I always knew Bene Ladies Tour would suit me, so I popped it down on my race ‘preference’ list. Wiggle High5 sprinters, Jolien and Gio wanted to do the Giro which gave me a free run to put my hand up to go for the overall GC at Bene. In previous editions, Bene has only consisted of 2-3 road races and a short 5-6km prologue. This year there were 3 road races, a 1.9km prologue AND a 10km Time Trial. This wasn’t as ideal, due to my lack of time-trialling ability, but I had nothing to lose. Why not have a crack?
The 1.9km prologue was perfect. Not too technical with a long, final straight into a headwind. This suited me down to the ground, as it was all about power. I went off relatively early and set the fastest time; 2minutes, 25seconds. One by one, everyone failed to beat me. My greatest threat was Marianne Vos. The tight U-turn on the course is something she excels at, so I knew that would be the point where she would put a couple of vital seconds into me. Word came in that she was moving at blistering speed, yet posted a time of over 3minutes. Something had happened. We soon saw photos over her on that very corner I spoke of, after having slipped out . That’s the beauty of prologues – it’s a fine line between risk and reward. Usually Marianne gets it right, but this time she didn’t. I was actually a bit disappointed because I really wanted to give her a run for her money and see just who would come out on top.
Nevertheless, I won the prologue by 4seconds to Janneke Ensing of Holland and fellow ‘trackie’, Elinor Barker of Britain.
The following day was the first of three road races. I made a crucial mistake before a cobbled section with around 40km to go. I was sitting in position 15 or so whilst Marianne attacked off the front and got away in a group of 6. Once the peloton splits in the wind on a narrow road, it’s very hard to do anything about it if you aren’t in the right position. Ensing and I missed it and rustled up help from our teams but could only manage to bring back 4 of the escapees, leaving Marianne and young gun, Alice Barnes to take the stage and the GC by a minute.
Disaster. One moment you’re out of position and the race leaves without you. It was certainly lucky only two of them stayed away.
The following day was a 100k road race and the 10km TT. Although littered with attacks, nothing eventuated in the road race, with Barker finishing just ahead of the bunch sprint, won by Vos. I had a crack in the bunch kick, but didn’t manage more than a top ten.
All of a sudden it was Time Trial time. My dreaded event. How was I going to go? I had no idea. I hadn’t done a time trial for two years! I knew my legs were good at training, but how would they compare to the rest of the peloton? I was expecting to be around the 6/7th mark, but honestly just didn’t want to embarrass myself after putting my hand up to go for GC.
I came 3rd. 6 seconds behind Vos and 4 behind Tenniglo. I couldn’t believe it. Not only was I competitive, but after 14 minutes and 5 seconds, I wasn’t far off from the win. I certainly gained a lot of confidence after that ride.
I was sitting in 3rd and teammate, Emilia in 5th on GC heading into the final stage. Our WiggleHigh5 girls rode their hearts out today. They really stepped it up and raced like a completely different team. They took control, attacked and created opportunities for Emilia and I to move up on GC. Emilia managed to sneak in a couple of bonus seconds to jump to 4th on GC, but unfortunately nothing major stuck and it came down to a bunch sprint which, once again Marianne won, and once again, I stuffed up.
I used to be great at sprinting and would put money on me being able to beat this peloton in a bunch kick, however I just couldn’t piece it together in the final and finished 10th. It’s interesting to see how my skills have switched slightly this season. I honestly think it’s due to my role within the majority of the races. I have been doing a lot of ‘domestique’ roles, which means working hard for the first three quarters of the race, moving key teammates up, getting biddons and covering attacks until the pointy end where I either say goodbye to the climbers or am asked to help in a lead out. I feel it’s for this reason I’m so much stronger in the timetrial, yet have lost that ‘sprinting knack’ at the pointy end of the bike race. As the saying goes, ‘practise makes perfect’; and at the end of the day, how can I expect to win without being in the mix more often?
Nevertheless I was very happy to have the opportunity to go for the win here at Bene Ladies Tour and am so thankful for the help from my teammates and staff. I was so pleased to finish up on that GC podium alongside women’s cycling’s hero, Marianne Vos and Alice Barnes. It was also lovely for our fabulous Swede, Emilia to finish in 4th on GC after a illness-marred season.
Next up, Ride London!