I’d never done an Italian Cup race before, so it was about time I tried one! Catharine and I pre-rode the 7km course together the previous day, which was really fun. Vermiglio lies in the Val di Sole, and the course followed a dirt road along the flat valley bottom (beside a little lake with swans) for quite a while, then looped back and started climbing one side of the valley.
This climb turned into a very steep, grassy pitch, but the traction was okay despite rain overnight and during the start. We then had to dismount for a short hike-a-bike before quite a long, steep, rough downhill, which brought us back into the valley. We then crossed the valley and rode up the other side – with a few swoopy slaloms on grassy fields thrown in first. The other side of the course was mostly paved, as we wound through little alleyways between houses, through a tunnel-like passageway with stairs, and then back down to the start finish.
As my warm-up I rode the 15km up the valley from the town of Dimaro, where Catharine and I were based. I left at 7:00 a.m. because my race started at 8:30 a.m.! Way too early, as it meant I had to get up at 5:30 a.m. and eat breakfast. Ugh. The ride over was a great warm up and I was awake, fired up, and ready to race. I had a bit of a bad start, as I let myself get squeezed out by aggressive girls with bar ends – it was even more catty than a World Cup start! I made up for it on the flats, though, turning over the big ring and passing a bunch of girls on the outside.
When I went through the feed zone the first time, Catharine (my team manager for the weekend – thank you!) could see I hadn’t started well, and gave me some encouragement. I felt great. I was climbing well and descending confidently. I was able to work my way up the field and made contact with World Cup top-20 riders Klemencic and Zakelj, and rode with them for a lap. On the third lap, they both distanced me a little on the climb, but it was all part of my plan. By the fourth lap (of five) I was reeling them in again, plus I saw Leboucher only 30s ahead! On the final lap, I caught and dropped Tzakelj, but couldn’t quite reach Klemenic and Leboucher. I finished fourth, but within a minute of second and only a little over two minutes behind first! This was world-class competition!
Thanks again to Catharine for the race support. Yes, I heard you cheering too Michel – thanks! I’m staying on in Italy to cover the World Championships for Pedal Magazine, and to cheer on the Canadians… and my other racing buddies. I’m obviously a little bummed I can’t race too, but that’s what happens when you ride for a country with so many fast women!
Elite Women :
1. Annabella Stropparo (Ita) Ideal Bikes Romania 1:57.36
2. Laurence Leboucher (Fra) Look 1:59.00
3. Blaza Klemencic (Slo) Giant Italia Team 1:59.17
4. Sandra Walter (Can) X.O-Felt Women’s MTB Team 1:59.51
5. Tanja Zakelj (Slo) 2:00.17
Next up: Swisspower Cup #5 in Champery!