This year was the first time in its 14 year history that the German Sparkassen Giro race had been given World Cup status. Having never done the race before I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew from reading and hearing about previous editions that bunch sprints often conclude the race. Unfortunately history also revealed that the course was quite technical coming into the finishing straight and that crashes were likely to be a feature.
On Saturday my team — the Bigla Women’s Cycling Team — gave me the opportunity to race in Belgium in the UCI 1.2 Erpe – Mere before travelling to Germany on Saturday evening to compete in the World Cup the following day. It was going to be a big call to do both races, including the travel, but I made the decision to take up the challenge and I am glad I did.
My goal for the weekend was to have fun, to really put myself in the race and to work towards a team result. Over the past two weeks, since finishing Thuringen Rundfhart de Frauen (a seven-day stage race in Germany) I hadn’t felt great in training and was struggling with disappointment from my own expectations. My game plan was to switch my brain off on the weekend and enjoy riding my bike!
The team plan going into the race was to have a presence in every breakaway move and set up the final sprint for our Finnish national champ, Lotta Lepisto. The 124km race started with a fast pace, but no real moves were made until the third of eight laps. The Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team positioned themselves at the front of the peloton and increased the pace. This move was unsuccessful in splitting the peloton and the whole bunch went into the third GPM climb, which was a prime.
From reading race previews I knew that the short, sharp climb at the top of the circuit would prove to be one of the decisive points in the race. In reality, however, the technical downhill section that followed allowed the peloton to regroup every time.
It became clear by the fourth lap of the race that another bunch sprint finish was on the cards, with the stronger sprinters teams working to control the race for the likes of Marianne Vos (Rabobank), Kirsten Wild (Giant-Shimano), Shelley Olds (Ale Cipollini) and Jolien D’Hoore (Lotto Belisol Ladies).
After the sixth GPM sprint a small group of three riders escaped, including Vos, Olds and Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS). Going over the start finish line this group of three was then joined by Loren Rowney (Specialized–Lululemon) and Julia Soek (Giant-Shimano). This was probably the most dangerous move of the day, however the five were caught on the uphill drag back to the GPM climb.
A few more attempts were made to form another breakaway group on the last lap, however coming into the last GPM the peloton was all together, once again. Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) launched an attack over the top, but was caught 5km from the finish, a bunch sprint looking imminent.
A group of 50 riders contested the sprint finale with my Australian teammate Taryn Heather and I helping to position Lotta at the front of the peloton. With 2km to go she was in the top ten wheels and second into the final corner, 300 meters before the finish line.
Vos took the win for Rabobank, ahead of Giorgia Bronzini of Wiggle Honda and our Finnish Champ, Lotta rounding out the podium.
This was one of the biggest results for the team this season and for Lotta personally. Success is a great feeling and it was nice to play a small role in achieving this for the team yesterday.
This coming week I have been given an incredible opportunity to ride in the Trois Etapes Tour in the French Pyrenees, supporting the Australian charity organisation, Soldier On. For more information about the tour and how you can support Soldier On please visit the tour website.
After that my next race is the Trophee d’Or Feminin, a six-day stage race in France. The season is fast drawing to a close but with World Championship selection around the corner, there is still a lot of racing and fun to come!
Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling Team
Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling
Bigla Cycling Team
Rounds 7 and 8 of the World Cup are held in Vargarda, Sweden on August 22 and August 24 respectively, with a team time trial followed by a one-day road race.
Follow the links below to read first-hand accounts of each of the World Cup rounds so far this season: