On Wednesday, I got a phone call asking if I wanted to join a team to race two UCI races in the Netherlands on Friday and Saturday. Well, that was easy to answer – of course!!!
I took the train a day after heading towards Dortmund to get picked up by Claas, the person who called me. Besides the name I had no clue who he was. I didn’t know anything about the races, the team or the logistics.
Claas, our team director for that race I learned later, told me everything when we were heading to Cologne to meet two of my four teammates. I knew the two already from the German Hill Climb Championship. The team for the two UCI races consisted of one Guyanese, one American living in Belgium, one Swede (for second UCI race), and three Germans including me.
We drove to the course in Valkenburg and did a recon by bike of the 86 km Hills Classics. The field would be stacked with a lot of Pro teams plus the Swedish, the Polish, and the Australian National Team.
About 150 racers lined up the next day. It was sunny and windy. The first two kilometers were neutralized leading through the town of Valkenburg. But those were the scariest of all of them. The course was full with obstacles. Traffic islands, cars, curbs, road narrowings made the neutralized start to a nerve-wrecking adventure.
And soon enough I found myself in the back. Once the race started, it started super fast. I had to move my way to a better position in the peloton. I was passing dropped riders left and right.
After about 16 miles, I was not able to fill the gaps anymore and I got split from the front group and a group of ten was formed. About 70 racers or so were behind us.
Although I wasn’t too happy being separated by the front group, I was happy to be in a decent group going an ok pace. It could be harder but since it was so early in the race I wanted to wait a little.
Also, with this being my second UCI race and my first in Europe, I had no idea what to expect. Unfortunately I learned very soon that my strategy couldn’t have been worse.
The race went through small, super curvy roads. I had to pay attention the entire time. The follow vehicles started passing us as we were a few minutes behind the lead group.
On a 40 mph descent on a narrow country road, an Italian follow vehicle passed me by inches almost took me out when it forced me into the curb. I was stunned how aggressive the support vehicles drove. Later I learned that other riders crashed into the cars that abruptly stopped.
Our group rode along the course and out of nowhere the broom wagon passed us. I was pulling at that time and the guy on the passenger seat gave me thumbs up.
I didn’t think that much about it until I realized that the girls behind me stopped pedaling. What’s wrong? Why did they stop pedaling? They were speaking in Dutch. I had to ask.
One girl came up to me and said we were done. I thought she was joking and just tried to drop me. But then I asked someone else and it was the same answer. All of them were shocked too that we were pulled from the race.
Apparently, although we were only a few minutes behind the front group, the refs were worried that we would be lapped by the leaders. I was so disappointed. I still had so much energy. If I had known that this would have happened I would have raced differently and wouldn’t have saved any energy.
Later I learned that 90 racers were pulled. I wasn’t happy that it ended that way and I would take revenge the race the next day.
I promised myself no matter what I will not save any bit of energy for some dropped group. I want to be in the main group and the broom wagon can sweep whatever it wants but not me!
The 7-Dorpenomloop Aalburg race 24 hours later would test how serious I was.