"Saturday 18th March, Oostduinkerke
I set off for my first races of the year on Friday driving to Rene’s house in London where he kindly let Beth, Lauren and I stay for the night then we set off bright and early on Saturday morning and headed for Oostduinkerke in Belgium.
We arrived at the race in plenty of time and went straight to sign on in the typical Belgian café, which definitely looked more like a pub to us! After a quick change into our kit we headed for a course recce and warm up on the 7.6km circuit. Unfortunately the recce didn't go to plan as we couldn't find the course! We ended up just warming up on the nearby roads.
The race was 96km with 13 laps of about 7.5km. After a rapid start to the race we found the course was as flat as it gets, quite a few corners and some exposed roads, classic Belgium.
In the first lap I lost a few places because I didn't know when the corners were coming up and was being more cautious than was necessary but moved up once I knew what to expect. As a first year U23 who isn't suited to criterium racing I found the race pretty difficult to say the least! Half way through I was suffering and found myself near the back. A lack of concentration for just a few seconds meant I was caught behind a rider with a mechanical and having to chase to get back into the wheels. Unfortunately I wasn't strong enough and that was my race done, being pulled from the race in the next lap.
Sunday March 19th, Ooike
I started Sunday with a positive mindset, this weekend was all about learning. The race was in Ooike and was 86km with 14 laps of around 6km. This course was slightly different to the previous day with cobbles and a drag up to the finish which suited me better. I did a roller warm up to help me get the intensity into my warm up which I find hard to do on the road.
For the first hour of the race it was pretty hard with constant attacks but the peloton ensured these were chased down meaning no one could get away, but many riders were also getting unhinged and dropped too. After a slightly more relaxed few laps as everyone caught their breath, several attacks came in a short space of time. Unfortunately I just didn't have the legs and got dropped along with a few other girls. We worked for about a lap but that was race over again, annoying but a lot better than Saturday as I nearly made it to the finish. For me, the main aim for this weekend was to come away with valuable experience of racing in an elite women's kermesse in Belgium which I definitely got! I was pretty upset initially about Saturdays race but feel I did a lot better on Sunday.
Overall it was a good experience and I can't wait till 15/16th April when I'll be back in Belgium hoping to build on my performances.
I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank cycling time trials for supporting me and making this all possible!"