That said, I knew I was in top form and feeling so strong in my body was a big part of what kept me on track. I knew I had a long journey to arrive at the actual race but getting on the plane allowed me to tune in fully. I had prepared myself mentally for it, deciding just to take every bump as it came and to accept whatever life gave me.
On my first morning in Australia, I woke up feeling so happy. I left the hotel to get a coffee at six and immediately fell in love with the country. Having those good feelings inside allows you to produce the kind of positive energy that works magic in any scenario. I knew that, at this point, it was all about the little details and the final push. I was more than eager to give everything of myself, as I genuinely believed I could win.
How it went down on race day
Every race is different, and, truthfully, I found this one a bit strange. Everyone tends to ride quite cautiously when we are challenged with a 150-km+ distance. The pace isn’t as hard, and the riders are focused on saving energy for the final. I felt that not much happened for the first 130 km and we had a bit of a sleepy atmosphere.
I expected the Italians or Dutchies to go super hard on local laps as they had an incredibly strong squad. Instead, though, it looked like they were riding for the sprinters. With two laps left, I decided to give it a go, and I ended up in five rider breakaway that got caught before the final uphill section, where we managed to get away in the same composition again. This time, we got caught with 700 m left, which was obviously disappointing. Moments later, Annemiek used the momentum of returning to our group and, with impressive high speed, she took off in front of us.
As always, I’ve definitely re-ridden the race a couple of times in my head. I wish I had this ‘surprise’ attack formula coded into me. I usually attack when I can show my strength but never in a moment where I would be able to catch everyone off guard. So that is my lesson from this race that I’ll take with me next season. Although I’m gutted by my 8th-place finish, I am also learning how to move on and focus on the positives from the race. I know in my heart that I have what it takes to get that rainbow jersey, and I will continue fighting for it.
Annemiek gave us all a lesson in tactics
Although no one was expecting the outcome we got, it makes sense that Annemiek would be the one to pull it off. Despite her broken elbow, I know she is unstoppable on a bike, regardless of the circumstances. She is indisputably a unique and outstanding rider, yet throughout the race, I saw her suffering more than usual. She wasn’t holding our pace on the climbs; therefore, she became less visible, and I wasn’t thinking of her as much of a threat. I could also see her riding to help Marianne, so I allowed myself to believe she wasn’t dangerous.
Talking to her after the finish line, she said she had no plan to win the race but coming back to our group and having the speed, she decided to go for it. Meanwhile, the group stood still. Nobody wanted to chase her as there were only a couple hundred meters to go, so people were preparing for the sprint, not for the chase. She showed us that, sometimes, you win with the right tactic, even when your legs might not be the strongest on that day. It was a powerful lesson and I definitely congratulate her for pulling it off.
Racing continues to give me life
Despite the outcome, Wollongong was still a reminder of how much I love racing—especially when I’ve fulfilled all my training goals and know that my body is in good shape. That state is so amazing. It allows me to go so deep into the pain cave and still end up wanting more. I become aware that my body is capable of hurting and quickly recovering from it. Of course, it takes a lot of weeks of hard work to get to that, yet it’s so rewarding when it happens.
I love the moment of standing at the start line and feeling all those emotions, from extreme excitement to stress and fear, and trying to channel them all into the race ahead. So, for now, let’s see if I’ll be gearing up again for racing Switzerland or maybe my team will decide that it is time for me to rest and dive into the off-season. I’ll be pleased either way.