There are days where nothing can get in your way. You are given a mission and nobody can stop you. Saturday's edition of Het Niuewsblad was one of these days.
The plan for our Hitec Products team was clear. We have one of the best riders in the women's peloton on our team, Elisa Longo Borghini and we were all ready to work for her until we could do more.
Knowing the plan made things are simple. For us the first 60kms were irrelevant, except perhaps to just avoid all the crashes in the peloton! I found myself involved in crashes twice, as a gift they gave me a good burn behind the right knee.
But despite that it was important to keep a cool head, as Marc (Bracke) our DS says, "frustration is a waste of energy."
Things started to get serious after the 62km mark with the Côte de Trieu (a steep paved climb). The peloton split and we ended up with a group of 20 at the front; with Elisa, Ashleigh Moolman and I making it for Hitec.
But the race kicked again immediately after the Côte de Trieu with the Paterberg (a nasty cobbled climb). A crash forced Elisa to stop at the base while four women went 'spinning' off the front (Emma Johansson, Amy Pieters, Lizzie Armitstead, one dropped later).
After waiting for our team leader Ashleigh and I set out to chase until the first cobbled section (Karel Martelstraat). We kept the gap close but it wasn't enough. We were the only team to really try and close the gap down as Orica, Boels-Dolmans and Giant Shimano had riders ahead and everyone else seemed scared to take Wild (Giant Shimano) to the line...
Our group of 20 were always very close to the break, never more than two minutes. Unfortunately, we lost Elisa to another crash on Karel Martelstraat so we had to change the plan on the road; I had to protect Ash who was the fastest of us in the sprint.
Ash followed an attack by Rabo/Liv's Annemiek van Vleuten and they tried to bridge to the leading group but they couldn't quite get there and the chasing group caught them a little more than 20kms to go.
And so begun my job of covering all attacks during the last 20kms. Rabo/Liv didn't want to sprint with the super sprinter Kirsten Wild always present in the chase group so they attacked relentlessly without success until 3kms to go.
In the end our chase group had to settle for sprinting for fourth place, less than 10 seconds behind the first three. Ashleigh finished eighth and I finished 22nd.
Pieters out sprinted Johansson and Armitstead to claim victory.
Personally I'm very satisfied with my feelings and my race, I tried to be there for the team and do my best. Even if the result is not up to our expectations we were able to ride as a team and challenge the 'big' teams like Rabo/Liv and Boels-Dolmans and this is a good thing for the future.
Added to this was the perfect work of our team staff Juan, Didier and Kristof. Without them nothing would be possible.
I thought I had lost a family changing teams from Vienne Futuroscope to Hitec at the end of last year after six years with the French squad. But I'm happy to have found another one in Hitec Products.
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