Emma Silversides (above right with Lizzie Armitstead, left) is a professional cyclist for the Lotto Belisol team and is based in Belgium. Here she shares her insight into the continental women’s scene.
I have just returned to a rather chilly Belgium after spending a week in the Ardèche where we were treated to sunny skies, warm temperatures and breathtaking scenery (if you had some breath left after racing with the Cervélo train!)
I rode strongly last year in Ardèche and was hoping for a repeat performance. The first spanner jammed itself in the works on the Friday before we left as I spent my afternoon in hospital following a heavy car accident.
The doctor’s advice was “nothing for a week, and make sure that neck collar stays on day and night!” Having my name on the list for Mendrisio meant a lot to me and I was not going to surrender with out a fight.
Despite the doctor’s initial suspicions of a fractured breast bone there was nothing broken, just severe bruising. I did not want a situation whereby I was sat in Belgium half way through the tour, feeling okay, wondering ‘what if?’ The bad luck didn’t come to an end however and on the first day my head took its second hammering of the week as I performed some superb acrobatics while simultaneously having my left shoulder making close contact with the concrete central reservation.
There had been nowhere to go as a domino chain of girls fell on my right and the 80cm high reservation certainly was not going to give way on my left. My forward rolls saw me land directly on my feet and with a quick change of front wheel, some pulling and pushing on the bars, I set about taking Grace [Verbeke], who had also been one of the many victims, back to the peloton.
Later in the stage I punctured, conveniently at the bottom of a narrow climb, I finished my day in the peloton and easily managed a smile; Lizzie [Armitstead] had bagged third, Grace fourth and I had survived the first day!
My physical condition went rapidly downhill from then on. Breathing was the hardest following the car crash, to add to that my left shoulder was very painful, it had impacted in the area of the collarbone break from earlier in the year, pulling on the bars was virtually impossible.
I continued to race against the odds, maybe it could come good. The company of another northern lass helped hugely throughout the week; it is not the easiest thing to race in a foreign team at times but having a English team mate makes a huge difference. We resided in a caravan site for the duration of the tour and mobile home F6 became a little haven for Lizzie and myself after a days’ racing.
Lizzie had a cracking tour, which I can confirm was fuelled on pancakes and Nutella, I suspect that she will be one to watch at Mendrisio alongside Emma [Pooley] and Sharon [Laws]. As far as women’s racing goes I think the GB team will be a force to be reckoned with. If Sky had enough money for a women’s team…!
This week will see me arrange imminent travel to England for a replacement car, searching for and moving into new accommodation here in Belgium, visiting a physio to assist the healing of the shoulder and breastbone and securing my team situation for next year. Almost forgot to mention a bit of recreational cycling!