After not racing a single race on the road in 2020 and only one race in 2021 (USA Professional Nationals), I can say that I was very excited to head over to Europe to race with Team DSM after the Olympics. I took a couple of much-needed days off the bike after the Olympics before trying to get any road fitness into my legs before the Simac Ladies Tour in the Netherlands (6 days of racing). I flew home to my family in California from Tokyo for a week before heading over to the Netherlands. My time at home went by quickly, but it was nice to spend time with family before leaving for the next adventure. While I still had the motivation to train, I would be lying if I said the first couple of days back on the bike were easy. My body went into full off-season mode, and it took a couple of long slow rides for my body to remember how to pedal.
From the time I started riding my bike after the Olympics to the first day of racing, I only had nine days of training, so it was not ideal prep going into my first World Tour race, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Once I made it over to the Netherlands, I felt more comfortable on the bike again, which made me excited to race.
Before I even get into the race details, I want to say that everyone on the team was extremely welcoming and supportive! The team made it very clear that there were no expectations on my performance and that I was just to try my best. The girls were also very helpful with answering all of my questions – I asked a lot!
Racing! I might have been the luckiest person because the first stage was a 2.1km prologue! What more could I ask for? I had ridden my TT bike twice before this race, so I wasn’t expecting anything but was very pleased when I placed 26th. The next day was a road race, the following an ITT, and the next three days road races. The first road race was a bit of shock to the system after not riding in a peloton for so long, but I started to remember how to move around the group by the end of the week.
While I was able to help the team by covering moves and chasing breakaways on each stage, I think I have to say that stage five was the most memorable for me. Stage 5 made me feel like I was actually meant to be racing at this level. It was 150km with short, punchy climbs, farm roads, mud, rain, and aggressive racing. The race was hard from the beginning as there were time bonuses at the top of the climb the second time across the line. I made it to the front of the race and followed moves here and there, but I was mainly just shocked to look around after five laps and realize there were maybe 35 riders left in the group, and I was still there. From my perspective, this motivated me because I remember watching the races in the spring on TV and saying that these races were won by whoever can survive the late attack and make it into the select group of 20ish riders. With that in mind, I knew there would be some hard racing coming up in the next lap or two.
The team’s goal was to try and move our GC rider up as she was sitting in 6th place. With two laps to go, there was a solo breakaway rider up the road, and I needed to position our GC rider and chase the break. I was dying and questioning why I left the warm, smooth, dry track for this, but I was also living my best life being able to pull on the front after almost 4 hours of racing. After I pulled into the final climb going into one to go, I pulled off, and the attacks started to happen. I was dead but just kept pedaling and grouped up with two other riders and somehow dragged ourselves back to the group. After making it back to the group, I was able to find my back to the front and chase the new breakaway of 3 riders for about 15min until about 6km to go. During this pull, I was able to bring back around 30sec on the lead group of three that included some of my favorite racers. This stage made me remember how much I love road racing and how important it is to just keep pedaling and suffering!
I learned so much in this one week of racing, and I can’t thank everyone on the team enough for all their help and support!
I’m so excited to get back to racing in October with a little more endurance in the legs this time!