With all of the preparation done and no opportunity to jump into a DeLorean and travel back in time and change things, you have to be confident you’ve
done all you can to be competitive in races.
We know it’s a big step up, but without confidence the hard work has been done, it’s going to be an uphill struggle. Racing with doubts leads to poor performance.
Our first few races were a case of dipping our toes in the water. We had no real expectations but we certainly had high hopes. You can’t go into professional races happy to just participate, you have to have some kind of goal, but we didn’t enter the races with a firm result in mind and just hoped our riders would be capable of having an impact on the race.
They certainly did, and early season races saw Christina Siggaard take the first team win of the season, plus an excellent podium finish in the Dwaars door Vlaanderen. Molly Weaver seamlessly made the step to professional level with her most significant early season result coming in the French classic race in Cholet, with 8th place against some of the worlds leading riders and teams.
But the big test was still to come. We gained entry to two of the worlds biggest races, the Tour of Flanders and the Fleche Wallonee. Both are ranked as World Cup events run alongside the men’s equivalent event. These events are the real step up. Long, fast, tough and relentless racing against only leading riders. They leave any weakness exposed; no place to hide. Tour of Flanders is one of the most iconic events in the world, and it was also going to be the team debut for Laura Trott. A star of London 2012 where she took double gold for Team GB, Laura opted for the toughest start of all, making the jump from post track season training to the biggest of all events.
It’s not only the results that come under the microscope, but the media attention at these events is huge. Spectator numbers are a massive jump from most events, so everything you do, and how you do it, gets noticed. That attention even moves through to sponsors and we hosted two of our major sponsors that weekend with Yellow Jersey and Trek Bicycles joining the team in the Belgian sunshine to see how their investment is doing.
We performed well, a steady start, calm and stress free, followed by a crash for Mel Lowther, then the rapid approach to the seemingly endless run of hills, cobbles, cobbled hills, more hills. It’s exhausting, exhilarating and inspiring. Our little team is part of the top of the sport. Molly was our top performer in the finish with 37th. Our goal was top 30, but we did well and were proud of the ride in general. To see Molly getting such a good and significant result was a great moment, but seeing her want to have got more out of the event was even better one. Our riders aren’t satisfied to be riders, they want to be winners:
“As the peloton wound it’s way to the bottom of the Oude Kwaremont, I wasn’t in as good a position as I would have liked. Instead of being at the front of the race where the attacking was kicking off once again, I had let myself slip back to the middle of the group. This meant I spent the whole climb fighting to make up places; not an easy task by this point as my legs had decided they’d had enough. With my hands raw and blistered, shredded legs, and about as much positivity repeated in my head as I could manage, I slipped into a second group as we finished climbing and began the lead up to the Patterberg. I put my head down and tried to bridge back to the group, but as I flicked my arm for the next rider to come through, I saw that everyone behind me had a teammate up the road.”
So when you’ve touched the top, what do you need to do next? Well we need to firstly ensure we are there next year. Stability has always been a major goal for our team. We want to continue to grow, and continue to have bigger impacts on events. But to do that we first need to secure our future and at this point of the year, one eye is defiantly already on 2016. It’s a big year being the Olympic year and hopefully our riders can be there winning medals and inspiring another generation of stars.
We’ve managed to put ourselves in the biggest events and on the biggest stage. Now we have to hope the doors to board rooms open and interest from those in control of marketing budgets is diverted towards us. Women’s cycling is a rapidly growing sport that still provides a hugely cost effective marketing tool for business around the world. I really hope we can continue to provide the opportunity for our riders to grow and success under our banner for the coming years.
What else do you do once you’ve touched the top? Well you use the inspiration and motivation to keep moving up the result sheet. Bite size targets, week on week, will help our challenge for the top of the sport become a reality. Lot of trainings, lots of learning, and lots of near misses will all be key ingredients if we want more big steps over the coming months and years.