10 May 2007

Gracia Orlova Part 2

After stepping off the podium, the team was elated, back to their old winning selves again. This boosted confidence in the younger riders, and gave the whole team the boost they needed. It must have worked cause things got a lot better after the mornings stage. A quick trip home, over the border again, where we waited again for a passport check, but at least the journey was not as long as the mornings fiasco, almost half the time and distance back to the hotel. A quick pack up of all the TT gear, and we worked through till the afternoons stage. The weather had held off all morning on the TT stage, but it was not to last. Upon getting set up at the hotel for working, the rain decided to come and pay us a visit, we had been lucky so far, with sun and perfect weather, so it was not all bad. The rain hung around all afternoon, just enough to get us soaked to the skin ready for the afternoons racing. Lucky the start was close by in the same town we were staying in, as by the time the gang was ready for the roll to the start, the rain stopped, just like I ordered.

Susanne, getting ready for the start, Arnt in yellow.

The rain was holding off perfectly, but the cold and wind had stayed, from 24’c yesterday, to about 10’c today, a bit of a shock for the riders. We had a stage of 80km, a lap around the town, five times. With Susanne in 2nd place on GC, only about 10 seconds off Arnt (T-Mobile) and a bit of a gap to 3rd, things were looking a little bit more controllable. Today we just wanted a stage win, time to shake things up a little in t eh peloton. After less than 5km racing, we sent out a scout on attack to see which team was interested in chasing, or who would want to join her. We sent Trine, our new Danish junior out for a run, she hit the climb hard, but didn’t seem to notice the pain, as the gap started to grow. She must have had a bit of a confidence from her third place in the TT, as we didn’t think she had much left in her. By the time 20km had been raced, she was still away, with about 2 mins lead on the bunch. No on really seemed interested in chasing, with Trine down about 13mins on Arnt, she was no problems to any one. She started riding, and keep on getting further and further away from the bunch, up to 4mins by the 60km mark. She was buzzing with anticipation of a win, she was listening hard out for the chasing bunch, looking back over her shoulder down some of the biggest straights to catch a glimpse of her chasers. But they were no where to be seen.

Passing the bunch on the way to see Trine in the break.
She raced well, with 10km to go, the gap was still about 4mins, we were very impressed, but she was getting tired. Closer to 9km mark, the bunch was chasing, the gap coming down to 3 mins, we relayed this info to her, but somehow she misunderstood the time gap, thinking It was 1min, she put the hammer down. Now we were impressed, she pick the pace up, the gap growing and the pace getting up. With a hill top finish, of about 800m distance, she rounded the last corner at speed. Looking behind for the impending bunch, but they were nowhere to be seen, all the way up the hill she was checking though. The line was looming, the speed was slowing, and it was almost hers. She pulled her tired arms in the air to give the victory salute, and we freaked as we saw her almost crash, 10m from the line. Opps, not enough speed, hands on the bars, and over the line for a one armed, safe salute. We were very happy, but I think Trine was more excited, to see the work she had done over the stage, she still had the biggest smile on her face I have ever seen from her. We were elated with her, but the bunch was looming, watching a finish from behind the line is unusual for us, so we ran to look. The bunch was altogether at the bottom turn, but it was moving fast uphill, the sprinters and climbers were all over the road, fighting for their positions. But we could see Susanne punching on the pedals to the left, Arnt in the middle, and Tanja (Bigla) to the right, man it was close. Susanne 2nd, Arnt 3rd, not a bad result for the day. The team were pretty happy for Trine, it’s always good to see the younger ones win, and for the older girls to give her so much support, she just could take the smile off her face.

Trine, just about over the line for the days win.

One more stage to go, the rain held off all afternoon, but it had had enough, and started pissing down on us. The bikes were a mess from the race, but with an early stage, and the drive home directly, we had our work cut out for us for the night. Last stage 100.2km, in the same city, with laps of about 18km, with a few nice little climbs. Another good stage for us, but Susanne, sitting in second place was not to start today, with the cold of yesterday, she was to stay in bed sick for the day, preparation for the Tour de’lAude was more important for her. We still had five girls left, so off to the start, rain bucketing down, and the temperature still about 10’c, it was going to be a tough day. Again, just looking to shake things up a bit, we decided to attack like hell, all day, give the girls some training, and hopefully mess things up a bit for the other teams. 5km into the race we sent the first attack off, with Loes Makerink getting the first job of the day. The attack worked, she escaped by herself, a couple of others joined her, Tanja (Bigla, our old team mate from last year) and Kimberly Anderson (T-mobile) came with her. They managed to stay away for the rest of the race, the gap getting only as big as 2 mins, but it was enough. They rode well together, working to kept the bunch at bay, looking at the group, no one was racing behind yet, but it would start soon. 10km before the end, the break was still riding well off the front, Loes looking a bit worse for wear, but so were the other two. Coming to the last km, they almost stopped riding, watching each other like hawks, so as not to miss the attacks. They started climbing slowly up the hill to the finish, with the bunch kicking at their heels, we were starting to get nervous, but they slowly came to the end. What looked like a slow motion finish, Loes started the sprint, and with the other two following we thought it was all over for her. But it was not to be, the other two, must have been a little bit more overdone than we thought, and Loes took the sprint, winning perfectly for her effort. She was rapped, we were happy, the team was buzzing once again. Hey we didn’t win the stage race, this we left for Arnt, (the third time she has won it), but with two stage wins, a fantastic TT and some very good racing for our efforts, we were all pretty happy. A quick lunch, then back on the road for the trip home.

The three escapee's on the last stage.

Some Statistics for you, a new idea, lets see if it lasts.

Distance traveled in truck since leaving base - 2986 km
Distanced raced - 426.4 km
Bikes washed, serviced during race - 56
Punctures - 2 front, 2 rear.
Mechanicals - nil
Crashes - nil
Podium places - 8
Wins - 2
Riders to finish - 5 (-1)

I have some great video clips for viewing, I will be trying to get these posted, once I work out the logistical issues associated with it. More on this later. And some pics of the week here, somewhere.

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