Emma Silversides 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.
Well Plouay World Cup did not disappoint; it was great to see Emma [Pooley] take advantage of the points battle between [Marianne] Vos and [Emma] Johansson to claim her second World Cup victory this year. Vos has taken the leader’s jersey from Johansson but all is to play for in the final round in Nurnberg on September 13.
I think we sampled the first of the autumnal weather last weekend; leaves swirled round on the ground and there was a distinct freshness in the air. This is my favourite time of year. It’s also around this time that you notice the size of the ‘touristen groups’ declining as the cycling fanatics pull out the mountain bikes begin to hit the trails. However, the road racing is actually still in full swing. For the men, the Vuelta has started (though not entirely a Tour of Spain!) and for the women the Holland Ladies’ Tour will begin this week.
The GB girls were racing hard in France last week at the Trophée D’Or stage race where Nicole [Cooke] secured a solid final GC with the strong support of the potential worlds team. Sharon [Laws] and Katie [Colclough] were both riding strongly in the hills and Nikki [Harris] was showing exceptional power on the flat; she will be a force to be reckoned with this winter on the cyclo-cross circuit. The tour is primarily flat but takes in one hilly day. The group was whittled down to about 28 riders on this day and I was happy to arrive at the finish among this select group given that I’d gone with the early move after only five kilometres of racing!
The kermis races continue as ever and Jo [Rowsell] stamped her authority over some strong riders (Koedooder, De Goede, Becker) in Saturday’s race.
Before I leave I’ll attempt to give some kind of explanation as to why Belgium is a base for so many professionals; someone asked this following a previous blog.
The Classics and many of the Grand Tours are heavily centred around Belgium and neighbouring countries so logistically it makes sense to base yourself in a place that will result in minimal travelling.
The standard of racing even among the amateurs is very high, so any ‘wannabe pro’ is most likely to discover whether they have what it takes or not by racing here for a season.
There is a huge amount of respect for the sport here also; professional cyclists are to the Belgians as professional footballers are to the English. As too many British cyclists are aware, respect on the road can be hard to find!
Above: Emma (l) at the start of the Plouay World Cup