It was an early start for us today - the Elite Women started first thing in the morning in this UCI event, and when we arrived at therace in Lebbeke it was 3 degrees celcius outside and the sun had just peeked out. Sunrise here is at 8am, but we had been up for a few hours before then. The race workers were in the grass fields waking up the cows, asking them to move along so they could finish building the course. I bundled up and went for a pre ride, the course had about 300 meters of pavement and the rest was all flat grassy cow field, still covered in frost. Riders warming up eventually carved a tacky muddy line through the grass, but it was very soft and very bumpy. There were 2 fly overs and 1 set of stairs, but mostly the course was a real grind.Today the tables were turned and there was a category for elite women but no race for Matt.
Matt decided that he had put in his time on Thursday trying to hold the wheel of the World Champ, so today he opted to help me in the pits. There was a small showing, just 14 women, though Belgium was represented well with former National Champ Veerle Ingels (a solid rider - she also scored a 5th in a World Cup last year) and last year's National Silver medalist Katrien Aerts on the line. The start was very tame and I got to the dirt first, and the gaps opened up quickly. For a few laps, 4 of us were fairly close to each other with some time on the rest of the field. It took me a while to figure out how to ride on the bumps efficiently, since in the US we typically see bumpy turf in short sections, but never for the whole race. Normally I ride in a bigger gear on bumpy turf, but after 20 minutes I found that a higher cadence was better.
Veerle Ingels went off the front riding with a cadence of about 120 in her easiest gear, according to Matt. I started with a psi of 25 but itwas too hard - I called out to Matt to reduce the tire pressure in my spare bike and I made the switch. Katrien took advantage of the gap growing when I made the bike switch, and I rode solo in 3rd place for the second half of the race. 4th and 5th were only 20 seconds behind me and working together, so I kept the pace up while trying to save something for the World Cup tomorrow. It was a course where another 20 percent effort would only yield 2 percent increase in speed, so I did only what I needed to in order to maintain my spot on the podium. There was a lot of fuss over our podium ceremony, and some very interesting prizes. The euros are my favorite prize, easy to carry around and very useful in the land of chocolate, waffles, beer, and don't forget, shoe stores. My other prizes include a trophy cup on a marble base, a very large beer in a champagne bottle, a loaf of peperkoek (sugar cake), and what else but a few kilos of fancy ham? That's right, Belgian Ham - a very close relative to bacon. One other nice thing about racing here - it only cost 3 euros to enter, and I was paid 8 euros for starting. Conveniently, Matt decided that 8 euros was his fee for being my mechanic today. Sarah