April 28, 2023 0 Comments
We are following the fortunes of young cyclist Evie Field, in her first season racing as a junior for JRC-Interflon Race Team. In this month's edition of her blog we join Evie and her team mates as she makes her debut racing on the European scene at Junior Gent-Wevelgem.
To race over in Belgium in a classic is one of every young rider's dreams, and was something I have been wanting to do for a long time. My JRC-Interflon team had been selected to ride the Junior Women’s Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields. The race takes place on the same weekend as the professional events and is based around the historic sites of the First World War battlefields in Ypres.
We collected a teammate from the Isle of Man and then travelled down early from Liverpool to the Channel Tunnel, meeting another teammate before boarding the train on the Friday before the race. After an hour’s drive from Calais through Belgium we got to our accommodation and met the rest of the team late in the evening. The team had rented a beautiful old farmhouse which had been converted into holiday accommodation. It was perfectly located on the course.
On Saturday morning we did a recce of the course and the wind almost blew us off our bikes. The weather was very Flandrian – wind & horizontal rain! Great for fans wanting to see tough conditions, not so great for the riders. We spent this time looking at the technical aspects of the course and practicing lines through corners. We checked out the ditches which we definitely didn’t want to end up in, the cobbles, potholes and the ‘ridges of doom’ where the old concrete Belgian roads were joined together. Back at our accommodation we discussed the course and our thoughts for the race the next day. After dinner we had a bit of free time to watch a movie and relax.
The next morning it was 'go time'. My nerves were high as I’d never raced in a group of riders that big (180 riders were on the start list). Being a first year Junior it was my first race at this level. Half of the teams were National squads from across Europe with the rest of the peloton made up of the highest-ranking Junior teams. We had the team presentation on the podium to the sound of Euro pop and then joined the queue to get to the start. Amazingly I found myself on about the fourth row of riders, my nerves were really running high now.
As the race started I quickly found myself getting pushed back by a lot of the older riders. Racing in a group of this size on the narrow roads was something I was extremely nervous about before the race. I quickly realised it was something I was going to struggle with in the race and something I really need to work on.
Cycling seems to be a contact sport in Belgium. I was still within the front group when we got to one of the first major corners. But then disaster struck with a big crash in front, which me and three of my teammates got caught up behind. This put us and almost half the peloton in a difficult position as it was a struggle to get around the crash on the lanes with ditches either side. My three teammates were lost, but I managed to get in a chasing group of about ten riders to try and get back to the main group. This group contained a mixture of French and Belgian riders. My GCSE French came in handy to try and get everyone to work together.
We were so close to getting back on but another crash in front of us on a corner caused a traffic jam in the convoy of team cars which left us even further behind. It was all about survival now. With a couple of laps to go my group got pulled from the race. The UCI commissaires were very strict about pulling out riders and disappointingly we were the last group to get the black flag. I guess I would have been lying around 80th position at this point.
I was gutted as this was definitely not how I wanted my race to go, I really wanted a finish position not a DNF! However, I have learnt what I need to do to improve my race craft and my confidence. But fingers crossed for going back over to Belgium later in the season. Hopefully I will see some improvement in my results.
All Photos (c) Damian Field
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