Made it to the finish line. Not only the finish line of Swiss Epic, but also the finish line of a stellar season
Both Ariane and I love putting our one (wo)man show racing on hold for a while and instead join wheels in a stage race. Last time we raced together was in March this year, where we did a very successfull Cape Epic. Since then we’ve had very different racing programs, with Ariane focusing on marathon racing and me focusing mainly on the shorter cross country discipline. Despite our very different style of racing, we manage to synchronize for stage race events. For me the race pace at stage races is slower, than I’m used to from cross country racing. When I first did a stage race, the biggest challenge therefore was to not start out at cross country race speed and not think like a cross country racer. Ariane has more experience at the longer distances. Therefore she knows very well, what pace to set in order to not fade too much at the end of a stage. It’s normal, that speed tends to go down throughout a week of racing, and it took a me a little while to figure that out.
There are many key factors to our successful pairing up for stage races. We have a very clear tactic for what we do throughout a stage. Often Ariane sets the pace on the climbs and I stay on her wheel. Even though I also get tired on the longer stages, I still try to go to the front with Ariane on my wheel on the flatter or more windy parts, where I often have a little more power, which is beneficial for keeping up our overall speed. Both before and after the stages we go through whatever we have on our minds, in order to clean up any issues or themes.
Also the fact, that we never (or only very seldom) race against each other, I think is a key factor in our team work. Our minds automatically go into “cooperation mode”, when we’re together. Another thing is, that so far, we’d never really had tight racing against another team. That means, that we actually always had a little bit of a mental buffer to focus on getting the teamwork to run smoothly.
To me, these stage races are a nice variation to the solo racing, that I normally do. There are also some negative things about them though. Eg. I tend to go into this “bubble”, where there’s not much else on my mind, than the race and things related to that. That’s very good for the racing, but not very good for my relationship with the world around me (read boyfriend). Waking up at 5 – 5.30 a.m., being in the saddle for 4-5,5 hours every day, going to press conferences and prize giving ceremonies leaves little energy for much else. It’s part of the game and I’m still learning, that every choice I make, has it’s costs. Luckily it’s now off-season, which means that I can make a transition back to the real world.