as a viable career for more women.

I applaud the teams that are out there and supporting us, Lotto for sure, because it's not easy; a labour of love for sure. Another thing I'd greatly like to see is more men's teams taking the initiative to field women's teams such as HTC-Columbia and Cervelo have done. I feel what both these teams have done is very progressive thinking and commendable. A cycling team is meant to be a form of advertising and I can tell you from first hand there are many women turning their attention to cycling in recent years.

Liz Hatch and her father

Busier than ever in the off-season

By:
Liz Hatch
Published:
November 23, 2009, 17:42 GMT,
Updated:
November 23, 2009, 17:55 GMT

Hatch reveals new team, enjoys time with family in Miami

The "off-season" as defined by the Oxford dictionary - (noun) is a time of year when a particular activity, typically a sport, is not engaged in.

It's a slightly different definition than the one you'll find in the Liz Hatch dictionary. For me, it's a time to let loose! To drink those beers you didn't drink during season; to stay up late dancing with friends; to have dinners with family; to lay on the couch watching crappy TV; and to maybe take a holiday and still fit in a bit of work.

However, this year my off-season has been my absolute busiest, hands down, but the biggest news I have is an exclusive tidbit for Cyclingnews readers. I've signed a contract with a new team for 2010, and I will be racing for Lotto with Rochelle Gilmore amongst others.

I'm highly motivated, and with my new team being Belgian, it's a bit of a homecoming for me. I started racing in Belgium as an amateur - I loved the people and the country, so I could not be more excited. The roster has changed a little bit from last year but I can see they have added some great riders, and I am looking forward to racing with and learning from my new teammates. It will mean new challenges and different races from the past couple of years. They say a change is good sometimes.

But step back to the last time I dropped in to say "hi" to Cyclingnews. I started my off-season in Germany at EuroBike, the mother of all bike industry trade shows. I left there feeling like something the cat dragged in, but it was a really positive experience. I left with new contracts in hand, such as becoming one of Lazer Helmets' "factory athletes". I couldn't be happier to work with Sean van Waes, Peter Steenwegen and everyone else at Lazer. After that, I drove with a friend to Austria for a few days of relaxation. Austria was certainly one of the most memorable places I've been in my travels. I fell in love with the country...so beautiful. There are no words to describe what a wonderful place it is.

After leaving Austria, I returned to Italy and packed my bags for two short days in Antwerp for work and a little play. I'm always thrilled when I get a chance to go back to Belgium. For whatever reason, I always feel comfortable there. A quick flight back to Lucca gave me two days to pack my belongings back into my trusty rusty suitcases (which need replacing after this year), and then the great European exodus began. Trains, planes and automobiles, and I landed in Miami to spend some time with my family. This year, instead of going back to Northern California where I called home for two and half years I am basing myself out of South Florida. I know I'll be gone most of 2010 in Europe so being as close to my family for as long as possible is high on the priority list.

While recharging for a few days with my family, some easy bike rides with my dad followed by pints at the local pub were just what the doctor ordered before getting back on the plane to head to Las Vegas for InterBike. Now, I know plenty of people complain about Vegas, how much they hate the place, wish InterBike was held somewhere else, etc., but I love it. I look forward to Vegas and InterBike as it's a good opportunity to catch up with friends and sponsors you've missed for most of the year in a fairly relaxed environment. However, it is exhausting. I think I slept 10 hours in five days. Yikes! Time for a vacation.

This year, I took a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with my cousin Kelly. We met up in Mexico City and then flew the rest of the way there together. When we landed the skies were blue and clear, and the heat was welcoming us to do nothing else but lay by the pool. If only we had known ahead of time that wouldn't last... We woke up the second day to dark clouds hovering above and rain. Those lasted ended up lasting the entire trip thanks to Tropical Storm Patricia. Typically, it rains only 15 days a year in Cabo, so the streets were totally flooded. Downtown Cabo looked like Venice, we needed boats! Or a couple nice guys who didn't care about their shoes to shuttle us across the rushing water!

Cabo was not what we expected, but we had a great time together regardless and made plans to meet up in South Beach, Miami in a few weeks. I flew home to Florida for three days and then got on yet another plane and made the cross country trip to San Francisco, for four short days to film some footage of me on the bike for a project a friend of mine is working on. By this point, the travelling was becoming tiresome, so I was glad this would be my last trip for a few weeks. Time to get into the gym and start training for next year.

I cannot wait to dig into it. Wish me luck!

The Vanderkitten women celebrate taking the team title for the USA Crits series.

The year of 'WTF?!?'

By:
Liz Hatch
Published:
October 07, 2009, 18:29 BST,
Updated:
October 07, 2009, 20:12 BST

Liz reflects on the season that was

I am exhausted.

Not the kind of satisfying exhaustion you feel after a hard race. This is far more mental than physical.

I've made it home from Italy since I last wrote (sorry for the long period of silence in between) and am visiting my family in South Florida; time to recharge brain and body. I'm also using this period to reflect and analyze the year's events and start thinking about the next one.

At the start of 2009 I made several goals, both personal and team related. Now sitting here in October, the end of the 2009 season, I'm evaluating my progress. Am I satisfied? To be honest: no, not entirely. There are definite moments and milestones I've passed in the season that I am proud of, but these ring a bit hollow in light of events that have occurred throughout this year.

If 2008, my first year as a professional, was a year of learning the ropes then 2009 was supposed to be the year of action. Instead, I've titled it 'the year of WTF?!?' (If you are unfamiliar with the term, try Google search). Since January it's a line I've repeated both privately and out loud almost ad nauseam. It seemed like every time I got some momentum going and things in order the pendulum would reach its highest point and swing back in the other direction: FRUSTRATING!

I entered January with good fitness, ready to put everything I had learned from the previous season into action. On January 18, I crashed heavily in training and was out of commission for the whole Spring. This was the first 'WTF?!?' moment for the season. I had nothing to show from the crash on the outside: no broken bones, etc. My body simply took forever to straighten itself out, despite rigorous treatment and therapy from my amazing chiropractor, Dr. Kano. The situation was compounded by problems with my contract that saw me out of pocket with some hefty medical bills.

In the meantime, relations with my Vanderkitten team management had become increasingly strained. It was, in part, due to the accident and I won't get into specifics, but the one thing I will say is that I regret how things played out. It's a huge personal disappointment to me, as these were people I was very, very close to. A second family if you will. I started my career with them and had hoped to take the vision we'd had at the beginning to fulfillment.

I feel that I was a valuable representative of the brand and team. I always did my best to be an unselfish teammate and to look out for the interests of the unit, rather than myself. My vision, what I felt was the Vanderkitten vision, was along the lines of 'all for one, one for all' and in that sense I gave up opportunities to race for my own result because we had a specific goal to reach as a team; one that we reached together in 2008.

What hurts the most now is hearing people say that I'm not a good racer or worth my salt because I have very few of my own results. This is not how the team works. Individual sacrifice is always necessary to feel the satisfaction of reaching a pinnacle together. That being said, I am grateful to the owners of the team for what we accomplished in the almost 3 years we were together and wish them the best in the future, truly. It's painful for me not to think of myself as a member of that family any longer primarily because of how much I adore my teammates at Vanderkitten. They are all unique, exceptional girls and I owe them a lot for teaching me so much, for their patience with me and for being amazing friends. I will miss them dearly.

By the time I got back to racing in late April my fitness was coming back, but I felt the strain from being in an uncertain situation with the team. Things had changed since 2008; the team structure and ideals were unfamiliar and distracting. I felt like a fish out of water and was becoming angrier by the day, as there was no resolution with the team owners over my contract.

There was public speculation that I broke my contract to race in Europe, but this simply wasn't the case. This was not what I had "signed up for" when the dream of starting the team in late 2007 came alive. I remember sitting on the phone with the owners of Vanderkitten and my teammate Leigh Hopkins for hours, pouring through the details of how things would work.

We had such high hopes and clear vision of what we could do to change and improve women's cycling. To go from being the first and only amateur member of Vanderkitten, to being part of a fully-fledged team that was the product of all of our work together was a literal 'stars in the eyes' dream-come-true for me. Suddenly here it was, falling down around me...

Another 'WTF?!?' moment, but, as the saying goes: "when one door shuts another one opens."

After Philly in June I had the chance to go to Europe, something for which my US team gave me the go-ahead. I remain thankful that they understood the importance of this step for me. Again, to set the record straight, I was not under valid contract at that time. The experience of racing for the summer in Italy provided me the ability to look forward to my future in the sport. I'm happy to report that I'm working on something for 2010 and beyond, which I'm highly excited about. More about that soon!

As I get older and the longer I've been involved in this sport, a few things have become more and more clear to me. First, expect the unexpected; second, be okay with the unexpected and third, stand up for yourself when necessary. Although make sure it's really necessary. There will always be negativity in life, you can't take every bit of it to heart nor can you fight it all. Sometimes you just have to say "WHAT THE F@$K?!?" and just let it go!

2009 - Year of 'WTF?!?'
2010 - Hopefully the year of 'OHY!' (Oh Hell Yes!)

Does this face look stressed? It shouldn't... it's a holiday face!

Throw away your schedules!

By:
Liz Hatch
Published:
August 10, 2009, 8:31 BST,
Updated:
August 10, 2009, 9:55 BST

Eating, sleeping and the occasional trip to the beach

What are you supposed to do when you're supposed to do nothing at all?

After many weeks of preparation and then participation in the Giro Donne it all came to a sudden halt after one final race, Cento. One of the things I enjoy most about racing is the routine; knowing the plan will be wake up, eat/caffeinate, kit up and ride/race, come home and shower/eat/nap and then dinner and sleep.

And then came the change - our DS, Manuel, told us "10 days holiday after Cento". Yes, a welcome invitation to do nothing. But therein lies the trouble. What does someone who likes a schedule do when there isn't one?

A 10-day break in the middle of the season is necessary for recharging the batteries and keeping the dreaded beast that is over-training at bay. I know this from personal experience. Of course you still want to stay in reasonable fitness and unlike off season where I don't touch the bike for at least a month, I went out most days for an easy "cafe ride".

I took the opportunity to ride with friends or just explore back roads that I normally don't bother to turn down. Ah, life in the slow lane... I could get used to this!

Beyond that I spent a few days at the beach in Viareggio trying to erase multiple sets of tanlines with only minimal success. After a couple of days I was starting to remember how nice it is to wake up with the possibility to do whatever the hell you want.

So the beach yielded to long naps and even longer dinners with newly-minted friends in Lucca at one of the best restaurants I've ever been to. I'll leave the name of the place a secret but if you're ever in Lucca and run into me maybe I can be convinced to show you where it is...

A week-and-a-half flew by and now it's back to schedules and training and getting ready for the end of the year. Hard to believe we've pedaled through almost two-thirds of the season, it seems like just yesterday everyone was gearing up for spring. The days here are long and hot but there is the feeling of summer ending soon, an urgent need to push a little harder and squeeze a little more out of the year.

As for me I'll be in Italy, then head to Eurobike and after back to the States for my first season of cyclocross. I'm really looking forward to that - pure sweet hell, as it's been called.

Guess there is always plenty to do after all!

Pre-Giro Donne, Liz Hatch (R) with her American teammate Lisa Racchetto.

Donne and dusted

By:
Elizabeth Hatch
Published:
July 13, 2009, 19:38 BST,
Updated:
July 13, 2009, 23:12 BST

Liz honours her racing companions after a grueling women's Giro

After 10 days and many hundreds of kilometres the Giro Donne has finished. As I sit in the car on the drive back to Lucca I'm quiet, reflective and trying to gather my thoughts on my experience from the past week and half. So many thoughts - things I learned; things I assumed I knew but didn't; things I wish I had done differently; but most of all how much I enjoyed the race. Even the bad moments (and there were plenty of those).

I won't go into a play-by-play account of each stage as I honestly can't remember much of it in finite detail although strangely it's a vivid burning memory in my head I won't soon forget. In the end I feel like the details of a race are left behind us on the road, a play-by-play is always just an interpretation of what happened. For me it's the behind the scenes stories that tell the most interesting tales.

So where do I begin? With the word respect.

Respect for the women who pedalled and pushed themselves beyond the limits of what most would ever consider natural. These are tough, strong, buoyant athletes. They fight for every last metre, they crash, break themselves and get back up, they love racing bikes with a passion. And I am honoured to have finished among champions and unknown riders alike. We may not all be friends off the bike, I may never know more than someone's name, but I applaud each of us.

This year's race was said to be one of the hardest in years therefore I would like to pay extra respect to the girls who raced their asses off despite the obstacles. For instance the rider who told me she was at the race without a mechanic or massage therapist. It takes guts and extraordinary fortitude to suffer for something one has a deep love for.

In the cycling world it's more often the men that get the glory, so to speak, but I can assure you that the women race just as hard and most of the time without many of the advantages one would expect a professional athlete to have. In no way am I taking away from how tough the sport is for men, I am only wishing to pay tribute to our side and say that I am endlessly inspired by my peers.

In the grand scheme cycling is just a sport but it might change individual lives. In fact I'm sure it does as I'm personally one that has been changed for the better because of it. The life experiences racing has afforded me and the sporting family I've gained and learned from are priceless. All from a perfect, simple machine - the bicycle. Belissima!

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race - H.G. Wells

Author
Elizabeth Hatch

Follow Liz, a third-year professional as she embarks on a season of European racing with her new Lotto team in Belgium. Liz  loves all things cycling, traveling, the occasional Belgian beer and can often be found twittering at http://twitter.com/Liz_Hatch