Just as soon as I started working for the girls, it was almost over. Just under three weeks, a few races, and it was back to the boys for a while. We had a double program running for the last week, so we were sharing what few resources we had for the women, between two teams. The truck headed down to the Czech Republic for Gracia Orlova stage race, and I took the other team and the transporter to Switzerland for a couple of races. The last being the Bern World Cup, number six in the series, and a tougher course than the last few years. It should be interesting, as there is a lot more climbing, and right from the 3 km point. The two favourite teams for the race (besides ourselves of course), was Bigla (who were organising the race, and it was finishing right outside their HQ), and the other Swiss team, Cervelo. They had their strongest teams racing, and they were going to put up a good fight, that’s for sure, but we were ready.
Judith was sitting in second place in the world Cup standings, just behind Vos, but she was racing Gracia (and she won this), so would not be present. Susan De Goede was in third, not far from Judith, so they (Nurenburger) would be fighting as well. We were not really focused on the WC, but being this close to the leaders jersey, is always on your mind. I was pretty organised with the bikes, I had to be, as I was working out of a very small van, so things had to be in their place, or it would turn into a nightmare. The bikes were ready, the girls were ready, they were a bit quiet after having a look at the course during the day before. We had most of our stronger climbers, and some of the hard working gang, so I was not worried. The team for the day was Judith, Oenone, Kim, Linda, Kate and Chantele. The weather was looking good, no rain or wind for the afternoon, so I couldn’t ask for anything else, maybe some more sleep, but that was going too far.
And the race is off, 1st 100m of the first lap, hey that's Chantele, and Linda behind her
The race started with a hiss and a roar, and as I thought, Bigla and Cervelo attacked like hell, right from the start. And as usual, Judith was at the back of the bunch that was splitting all over the place. The team had to chase like anything to get her back on to the front. We weren’t alone, as there were others chasing the front bunch as well, but they were not going to make it to the end anyway. By the time we got through the first of 4 laps, the race was not looking too good for many of the teams. There was a front bunch of about 60, with about the other 100, getting left behind quickly on the nasty course. The race radio was the worst I have ever heard, well we heard nothing, that’s the problem. We were not alone, as we saw car after car in the caravan, talking to the jury to try and find out the situation in the front, and giving them shit as well, it was a world cup race afterall. We were stuck behind the big bunch and could not get through to talk to the girls in the front (the girls radios have a limited range) to see what was happening. By the time we reached the climbs for the second time, we worked out that there was two bunches in front, and they were a long way in front. Still nothing on the radio, what a mess for the normally precise Swiss. By the time the third lap was starting, we were finally let through. And there were not many of the girls left in the front bunch, by now, about 30 from what we could see. But there was four of us up there, so things were looking good.
The bunch is splintering up the first climb
By now we were seeing most of the Cervelo and Bigla team getting dropped. Their plans for the day looking like they had failed, there was only a couple of each team hanging off the back by now. Getting dropped and then coming back on. Going into the last lap, the pace was high, the last climbs were coming, so they were trying to stop the attacks happening. But they started already, with 20km to go, attack after attack was going off the front. We chased what we could, so did the few teams that were left up there. With 10km to go, there was one rider attacking out the front, my old team mate, Susanne Ljungskog, and she was looking good. The bunch tried to chase her down, but they were looking pretty tired, there was just no speed in the chase anymore. She stayed out with 23 seconds, then to 21 secs, but it was not moving very fast and she got back to 23 secs. Now you might think that would be easy to chase down, but with 120km or so in the legs, and with a lot of climbing, it’s not so easy for the girls left. With only a few teams having more than one rider left, no one really want to expend energy they might need later on in the finish chute.
What a beautiful day in Switzerland, love the countryside, almost like home.
With 3km to go, Suze was still in the front with the same gap, it was not going to change. We took the deviation for the cars, and I sprinted to see her cruising through the finish line with plenty of time to enjoy her win. She was ecstatic, and it showed with the huge grin on her face. But the bunch was about to arrive, and they looked almost like they were in slow-motion as they came close to the line. Judith was looking good, sprinting like hell right to the end, second place, nice. I collected up all the bikes and girls, and we had a moment to relax, or at least they did, I was busy packing a few of the bikes into bags (a few of the girls were flying home, Kim back to USA, Oenone back to Australia, Linda to Denmark) and trying to cram everything I could in the van for the trip back to Bonn. News came through that with Judith’s second place she was now the new leader of the World Cup series. What a great finish to the week, and for the first time ever, Judith wears the rainbow jersey.
Susanne comes home for the win.
We had just a bit of time for the girls to have a quick shower back at the hotel. Time for me to get my things together, they were dropping off at the train station. It was unusual not to be driving home after the race, got to be a first, and it was feeling rather strange. I was to be picked up in Geneva, as the men’s team were finishing up at the Tour of Romandy, and dropping riders off to the airport there. From here we leave for Genoa, to meet up with the rest of the staff for 20 hours on a ferry. The truck, bus, transporter, and four race cars, with eight others. The ferry was off to Sicily, for the start of the Giro d’ Italia. I was excited, my favourite race ever, and my first grand tour with the team (first ever actually, but racing with the girls feels rather grand sometimes). Plus I have been wanting to get to Sicily for years as well, so nice to combine some sightseeing in with some bikes, racing and a bit of work. Ohh and don’t forget the food.
See more photos here.