Thanks to NCNCA , SugarCRM , and Sports Basement , I was given the
opportunity this summer to race in Belgium for a month and compete in
a total of ten races. I want to thank NCNCA, SugarCRM and Sports
Basement for believing in me and supporting me in my dream to gain
experience and explore my potential as a female cyclist.
Ticket in hand, bike checked, and a long flight ahead, I was super
excited, nervous, and ready to start my first European race
experience, but first I had two long flights ahead of me. So time to
sit back and relax, luckily I had my partner with me to lean on and
keep me entertained and help calm my nerves. He has been to Belgium to
race on two different occasions and was able to set us up with a great
We arrived in Belgium and after two short train rides we arrived in
Auschot where Jos our gracious host picks us up and delivers us to our
new home in Blauberg. Jos and her partner Tim run a handful of houses
hosting cyclists from all over the world.
We got settled in, mainly by unpacking the bikes meeting the
housemates, and getting out for a short spin, as I was racing the next
My first race takes me out to Memorial Marcel Marijnissen Oostmalle
91km (26 x 3.5km). We ride out to the race making for a 190k day a bit
long by the end of it all but it was a first experience that I will
For a full race report on this race and all the others please visit
my blog .
In almost all the races the field size consists of 90 plus riders, the
course 80 plus km country roads with narrow bumpy sections,
cobblestones, speed lifts, and long fast windy sections. There were
lots of corners that we approached at full race speed, then the
peloton would come to almost a complete stop and then sprint out of
the corner back to full race speed in seconds, it did not matter if
you were in the front of the pack in a break, or in the back, corners
were treated the same way, this was hard to get used to because this
gave all the other girls a wicked strong jump coming out of the
corners, and it took me some time to get used to this.
Throughout the 10 races I took away 10 very valuable lessons here are
the lessons learned from each race.
Lesson #1: Keep your mouth shut. Not in the sense of don’t talk trash,
but more so, keep it closed so whatever is on the road does not get in
your mouth. From the pouring rain I must have ingested something my
body did not like because during the race I had severe stomach
cramping and on the ride home, yes this is gross but I was projectile
vomiting and barely made it home before night fall.
Lesson # 2:
Don't go so hard in the beginning just because you feel good. Save it
for when it counts.
Lesson #3: Be more patient in the sprint.
Lesson #4: At one point, I noticed I was having a hard time getting my
head where it should be, not sure if I was not trusting in myself
enough, or something else. I seemed to be more focused on staying in
the race then racing aggressively and not really trying to be the
rider I know I am. Was it because the racing style here is so much
different, and unpredictable? Was this stopping me from listening to
my instincts as I normally do? Was this making me more cautious? Maybe
it was that the level of racing was a lot harder and I was holding
back because I was a bit afraid to take the risks, and risk blowing
myself out of the race and then dealing with myself after.
So the lesson came down to: Stop listening to my head so much and more
to my instincts.
Lesson # 5: Be aggressive. Be aggressive. Fight for that wheel even if
you have a bully trying to knock you down.
Lesson # 6: Never give up, push though the pain. Suffer a bit more to
make it to the end with your head still up.
Lesson #7: Do not go a lap early; don't trust your eyes or your ears
wait for the stupid bell.
Lesson #8: Just because you’re in great position does not mean you
will keep it but I knew that, so I guess the lesson learned is that I
am improving and gaining confidence out here.
Lesson #9: Listen to my body, as it knows best.
Lesson #10: If you want to do well at a big deal race don't go in to
it with an empty book of matches.
Coming back from this trip I learned a lot both on and off the bike,
and I found a huge correlation between the two. I have to admit, I am
the kind of person who likes to stay busy and always making steps
forward. When in Belgium there were a lot of times where there was
nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing to do, this was hard for me to
get used to, but after I stopped fighting it, I started to enjoy the
down time and take as is recovery, I learned to appreciate this time
and even learned to incorporate it in to my life once I got home,
making for a lot less stress in my life on and off the bike. This
experience also allowed for me to listen to my body, instead of
pushing myself and suffering for it later. I have learned what is a
reasonable amount of pressure is to put on myself and what is just
In my last entry “Wanting More” I explored the question, just how far
I can go in women’s cycling? After a month in Belgium racing, and as
the 2009 race season comes to an end, I continue to wonder the same
thing, but with a greater sense of confidence and respect for myself
and all the other women in cycling who push themselves every day.
As I improve and build my resume, experience NRC Racing, stage races
and races abroad, I gain confidence in myself. My desire and hunger to
take this to the next level is growing. I am looking forward to the
next race season, and to being involved with two speaker series at
Sports Basement in the months to come encouraging women to get
involved in competitive cycling and explore their own potential.
Starla Teddergreen