Another year, another classics season is over. Is it just me or did that go by in a flash!?
The classic season is a period of such intense racing – they may “only” be one day races but every race is so intense both mentally and physically. It’s definitely a change I’ve noticed in recent years as the level of the peloton has continued to rise. Our races are harder and faster than ever and you have to be ready to race hard from km 0.
This year I had a slightly lighter program over the early part of the spring. After a big block of racing in Australia which carried me onto Valencia I then raced just Strade Bianche and Trofeo Binda in March. Together with the team we deliberately decided to have a bigger focus on the Ardennes and Vuelta period and come in a bit fresher for these races. It will be interesting to see how this becomes more common in the women’s peloton. I already see a few riders doing the same as me this season and I think over the next years we will continue to see a lot more specialisation. Only a few years ago you would see the same riders lining up at every race no matter the terrain but as teams and races continue to grow I think it will be a natural progression.
Whilst this lighter program meant I managed to dodge a lot of the craziness of Belgian cobbled racing I still had my fair share of bad weather to train through from my base in Switzerland. Those days are not always the days I love riding when you wake up to the sound of rain outside then check your phone to discover the freezing temperature outside. As an Aussie I must admit I definitely suffer a bit in the cold and yearn for those 30+ degree days but it’s a part of our sport and something I’ve had to learn to deal with.
Getting back to the Ardennes it was a really memorable block of racing with my team Trek-Segafredo. We didn’t get a win (kudos to the unstoppable Demi Vollering who completed the Ardennes triple) but we achieved 3 podium places in each of the races – Shirin 3rd in Amstel Gold, Gaia 3rd in Fleche Wallone and Elisa 2nd in Liege Bastogne Liege.
I love the way we race as a team and the support we give each other. Everyone has a job and everyone does their job 100%. Honesty is also key to be able to get the best out of each other and I think this has been another value that has allowed us to race so well together. I was particularly proud of Gaia’s 3rd in Fleche Wallone. It’s not every day you have Lizzie Deignan in charge of looking after you in the peloton. The way Gaia coped with the race and the pressure of being our leader for the day was impressive. And this is only just the beginning!
On the road we back each other up so well but behind the scenes we have an incredible group of support staff at Trek-Segafredo from the DS to mechanics, soigneurs, performance staff… the list goes on.
For example before each race we can let our hard working mechanics know which bike (Emonda or Madone) we would like to use as well as which wheels, tyre set-up and tyre pressure we would like as well. We look at the courses and demands and pick the setup we feel will be best. If we aren’t sure then we can always ask too and be confident in our choice.
The riders are the people who get the visibility for a team but we have so many people the scenes who make it all possible. These are the people who are awake before the sun comes up and in bed late at night working to make sure we have the best support possible.
Speaking of early starts the one downside to the Fleche Wallone and Liege Bastogne Liege was the start time. For both races we had our alarm set at 5:20am to get up and have breakfast before 6am departures. With an 8:30am start the coverage still only showed the last hour of our race – as we all know so much happens in the first half of the race that dictates how the race plays out so I hope this is something we are able to change in the future. The Flanders classics have been a great example of optimising racing and TV coverage when the men and women race on the same day.
With the classics done we have now started the stage racing part of the season as I sit here writing this from my hotel room in Spain at the Vuelta. Plenty of opportunities are coming up over the next months and I can’t wait to fight for them together with my team!