From winter training to racing Opening Weekend – Franziska Koch

 

I love the structured winter training period, where you have time for some nice long rides, but also to fine tune your engine with some efforts. But this period came to its official end last weekend with the famous Opening Weekend in Belgium. Before I jump into that, I’ll give you a short recap of my winter, as I already started racing in January. I rode the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Road Race in Australia. It was great to escape the cold winter weather a little. Plus, even with the warm winter in Spain I didn’t have to suffer much in the cold anyway!  

I jumped as early as I ever had into my race season, but nevertheless I felt ready to race. My winter went smooth, apart from a stomach bug that I caught a bit more than a week before leaving to Australia. This was somewhat challenging, but looking back I take it as a good lesson that you have to accept things that are out of your control and that the body sometimes needs more time than we would prefer. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t stress me. I then had a gap of bit more than three weeks between coming back home and racing the Opening Weekend, which gave me time to recover well from travel and work on more specific efforts that are required for the hellingen of Flanders.

Australia is beautiful, but when it comes down to racing, I love Belgium. You need a different mentality for the spring races compared to racing on wide roads like in Australia or UAE. So heading towards the Opening Weekend always adds some extra nervousness and excitement for me. I love the twisty and narrow roads of Flanders. I’ve already raced on them quite few times now, so checking the course brings back a lot of memories. Luckily, I forget the pain pretty fast, but knowing you’ll suffer a lot still sets you up with the right mindset. The key for the Classics is knowing the course and knowing where you need to spend your energy. Because being out of position in particular moments can cost you a good race result in the end.  

Omloop het Nieuwsblad started calmly with an early break, which gained quite a gap. We knew we had a good rider for the final with Pfeiffer Georgie, so we used all our horsepower to guide her as as safely as possible through the chaos. We managed to avoid a lot of the crashes until of the cobble section called the “Haaghook” at 36km to go. Each one of us got stuck behind a crash and Pfeiffer only could get back to the front group when the race started to explode. It was quite a disappointment, because we lost the race due to bad luck, but we were definitely reminded that you have to be sharp in every second during these types of races. 

We got our second chance the next day in Omloop van het Hageland. It’s not a World Tour Race like Nieuwsblad, but nevertheless it’s not to be underestimated. For this race, our main card to play was Charlotte Kool. It was a hard race to get control of and in the end we were beaten by the impressive strong solo break of Kristen Faulkner. The race didn’t turn out to a sprint as we had planned, but Pfeiffer could show her strong legs and finished it off with third place in the end. 

These were the two races of the famed Opening Weekend, but I had the pleasure of making it a treble with racing on Tuesday at Le Samyn des Dames. It had a similar character to Hageland: fast and aggressive from the beginning and a course defined by narrow cobble passages, which can create race-defining moments. This time we came close to our goal of a sprint with Charlotte Kool, but in the end five seconds was not close enough. So DSM-firmenich PostNL will just become hungrier to get the first win in the Classics!

I was personally happy with my shape and I enjoyed the chaos of the racing so far. I’m still excited for the upcoming races and hope you’ll enjoy watching them as much as I do racing them.

See you on the road!
Franzi

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