The Tracey Gaudry Diary 1999

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World Cup Round 8, Ladies Tour Beneden-Maas, Nederlands

September 12, Spijkenisse, Holland

An unseasonally summer-like day greeted us in this notoriously wet, windy country. Sunshine, 25 degrees and 'wind' (enough to make it very tough, but not gale-force). After rumours of 180 starters, there turned out to be around 90 women lining up on the grid to start the second last World Cup of the year. James had done the number-crunching and worked out that for us to take over the World Cup lead, Anna had to win, or I had to win and Hanka had to place 5th or worse. Or, given lower placings, a number of other scenarios. So we were all fired up for a physically and mentally arduous day.

Having felt completely fatigued since Trophee d'Or, I was happy to feel 'alive' this morning - maybe it was the coffee, but I didn't care what the reason was! After a good warmup we were all ready.

It was on from the beginning of the neutral, and then a massive fight to get to, and stay at the front to avoid trouble in the cross-winds, and to be in an optimum position to 'make' the race. The front of the peleton was dominated by the Dutch team, Aussies, Van Moorsel, Kupfernagel, and whoever else could stay up there. Not too much happened early, though the pace was frenetic. A 70km/hr dash through a long tunnel which took us under one of the many waterways saw Hanka attack up the other side - the only 'rise' in terrain for the day! At between 40-50km I had a couple of digs which went nowhere but served the purpose of getting the bunch lively. We were keen to get the breaks happening. At the halfway mark, Mari Holden attacked, and I yelled to Alison to go up the left as Hanka attacked across to Mari from the right. As they dragged away, Anna and Van Moorsel and another Dutch rider went too. At 50km/hr the bunch was in tatters and I drove past the few riders left and yelled to Sara to help drag me up to the break. A riders got to us and we picked up another on the way. I was stuffed and recovered on Sara's wheel as I encouraged her to keep driving. She was awesome. I came through for a turn, then she went again and we were in the break. Four Aussie riders in a break of 12!!!!!! Unfortunately Juanita crashed on a corner just after our break went away, and had to retire from the race with a small shoulder dislocation. She will be fine after some rehabilitation this week.

For 50km, all riders in the break worked hard except Hanka who alternated from rolling through to sitting on the back. Sara was in tatters for a while and then recovered to help. Alison and Anna rode strongly throughout. Yvonne McGregor crashed on a corner, and then there were 11. The break hovered between 30-40 seconds, then came back to 20 seconds. We drove a bit harder and got out to 40 seconds again. The Germans were chasing frantically, using up their force one by one. Poor Hanka must have felt very alone up in the break, with her compatriots chasing to bring Petra back into the race. Our bunch lost its rhythm when Suzanne Lgungskog started attacking, and we lost pace and momentum keeping things under control. The chase was only 20 seconds behind us for 10km and eventually reeled us in, with Judith Arndt sacrificing everything for Petra. With less than 10km to go, it would be down to a 40-up bunch sprint. I was stuffed, but still had a dig with Lizzie at about 3km to go. A block headwind and we didn't get anywhere. After that it was a hard slog, and while trying to recover lost the chance to get organised with the girls. Anna was already in a good position near the front and was using Van Moorsel, Hanka and Petra to set herself up. In the end it was Petra, Van Moorsel, Anna, then Hanka. Lizzie tried to help me out but I had no speed left to zip around the whittled-down field. There were only 35-odd riders left at the end, due solely to the speed and ferocity of the race - an average of around 42km/hr in mostly crosswinds.

Though I was disappointed not to increase my points tally, I was extremely happy for Anna to gain some more points towards the overall lead (now only 18 points behind Hanka), and for all our girls who rode most superbly to be so prominent in this race designed for gutsy riders. It has made me hungry again for success. Had the break stayed away we would have had 4 Aussies in the Top 10. Amazing potential nearly come to fruition. Anna can still win the series next week in Switzerland, and I can still run 3rd (2nd priority obviously) if we play our cards right on the day.