Being here in Italy definitely gives me a lot of time to think, whether it be on the bike or just in the house. Thinking back at my time with Servetto Footon, even in the short space of time I’ve been with the team, reminds me what a crazy little adventure its been for sure.
The Women’s cycling scene worldwide is growing massively each year and I feel privileged to be part of it. A few years ago it was a dream of mine to be racing in all these top races and now I’m here in the mix of it all. That brings me to the Giro Rosa. The only women’s Grand Tour, and grand is what it was. With only 2 weeks notice that I was doing the Giro I didn’t really have time to think. I planned what I thought I would need and before I knew it I was on a flight to Italy not knowing what the next few months would bring. I’m not going to lie I didn’t have the ideal preparation going into the Giro. Having spent 2 months in the UK racing 40 minute criteriums this was a big step up, but an opportunity I wasn’t going let slip by. The closest I’d been to racing the hardest women’s stage race in the world would be Tour of Ardeche for the terrain and overall distance, and the Women’s Tour for the level of world class riders.
Stage 1 on the second day was a massive shock to my system. First of all the heat was unbelievable, it felt like it was draining away all the energy that I was so desperately trying to save. Then the speed. Everyone was so excited and fresh that it was a little sketchy at times and coming into the finish I was hanging on for dear life like never before. At that point I can honestly say I really doubted if I would be able to finish the whole 10 days after this stage.
I refocused myself going into stage 2 thinking all the time to drink, eat and pour water on my body to cool down. This helped me so much and I really got into the swing of things. Stage 3 saw my best result finishing 20th place in a sprint. This gave me a lot of confidence and hunger for more.
Stage 5 was the first big mountain top finish I’ve ever done. I was quite excited about this as it gave me the opportunity to see how I compared to the best climbers in the world. The pace was uneven with constant attacks so I was yo-yoing on and off the back of the front select group for the whole climb. Then I saw the 1km to go sign so gave it my all to the line finishing a respectable 30th. The mountain stages continued then a 21km TT and eventually the final stage arrived. I was extremely happy with myself for getting this far and knew that I just needed to cross the line then the pain would be over. The race was mainly flat, then finishing at the top of a 20km climb. Everyone sprinted away from me at the bottom but I crawled back on as the pace eased. The top GC contenders were now up the road and I found myself in a decent group. The last 10km of climbing was the hardest I’ve ever tried on a bike both physically and mentally. The kilometres crawled by and I fought to keep going. Crossing the line was such a relief and made me very emotional. I am very proud to have completed my first Grand Tour and finishing 50th overall, 13th U23 out of the 47 that finished the race is a real bonus on top of that.
Next up for me was a well needed week of rest. It gave me chance to explore the town a little more and just enjoy a few easy rides in the sunshine without any structure to my rides. I then ventured off to Belgium to visit my boyfriend and get back into harder training. Visiting Belgium definitely made me realise how much I love the training and lifestyle here in Italy. I am very lucky to have been picked up by Servetto Footon at this crucial point in my career.
After enough time to physically and mentally recover I was eased back into racing with an Italian National race, the Memorial “Zita Urbonaite”. Well I say ‘eased back into racing’ but it was a hard race. It started as a kermess style race with laps around a town then moved onto a 20km hilly loop. The circuits were fast with constant attacks. Our team did very well to cover all the moves but nothing stuck. Then onto the climb which split the race to bits. I didn’t quite have it in my legs to keep up with the front pace due to all the attacking so found myself in the chasing group. Unfortunately our small group was caught by the peloton so I finished in the bunch but the team managed a podium with Elena finishing 3rd. The highlight of my day would have to be meeting Nicole Cooke. I had a brief chat with her and found her very down to earth and inspiring. I am currently reading her book which is very interesting.
Next on the cards was the Sparkassen Giro World Cup in Germany. I was starting to feel good again in training so I felt confident going into the race. With it being a ‘sprinters’ course I knew it wouldn’t be ideally suited to me but I was excited at the challenge of a fast race and crazy bunch sprint fighting for position. It gave me a chance to practice my weakness. I finished 46th out of 160 starters which is a massive improvement from my DNF at the start of the year in my first world cup Flèche Wallonne.
After having 2 weeks off racing now it has given me the perfect opportunity to get a good few weeks of training in my legs ready for my next block of racing at the end of August. I am working with Jon Sharples at TrainSharp and couldn’t be happier with how they work. I have seen massive improvements and it’s enabled me to understand my training more with whats effective and whats not. I like knowing why I am doing things and setting off on the bike every morning knowing the specific structure I need to complete really helps me focus and improve.
So that’s the latest from me… Next up is a french block starting with the stage race Trophee d’Or, Plouay World Cup, then the Tour of Ardeche.