The season kicked off in Belgium for the women with Het Nieuwsblad at the end of February.
The event is run alongside that of the men with the finish timed to be about an hour before. The courses are naturally different for organisational purposes but this does not mean that the women do not get their fair share of ‘kasseien’ and ‘heuvels’. In fact this year we took in Patersberg for the first time ever while the men did not have the pleasure of tackling this little bump! The Molenberg and the Kluisberg were among the other climbs while the Padderstraat was one of several longer cobbled stretches.
It was my first time to ride Het Nieuwsblad as a member of a foreign outfit (I never had this opportunity while riding with Lotto) but I knew the course well following two team training sessions on the ‘parcours’. Every member of the team knew exactly what they had to do and when. Never had I gone into a race with such a meticulous plan. However, this was necessary since it would be the first UCI women’s event to be run without radios. Yes, what affects the men also affects the women! Despite complaints and protests from differing parties prior to the race the ban remained in tact. With such a regulation the onus truly fell on the riders to communicate within the race and have a steadfast strategy. Our plan was executed perfectly and Emma Johansson was able to deliver the goods. A great start the 2010 season for Redsun.
So what of the radio ban? Like many things relating to cycling it could be debated until the cows come home. However, from this experience it would suggest that it is not all so bad; our whole team was positive over the subsequently necessary pre-planning and ‘role-assigning’. Of course we were positive; we had just won the race! However, it should not be forgotten that we had luck on our side during the race; not one mechanical or puncture, no riders caught up crashes and no health related issues. It is scenarios such as these where radio communications can really make the difference between winning and losing the race.
It will be interesting to follow the radio ban debate this season and see exactly where it finishes for both men and women.