Geerike Schreurs: The Gravel Grind

In less than a week, I will be at the start of the biggest gravel race in Europe and one of the biggest in the world. Before I talk more about that, it would be good to reflect on what has been happened in the past months of racing.

Mid-February I found myself on the start line of the first race of the season. Close to Girona, the gravel season started with a 3-day stage race. Riders from all over the world travelled to Girona to test their legs after months of training. Although many of the riders, including myself, said, ‘I just see it as training’, you want to perform well and want to win. The ‘prologue’, which turned out to be a mass start climbing race of 6.2km, featuring gnarly sections with over 20% gradients wasn’t really my thing. When you line up with your 1.86 metres next to Ashleigh Moolman Pasio and other smaller riders, you know it’s not going to be that much fun. Anyways, that is also part of racing, so I got myself up on the climb in 10th position. I was disappointed about that for a little while, until I was told off by a good friend, who encouraged me look forward for the upcoming two stages.

 

 

The second day was a segment race. The ride until the start of the first segment and also between the two segments the time didn’t count, rather only the two marked segments. It was a fun race and found myself with 4 other strong women racing for victory. I won the sprint, but apparently wasn’t the fastest in the segments themselves. There are also tactics involved which I didn’t think about beforehand so it was a good learning experience for next time. I knew the last day could be my day, and it was. After an exciting race I made a final attack in the last 4km and won the stage. I didn’t gain enough seconds to end up on the GC podium, but I had a really fun weekend of racing and got to race again after several years!

 

 

I traveled to the U.S. to compete in two gravel races, one in Arizona, the Belgian Waffle ride, where I ended up 4th overall and one in Turkey, Texas – one of the smallest towns I ever been and a whole new experience. Unfortunately, after 6km I was involved in a crash with the men’s front group and snapped my handlebar. All in all, it was a good opportunity to see how I would react to the long travel and time difference. Besides falling asleep at 9pm I hardly experienced much jetlag. It was the same on the way back, where I jumped straight into my routine – drinking a lot of water does the trick for me.

In May I travel back to the U.S. for Unbound and Oregon trail in June. If you think I only travel with a bike and a set of wheels, you are wrong. I’m buying increasingly more specific bike tools, to be self-sufficient when it comes to preparing and fixing my bike for races. Every course is different, the gravel can be nice and smooth, or the opposite with big loose rocks and technical sections. I always must bring different sets of tires so I can swap if needed. Also, the type of gearing you use in each race can be different. Gravel racing requires a lot of preparation when you don’t have a mechanic with you. Who knows, after a year of gravel racing, I could even start my own bike mechanic shop with all my ‘how to fix your bike’ knowledge.

 

 

 

As I said in the intro, my next big event will be the Traka 360. I’ve asked myself many times why I signed up for a 360km gravel race. Then I remind myself, I wanted to challenge myself and that is why I said last year after the Traka 200: ‘next year I’ll do the 360’. It will definitely be a challenge – not only physical, but mostly mental. People ask me if I’m going to win. I find that a strage question, how do I know if I’m going to win? I mean, I’ll do my best, prepare myself and the aspects I can influence the best I can, but so many things can happen during a race. Mechanicals, crashes or just not having the legs, for example. I don’t want to focus too much on the race outcome. If I look back on where I was last year, I made so many big steps in my personal wellbeing, and that for me that is a win – the whole process of getting myself to the start line of the Traka 360. I’ve never ridden my bike for more than 226 km (last week in Alicante IronGravel race), so doing 360km is a win. Sometimes we forget what it takes to be where we are now. Never forget the process leading to your goals.

Next time I’ll tell you about the experience I had in the Traka360 and Unbound 200 mile. But if you can’t wait, follow me on Instagram @geegeertje.

Until then,

Gee

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