Category Archives: Helen Kelly 2004

Philadelphia, June 6, 2004

Philadelphia, June 6, 2004

The Wachovia Liberty Classic consists of four laps of a 23km course in the streets of Philadelphia. The course consists of two climbs, the Manuyuk wall reaching a gradient of 18% and a short steep climb, known as Lemon Hill. The first three laps were marked by a few attacks with no consequence.

With a record field of 190 women it was a sketchy nervous peloton.  The variation in ability caused a myriad of crashes on every lap and fortunately, none of the Rona riders were tangled up in these falls.

Up Lemon Hill on the final lap, Rona’s Katrina Grove attacked and got a gap over the top.  On Groves wheel was Judith Arndt, (Nurnberger/Lietzsport) who merely wanted to cover Grove until the pack came back. Grove managed to hold the gap at 5 seconds, but the peloton came back on the pair with only 1km to go.

Eighty riders survived the climbs to contest the crazy sprint finish.  German Petra Rossner (Nurnberger/Lietzsport) out sprinted her rivals to take her seventh Liberty Classic.  Canadian Gina Grain (Victory Brewing) and American Laura Van Gilder (Genesis Scuba), finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively.  The winner’s time was 2hrs 25min and 50sec, averaging 37km/hr.

Andrea Hannos was Rona’s top finisher with a 12th place.  I was too complacent in getting to the front during the final 3km’s and ended up badly positioned, finishing a disappointing 42nd.  Katrina, Katheryn and Anna finished 45th, 48th and 90th, respectively.  Erinne Willock (Rona) had a great day winning the Queen of the Mountain classification, by accumulating the most points in the race’s eight climbing sprints.

The Tour of Greater Montreal

The Tour of Greater Montreal

After celebrating Rona’s Montreal World Cup win, we rolled our legs over very slowly on Sunday, along the lake frontage in Lachine, near Genevieve’s home.  It was incredible windy but so picturesque with many people out sailing, jogging and cycling.

The Tour of Greater Montreal is made up of 4 stages over 3 days with the first day being the double stage event.  Stage 1 was a 3km prologue on a narrow bike path in Lachine.  Tina Pic (Genesis) rode like a demon to clock up the fastest time and don the yellow jersey.  Katrina finished in the top 10 while the rest of Rona all finished within 10sec of each other.

That evening we raced a fast and furious 4 corner criterium in the Little Italy area of Montreal.  With generous bonus seconds up for grabs, Petra Rossner (Nurnberger-Versicherung) won the criterium, and took the overall lead from Pic.  Rona featured actively in the criterium but it inevitably came down to a bunch kick.  The GC is still tight with Katrina Grove, Geneviève Jeanson, Erinne Willock and I within 28sec of the leader.

Stage 3 unfolded under a cold heavy rain with temperatures of only 11-12° celsius.  The course was mostly rolling, but included 3 ascents of Bourget hill, a 2km climb that steepens to 22% in a few places.  Many thought the peloton would explode up the climb but the rain made it difficult to attack in the steeper parts of the hill.

I got into a break after 35km with fellow Aussie Alison Wright (Nobili Rubinetterie) and Canadian Amy Moore (Quark).  We worked hard for 70km and our biggest lead was 2mins 40sec but after Moore dropped Wright and I on the final climb over Bourget our break was doomed.  The remains of the chasing peloton swept up Wright and I with 10km to go, while Moore was caught 4km from the finish line.  Judith Arndt (Nurnberger-Versicherung) won the 111km stage in 3hrs, 36mins, averaging 30.8km/hr.  Arndt now has an 11 seconds advantage over T Mobile’s Dede Demet Barry, and Canadian Lyne Bessette (Quark) is third in the general classification, 12 seconds back.
The final stage consisted of 8 laps around a 10km road circuit in Terrebonne, North of Montreal. With 19 bonus seconds for any one rider, between the intermediary sprints and the stage win, the overall race was far from over.  Petra Rossner, Arndt’s team-mate and one of the best sprinters in the world, won the three intermediary sprints – and a total of 9 bonus seconds – thus minimizing the take for the contenders. It was up to Arndt to prevent any serious break to form. She had to chase herself several attempts to leave the pack. The race was not particularly aggressive, but a few riders attacked several times but each time the pack prevented anything from materializing.

The field completed the 80km in 2hrs1min with Regina Schleicher (Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan) crossing the line ahead of Anita Valen (SATS).  In the overall classification, Arndt took the victory with a slim 5-second lead over Anita Valen (SATS), while Lyne Bessette (Quark) finished 3rd.  Rona’s Katrina Grove finishes in 6th place overall, 16sec behind Arndt. Geneviève Jeanson and Erinne Willock, finished respectively 15th and 17th, 30 and 35 seconds down.  Genesis Scuba won the team general classification 16 seconds ahead of Team Rona.

Redlands Classic 2004 Stage 5 Sunset Road Race 100km

Stage 5            Sunset Road Race                   100km

Today’s stage, a 100km race on a scenic and tough course in Redlands, was activated by Canadian Nicole Demars (Victory Brewing) right from the first climb.  RONA was happy to let her go, as she was down more than 28 minutes in general classification before the stage.  Her lead over the main field reached more than 2 minutes, however American Susan Haywood (T-Mobile) launched a counter-attack and bridged to Demars with 5 kilometres to go.

We would have loved for Gen to ride up the road, gain that minute back over Bessette and win the tour however, with Gen still hurting after her Thursday post-stage crash we had to lower our sights to defending her second spot in overall standings, and her red climber’s jersey.  Unfortunately, Gen could not match the attacks by Canadian Sue Palmer Komar (Genesis Scuba), who eventually scored enough points to win the red jersey for herself.  I attempted to take the points also, thus preventing Palmer Komar from collecting further points, however my legs could not match the strength of the strong Genesis climber.

With a much needed coke handed to me in the feedzone on lap 7, I survived on sugar to get me through the final lap.  The pace was furious as the peloton headed towards the finish.  Demars beat Haywood to the line only 15 seconds ahead of the peloton.  I stayed close by Gen to keep her out of trouble during the closing stages.  Team mate Katrina mingled amongst the sprinters to take 9th.

Lyne Bessette (Team Quark) successfully defended her yellow jersey and won the Redlands Bicycle Classic today, with Gen finishing 2nd and Webcor’s Christine Thorburn coming in 3rd.

Final General Classification

1 Lyne Bessette (CAN, Quark) 12h 23’ 59’’
2 Geneviève Jeanson (CAN, RONA) 54’’
12 Katheryn Curi (USA, RONA) 7’ 31’’
14 Katrina Grove (USA, RONA) 7’ 39’’
46 Helen Kelly (AUS, RONA) 31’ 06’’
62 Andrea Hannos (CAN, RONA) 45’ 38’’
66 Anna Milkowski (USA, RONA) 47’ 10’’

I am now looking forward to flying to Europe for the Trofeo Banca Popolare Alto Adige, in the Bolzano region of Northern Italy (April 16-18), and the Flèche Wallonne World Cup in Belgium (April 21).

Until then happy pedaling.

Redlands Classic 2004 Stage 4 – Criterium

Stage 4 – Criterium

With Gen still feeling less than 100% as result of her post race crash 2 days ago, our main focus was to maintain Gen’s 2nd GC position.

RONA and the other leading teams controlled the race and pre-empted any serious threat during the race.  All the GC leaders finished in the field and the stage had no impact on overall standings.  Lyne Bessette of Team Quark kept her yellow jersey and her 53-second lead over Gen on the eve of the ultimate leg of this five-stage race.  American Christine Thorburn of Team Webcor still ranks third overall, 1 minute 32 seconds behind the leader.

Gen kept her red Queen of the Mountain jersey, and Laura Van Gilder (Genesis Scuba) her green points leader jersey.

Tina Mayolo Pic (Genesis Scuba) won today’s criterium, outsprinting her teammate Laura Van Gilder and Canadian Gina Grain (Victory Brewing) in a massive finish.  Tomorrow’s last and decisive stage is a 100km race and will take place on an 8.5-kilometre course with a testing 3km climb on every lap.

Redlands Classic 2004 Stage 3 – Panorama Circuit Race 68km

Stage 3 – Panorama Circuit Race     68km

After warming up on the circuit, Gen told us her back was troubling her and our thoughts turned to how we could tactically complete this race and still retain the leader’s jersey.  The peloton shattered on the very first lap, but regrouped just before the 2nd ascent.  The pace was painfully high during the climb, and I found myself in a small chase group which caught the main peloton at the base of a smaller climb at the other end of the circuit.

As we caught the field, Anna immediately launched an attack and 3 riders went with her.  We slowed the pace and watched the break ride away.  The break had a 2min lead as we started our 3rd ascent.

Lyn Bessette launched an attack on the 3rd lap of the 4 lap circuit and Gen was unable to respond.  American Kristin Armstrong (T-Mobile) and Canadian Sue Palmer-Komar (Genesis Scuba) worked with Bessette who caught and then passed the initial 4 rider break.

Gen, Magali Le Floch (Quark) and Christine Thorburn (Webcor) chased hard but finished 1min 5sec behind this lead group.  As a result, Bessette (Quark) took the yellow jersey from Gen who is now second in general classification, trailing Bessette by 53 seconds.  Jeanson still kept her red Queen of the Mountain jersey.

Tomorrow’s criterium doesn’t start until 2pm, so our director, Andre, took us out to a team dinner at a local Oak Glen Italian restaurant.  It was a fun night with assistant director Jim and Andre providing plenty of entertaining stories.

General Classification after stage 3

1 Lyne Bessette (CAN, Quark) 8h 35’ 25’’
2 Geneviève Jeanson (CAN, RONA) 53’’
12 Katheryn Curi (USA, RONA) 7’ 30’’
14 Katrina Grove (USA, RONA) 7’ 38’’
59 Andrea Hannos (CAN, RONA) 28’ 34’’
66 Helen Kelly 31’ 05’’
68 Anna Milkowski 33’ 16’’

Redlands Classic 2004 Stage 2 – Oak Glen Road Race 129km

Stage 2 – Oak Glen Road Race         129km

Today was a really hard day for team RONA.  There were a number of early crashes which saw a few riders abandon and after the first climb the peloton had split, with about 80 riders remaining in the front group out of a starting field of 140.

There were several solo breaks today, and to contain these, Anna, Andrea and I set a solid tempo on the front again, revolving turns in a team time trial fashion.  With a strong headwind, after 100km of pace setting I was starting to fatigue.

Being a domestic, my role also involved collecting water and powerade for my teammates from our team car.  Each time someone needed a bottle, I made my way to the back of the peloton, and signalled to the commissaire that I wanted to go back to the team car for feeding.  I put 4 bidons down the back of my jersey, 2 more in my bottle cages and then weaved back through the peloton to my RONA team mates.  After handing out the drinks I got back on the front and helped set tempo again.

In a similar fashion to yesterday, we picked up the speed in the final 20km and rode at threshold.  I was feeling really fried and was counting down each painful kilometre before we hit the base of the climb.  In typical character, Gen set a hard tempo at the start of the climb and the peloton quickly blew to pieces.  Only Bessette and Thornburn managed to stay on Gen’s wheel.  When the 3 reached a short descent 3km to the finish line, Bessette attacked but Gen was unable to follow.

Lyn Bessette won the Oak Glen stage, however Gen finished 40sec down to retain the yellow jersey by 16 seconds while American Christine Thornburn (Webcor) finished 2nd.

Andrea, Anna and I were shattered as we pulled off at the base of the climb and let our GC riders “do their work”.  We must have looked like a potential meal because 3 buzzards circled above us as we rode at 8km/hr in our 27 gear ring, up the climb.  I ate an energy bar during the climb and drank a bidon of water, starting the recovery process for tomorrow’s anticipated day of hard work.

Tomorrow’s stage is a 67km stage, on a 15km circuit in Redlands with a nasty 20% climb likely to split the field and sting our legs.  In addition to the difficult climb, Gen was involved in a post race crash today while cooling down and has hurt her lower back.  We are hoping she will feel better in the morning and be able to successfully ascend the wall on this circuit race to retain the jersey.

General Classification after stage 2

1 Geneviève Jeanson (CAN, RONA) 6h 35’ 42’’
2 Lyne Bessette (CAN, Quark) 16’’
3 Christine Thorburn (USA, Webcor) 39’’
11 Katheryn Curi (USA, RONA) 5’ 29’’
13 Katrina Grove (USA, RONA) 5’ 37’’
69 Andrea Hannos (CAN, RONA) 24’ 20’’
72 Anna Milkowski (USA, RONA) 25’ 18’’
73 Helen Kelly (AUS, RONA) 25’ 40’’

Redlands Classic 2004 Prologue – 5km Stage 1 – Crest Line Road Race 85km

Redlands Classic 2004

Prologue – 5km

The Redlands Classic was RONA’s first big stage race for the 2004 season.  I have fond memories of Redlands as I won the green Sprint Jersey here, last year.  This year I rode in support of our lead rider, Geneviève Jeanson (Gen).  Here is how the tour unfolded.

The first stage of the Redlands Classic consisted of a 5km prologue.  Each rider started at 30 second intervals and raced against the clock to the top of Mount Rubidoux.  The course was technical with the final 3km weaving around the mountain side on a narrow, sandy footpath.

Our team leader, Gen won the prologue in 9mins 58sec and took the leaders jersey.  Two other RONA team mates, Katrina Grove and Katheryn Curi rode awesome times to finish 7th and 10th, respectively.  Gen averaged 31km/h up the climb to finish 22 seconds ahead of American Kristin Armstrong (T-Mobile) and 25 seconds in front of Canadian Sue Palmer Komar (Genesis Scuba).  With heavy legs I struggled to find my top end and finished about 45th.

After day 1, with 3 riders in the top 10 and the yellow jersey it was all smiles in the RONA camp as we planned our strategy for tomorrow’s stage.

1 Geneviève Jeanson (CAN, RONA) 5.15 km in 9’ 58’’ (avg). 31.0 km/h)
2 Kristin Armstrong (USA, T-Mobile) 22”
3 Sue Palmer Komar (CAN, Genesis Scuba) 25“
7 Katrina Grove (USA, RONA) 37“
10 Katheryn Curi (USA, RONA) 53“

Stage 1 – Crest Line Road Race        85km

Today’s 85km road race was on a new course in the San Bernardino area, in Southern California.  It was quite windy with only a few small climbs before the final 4km ascent to the finish.  With the leaders jersey on Gen’s shoulders, RONA played a defensive role, setting a solid tempo on the front peloton, to minimize attacks and keep Gen safely near the front of the peloton.

Teammate, Anna was unfortunately caught up in a crash at the 35km mark, but with the rest of us slowing the pace on the front, she got a rapid wheel change from our mechanic, Paul, and was soon back with us, a little bruised but able to continue working hard into the headwind.

Along a gradual false flat of 15km, leading up to the final climb, Andrea, Anna and I drove the pace to 40km/hr stringing out the field and shattering off the weaker riders.  Our 3 general classification riders sat behind us, conserving energy and preparing themselves for the final climb to the finish.

Gen crested the climb alone beating Canadian rival Lyn Bessette (Quark) by 29 seconds, and American Christine Thornburn, (Webcor), by 42 seconds.  Gen has now consolidated her grip on the overall lead and the yellow jersey and also leads in the Queen of the Mountain competition and points classification.  Team RONA leads the team general classification, 29 seconds and 51 seconds ahead of teams Quark and T-Mobile respectively.

As the peloton tackled the steep climb up to the township of Crestline, our director Andre gave instructions to Andrea, Anna and I to ride as slowly as possible, conserving energy for tomorrow’s 129km stage.  As a domestic rider, once my job is over, I ride as slowly as possible, not concerned about my own result but ensuring I complete the stage within the time cut, 105% of the winner’s time.

General Classification after stage 1

1 Geneviève Jeanson (CAN, RONA) 2h 37’ 24’’
2 Lyne Bessette (CAN, Quark) 1’ 11’’
3 Kristin Armstrong (USA, T-Mobile) 1’ 16’’
7 Katheryn Curi (USA, RONA) 2’ 26’’
11 Katrina Grove (USA, RONA) 2’ 41’’
71 Anna Milkowski (USA, RONA) 7’ 57’’
73 Andrea Hannos (CAN, RONA) 8’ 02’’
74 Helen Kelly (AUS, RONA) 8’ 19’’

The Redlands Classic was RONA’s first big stage race for the 2004 season.  I have fond memories of Redlands as I won the green Sprint Jersey here, last year.  This year I rode in support of our lead rider, Geneviève Jeanson (Gen).  Here is how the tour unfolded.

The first stage of the Redlands Classic consisted of a 5km prologue.  Each rider started at 30 second intervals and raced against the clock to the top of Mount Rubidoux.  The course was technical with the final 3km weaving around the mountain side on a narrow, sandy footpath.

Our team leader, Gen won the prologue in 9mins 58sec and took the leaders jersey.  Two other RONA team mates, Katrina Grove and Katheryn Curi rode awesome times to finish 7th and 10th, respectively.  Gen averaged 31km/h up the climb to finish 22 seconds ahead of American Kristin Armstrong (T-Mobile) and 25 seconds in front of Canadian Sue Palmer Komar (Genesis Scuba).  With heavy legs I struggled to find my top end and finished about 45th.

After day 1, with 3 riders in the top 10 and the yellow jersey it was all smiles in the RONA camp as we planned our strategy for tomorrow’s stage.

1 Geneviève Jeanson (CAN, RONA) 5.15 km in 9’ 58’’ (avg). 31.0 km/h)
2 Kristin Armstrong (USA, T-Mobile) 22”
3 Sue Palmer Komar (CAN, Genesis Scuba) 25“
7 Katrina Grove (USA, RONA) 37“
10 Katheryn Curi (USA, RONA) 53“

Stage 1 – Crest Line Road Race        85km

Today’s 85km road race was on a new course in the San Bernardino area, in Southern California.  It was quite windy with only a few small climbs before the final 4km ascent to the finish.  With the leaders jersey on Gen’s shoulders, RONA played a defensive role, setting a solid tempo on the front peloton, to minimize attacks and keep Gen safely near the front of the peloton.

Teammate, Anna was unfortunately caught up in a crash at the 35km mark, but with the rest of us slowing the pace on the front, she got a rapid wheel change from our mechanic, Paul, and was soon back with us, a little bruised but able to continue working hard into the headwind.

Along a gradual false flat of 15km, leading up to the final climb, Andrea, Anna and I drove the pace to 40km/hr stringing out the field and shattering off the weaker riders.  Our 3 general classification riders sat behind us, conserving energy and preparing themselves for the final climb to the finish.

Gen crested the climb alone beating Canadian rival Lyn Bessette (Quark) by 29 seconds, and American Christine Thornburn, (Webcor), by 42 seconds.  Gen has now consolidated her grip on the overall lead and the yellow jersey and also leads in the Queen of the Mountain competition and points classification.  Team RONA leads the team general classification, 29 seconds and 51 seconds ahead of teams Quark and T-Mobile respectively.

As the peloton tackled the steep climb up to the township of Crestline, our director Andre gave instructions to Andrea, Anna and I to ride as slowly as possible, conserving energy for tomorrow’s 129km stage.  As a domestic rider, once my job is over, I ride as slowly as possible, not concerned about my own result but ensuring I complete the stage within the time cut, 105% of the winner’s time.

General Classification after stage 1

1 Geneviève Jeanson (CAN, RONA) 2h 37’ 24’’
2 Lyne Bessette (CAN, Quark) 1’ 11’’
3 Kristin Armstrong (USA, T-Mobile) 1’ 16’’
7 Katheryn Curi (USA, RONA) 2’ 26’’
11 Katrina Grove (USA, RONA) 2’ 41’’
71 Anna Milkowski (USA, RONA) 7’ 57’’
73 Andrea Hannos (CAN, RONA) 8’ 02’’
74 Helen Kelly (AUS, RONA) 8’ 19’’

Nature Valley Grand Prix, Minnesota

Nature Valley Grand Prix, Minnesota

Team Rona stayed with the Falks, long time family friends of mine in Middleton, Wisconsin, en route to Virginia in northern Wisconsin, for the first two stages of the Nature Valley Grand Prix.  After fuelling up on pasta, salad, grilled chicken and salmon we were ready to race hard and see if we could put on a good show.

After the 8km TT, Katrina Grove (Rona) was only 2 seconds behind the Canadian race leader, Lynn Bessette (Quark).  All of Rona placed in the top 26 out of a field of 120 women, with the top 20 in GC being separated by only a few seconds.  The race lead was definitely within our reach and became our goal as we prepared for stage two.

The second stage, a 140km flat road race saw no change in the overall GC.  Erinne Willock (Rona) spent 40km off the front in a solo break before being reeled only metres before the final intermediate sprint.  The stage finished with 6 laps of an incredibly rough circuit.  With a 30 second time bonus awarded to the winner of the stage, things got a little crazy in the closing 1km with at least 6 riders falling.  Team mate Andrea Hannos was a victim of this crash, cracking her Colnago frame, and suffering some bad road rash.  She remained in good spirits, however, especially after Katrina scrubbed her road rash and hand fed her spaghetti and meatballs in the bath!  Paul, our mechanic, had the challenge of building Andrea a new race bike by tomorrow morning.

The Stage 3 criterium was declared a neutral stage to the overall GC due to thunder, lightening and heavy rain.  Even riding in the 15 minute parade criterium was dangerous with one nasty fall causing a Quark rider to abandon the tour.  Erinne Willock also slid out on a corner but with so much rain, luckily she was only slightly bruised.

Stage 4 was a hilly 130km with temperatures up in the mid 30’s (Celsius).  Our aggressive riding forced Quark to work hard today and even over the hilly terrain, the peleton remained largely intact.  Some of our time was spent helping Andrea move to the front to contest the intermediate sprints.  Unfortunately at the end of the day, Andrea trailed by 6 points behind Gina Grain (Victory Brewing), and with only one sprint (worth 5 points), in the final stage, was unable to win the jersey.

With 1km to go, there was confusion in the peleton as a rider followed the lead car off the course to the right, instead of going straight ahead.  I had studied the race bible and continued straight, opened up a little gap, but couldn’t hold it.  Andrea finished a close 3rd and with bonus seconds moved into 8th in GC.  However, Lynn Bessette finished second, picking up bonus seconds and increased her overall lead.

The final stage was a brutal 50 minute criterium that had a 20% climb in it on every lap.  After 20 laps of this climb my legs really started to scream.  With a brutal pace set by Erinne Willock, Katrina Grove and Katheryn Curi, the front group dwindled down to only a handful of riders.  A Swiss rider took the stage win while Lynn Bessette clinched overall victory ahead of Katrina Grove.  Erinne Willock won the young riders jersey and also finished 4th overall.  Katheryn Curi finished 9th while Andrea Hannos and I finished 29th and 31st, respectively.

Now I am back with the Falks, enjoying some wonderful training in Middleton, Wisconsin – North America’s mid west, known for its diary farms and cornfields.  Without cars and pollution, these quiet country roads are a cyclist’s paradise.  I am thoroughly enjoying a few weeks of hard training, great food and wonderful hospitality, before the next block of racing takes me to Massachusetts, Vancouver and Pennsylvania.

Montreal World Cup, Montreal

Montreal World Cup, Montreal

The Montreal World Cup was Team Rona’s most important race for the season.  Rona is a Canadian based hardware store with an emphasis on Do-it-yourself projects.  Rona’s headquarters are based in Quebec and with many of Rona’s senior management on the race course it was the perfect opportunity for us to perform.  I believe we had the added advantage of racing on ‘home turf’ as Rona is a Quebec based women’s team.

It was cold for the race – 16C and very windy.  Mimi, our masseur, rubbed warming gel on our legs and I decided I would be warm enough with a base layer under my jersey and arm warmers.  Our director, André gave us our race briefing with instructions to ride near the front, but not on the front.  He wanted us to go with attacks but not be the aggressors.

Out of all the world cup races, this would be by far the hardest course.  Each lap is 8.3km with a 1.8km climb.  The climb varies in gradient from 10 –15%.  The race distance was 98km which consisted of 12 laps of the course.  I felt good for the first 6 laps, riding near the front and helping Genevieve Jeanson (Rona) stay out of trouble.  On lap 8, the climb took its toll on my legs and I lost contact with the front group.

On the final lap, Erinne Willock (Rona) set a solid tempo for Genevieve up the climb.  Genevieve waited until 300m to go, then put it in the big ring (53 x 16) and gave it everything.  Judith Arndt (Nuremberg) and Olivia Gollan (AIS) tried to hold her wheel but Genevieve powered across the line, winning by several bike lengths.

The finish line was hectic as the media swarmed around her, capturing her ecstatic joy.  She grabbed her Australian Terror, “Cowboy” and smothered him with kisses.  Then she asked the media to stand aside so she could get to her Rona team-mates.  Winning the Montreal world cup in front of a home crowd was a really emotional experience.  For most of us, there were tears of joy and for me, to experience something like this, makes the hard training sessions and other sacrifices all worth it.

THE FLÈCHE WALLONNE Huy, Belgium, April 21, 2004

THE FLÈCHE WALLONNE Huy, Belgium, April 21, 2004

French national Sonia Huguet (Équipe de France) won the women’s Flèche Wallonne, beating German Hanke Kupfernagel (Vlaanderen-T-Interim Univega) and Lithuanian Edita Pucinskaite (Michela Fanini) by 9 and 18 seconds, respectively.  RONA’s Geneviève Jeanson was the highest finisher for our team, placing 30th, 44 seconds behind the winner.

At the 16km mark, Ina Teutenberg (Team Germany) and Japan’s Miho Oki (Farm Frites) attacked. New-Zealander Meshy Holt bridged to them and the trio’s lead varied from 45 seconds to 1min 20sec for more than 50km.  The peloton reeled them in on the hard Bohisseau climb, 30km from the finish.  Italian Fabiana Luperini (Let’s Go Finland) and Lyne Bessette (Team Canada) counter-attacked and Geneviève Jeanson (RONA) joined them.  Their lead reached 30sec but they were absorbed by the peleton about 10km from the finish.

Shortly after, Huguet launched a solo attack and Kupfernagel soon bridged to her. The duo reached the bottom of the mur d’Huy (average slope 12.9% with pitches at 19%) with a 40sec lead over the closest chasers.  The main group had reduced to 40 riders after the successive climbs exploded the peloton of 152 starters.  Huguet charged up the climb to take the world cup win.

My contribution to the team result started well but ended in disappointment for me.  On extremely narrow roads, that twisted in amongst the Belgium farm lands, staying at the front was vital.  I stayed in the top 20 during the first 45km but had heavy jetlagged legs that were totally unresponsive.  I moved Genevieve to the front when I could, sheltering her from the wind and keeping her away from the myriad of crashes happening in the back.  With 152 riders, it was a constant battle to even get to the front and then to try and stay there took so much effort.

At the 50km mark, on a steep twisty descent, a motorcycle stopped right in front of me to film the passing riders. I was trying to move up along the edge of peloton and at 70km/hr, completely locked it up, fishtailing sideways down the road.  Somehow I kept my bike upright and stopped only inches from him.  I was so shaken up and started riding like a ‘Nervous Nelly’, with a white knuckled death grip on my bars.

With 30km to go, on the Bohisseau climb, I tried to climb out of the seat but my arms couldn’t support my weight.  I had gripped the bars so tightly that I had no strength left in my upper body.  I tried to hang on to the tail end of group over the climb, but found myself in the caravan and eventually in a group of 30, finishing 99th, 8mins 28sec down.  I learned a good lesson from this race and understand now how important it is to relax and maintain good form at all times.

Now we are off to Italy to enjoy the hospitality of our bicycle sponsor, Colnago.
Until then Ciao.

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