24 April 2007

Ronde van Gelderland

Once again we headed up to the sunny north of Holland, not quite the top, but very close to it. In fact if it was fifty years ago, it would have almost been the top, but with major land reclamation, they increased the size of Holland by almost 10%. Part of this reclamation starts from about where we are racing. Ronde van Gelderland (round the are of Gelderland), is the first race of a five race series of the 'Top Competition', a hotly contested race series for Dutch Nationals. There are a lot of other international teams racing this series as well, making it some of the biggest one day race series we contest. The racing is hard and fast, on small roads, making it very dangerous, but the girls love it. Being the number one Dutch team it's really important for us, and the sponsors to put on a good show here. Hey we even have live TV coverage for the race, makes a change.

A nice lineup at the start, almost looks like an optical illusion.

The field was huge, with 28 teams, and most of them with eight riders, the start list had just under 200 names on it. All the serious pro teams were present, as well as a lot of local Dutch club teams. This is the record for starters for Woman's racing for a very long time, (they can't remember if it's ever been bigger). With eight riders, all with a bike or two I was kept pretty busy leading up to, and on race day. For some strange reason, I seem pretty organised this year, we have a few more wheels and bike at our disposal, so getting ready for this race was a little bit easy. We now have training bikes for almost the whole team, meaning I get to keep their race bikes at home base for preparing for race day. This make things a little bit easier for days like this, as I used to get 6 or 8 dirty messed up bikes to try and get sorted in a couple of hours before the race. I like the new system.

And the race is underway, 500m from the start, and already it's a mess at the back.

The start line looked awesome, so many new faces from the Dutch club teams, and a lot of younger riders in the trade teams. With teams of eight, it was going to be a good race, normally we are allowed only six, so everyone had a few more riders to spend for the gain of the sprinters in the finish. There is some pretty good riding on this course, with some nice little steep kickers, hidden in the middle of a national forest park, just big enough to split the field. funny when you see the club teams, most of them getting dropped before the hill even starts, it must be a head thing, as most of them have not even seen hills, let alone even raced them. Racing was underway, the peloton looked huge as it passed us, waiting up field from the line, so many girls on bikes, brought tears to my eyes, nah, it was just the police bikes stirring up the sand on the road, as I crouched to get a few photo's.

Another nice lineup, this time the bunch is spread all along the dyke, speed is increasing, gaps forming in the bunch.

Racing was hard and fast, with crazy high average speeds in the first two hours, the bunches were splitting all over the place. By the time the first climb came, we had a small group of 11 away, thankfully we had two in there with Amber and Loes G looking fine on the top of the first climb. After a small loop of 7km, they were back on the climb, we had waited here as the roads were small as, and we would be late getting to any problems, neutral service could look after the gang for a while. After the two climbs, the bunch was chasing hard, as many teams had missed the break, and were keen to pull it back in. The breakaway groups was giving it all, but there was a few lazy girls, just sitting on, hoping to get and easy ride to the finish were they would sprint those that had worked to stay away.

The breakaway group of 11, second time on the climb, Amber leading, Loes G, just out of shot.

On a nice descent, there was two girls escaping, Vos (World Champ, DSB) and Chantelle Beltman, so the small group was racing hard to catch them. With ony 20 km to go, the race was almost done, so everyone was chasing hard. Just let me explain something first, in the race we have a lead out of about three police, a neutral service car, and a Commissionaire in front of the bunch, the neutral will service and breaks, and the jury Will make sure they don't cheat. Behind the bunch is the main Jury riding directly behind, then another neutral spares (for the teams that are sitting at car no.28 etc, that can't get to the front quick enough), then the caravan follows (that's us, with a random draw of sorts to get your placing for the day). Around every corner, all roads and intersections, traffic island etc, are a number of guy on motorbikes with bright vests on, controlling the moving road closure. These guys are the guardian angles of the girls, stopping cars getting ON the race course, pointing out obstacles, cars and other dangers. They have a hard job as they have to get around the course any way they can, though the bunch, on cycle paths, through back streets etc. But they are always there to help, normally there can be up to 30 of these guys on the course, and they love it, and the cops turn a blind eye as they break all the speed limits and rules of the road.

Now where were we, right, the attack went off the front, two escaped with 20 to go, the 9 chasers followed at speed, with Amber making the break to join the two attackers. Up to a big roundabout, the lead cars (who are about 150-200m in front) went right at the island, a few of the moto's went straight ahead, to get to the next intersections before the race. Next, the two attackers, Vos and Beltman went straight as well, following the bikes (there seemed to be no one on the island directing the riders, which is not normal), and then Amber and the 8 other followed. Shit, what a mess, on the radio (which Amber's wasn't working for some reason), on the car horns, trying to attract their attention to turn back. Lucky, Loes G heard the commotion, and grabbed Amber back, and we turn right as was needed. But the two attackers were off, their team cars stuck well behind in the caravan, oblivious to the shit fight going down in front. The small group took off, (adrenaline can be a good incentive to ride faster) with out the two leaders in front, but the chasing bunch was a bit closer now, as we had wasted a min or so getting the girls back on the good road.

Voss managed to get back in the bunch, probably with the generous help of her team car, and dodgy director (no apologies here, sorry, as it was almost super human for her to get back so fast), Beltman was finished. The bunch chased super hard, with Vos and her team, DSB Bank, spearheading the bunch. nine to go, the break was caught, the race was now up to the sprinters. And a sprint it was, Vos (DSB) winning, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (t-mobile) and our own Loes Makerink in third. A nice result, cause it could have been worse, I stopped sweating in the back seat, packed up the 15 bikes out, and headed home.
Next up the fourth World Cup of the season Uitslag Waalse Pijl or in English, Fl├Ęche Wallonne held down in a town called Huy, in Belgium.

And another nice shot of the countryside. You can tell easily when the speed is up by the single line and the gaps starting to form, this was about 43km/hr.

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