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Jo celebrates second
- Updated: April 11, 2012
Hard at work chasing much-treasured UCI cycling points in Europe ahead of the London Olympics later this year, our Jo van de Winkel took second spot in the Dottignies Grand Prix damien Yzerbyt cycling race in Belgium recently, writes Mark Etheridge.
Like their male counterparts, our girls are feeling the chill of the European winter but her second spot would have gone some way to warming the South African girls’ spirits.
Van de Winkel finished as runner-up to Kleo Ladies Team rider Martina Corazza in the 1.2 graded event.
The Lotto Belisol Ladies team had four Belgian and four South Africans lining up and Van de Winkel explained that the team didn’t want to be playing catch-up from the go-get. “We wanted to line up early so we could start in the front for a change because the bunches in Europe are hectic and the pace is always fast from the start. When we got out of our car there was an icy-cold wind which made the meagre six degrees feel even colder.”
On Van de Winkel’s team is Ludvine Henrion, a several-time Belgian champion and known as one of the strongest riders of that country. She set a cracking start from the start. “As we caught her, Lise [Olivier] attacked, another girl went with her and they managed to maintain a gap on the bunch.”
About 35km or so into the race, the Belisol girls set up a hard pace and Cherise Taylor was able to attack off the front and put in a solid time trial with another girl and they got across to the break. A break of five then built up a gap of 1min 40sec on the main bunch.
That served to provoke a series of attacks and the bunch was split into pieces before coming back yo-yo fashion between attacks. Says Van de Winkel. “My aim was to try and get myself into all the breaks which ended up being good training ÔÇô sprint, rest, sprint, rest, sprint.”
On the final lap the back of the lead bunch had vanished. Henrion caught the break and the bunch soon joined and a sense of calm fell over the group as everyone waited for the sprint. But Van de Winkel took this opportunity to stir the pot again.
“I used the opportunity to take a small gap around one of my teammates in front on the narrow road and attack.┬á I had been watching Ludi in the race timing her attacks well, often attacking on the gravel on the side so that it limited the chance of people being able to immediately jump on your wheel and I tried the same tactic.┬á Luckily my teammates helped to block the attack from the front as they were still in the front from being in the break.”
And Van De Winkel was away and flying, despite being into a headwind at first. “I could see the bunch behind me but also being a fairly unknown rider no one reacted immediately. I got a good gap and managed to maintain it for about 5km on my own. About 2km from the finish a girl came past me and I thought that was it until she started screaming at me to keep pacing. We were joined by another girl and the three of us paced through for 1km before the Kleo Ladies team girl sat up. We had a 30sec gap on the bunch so comfortable enough to slow it down and recover for the sprint.
“It was at this point that I realised that the bunch wasn’t going to catch us and that I had to sprint. Something I hadn’t prepared for and don’t get much practice at! I hadn’t even taken much notice of where the finish line was! We almost came to a standstill as none of us wanted to be in front.
“The Kleo girl attacked with about 300m to go.┬á If I had the chance again, I would have attacked first as I was able to maintain her wheel but not come past.”
The Lotto-Belisol girls celebrated the prize money with pizza and ice-cream for dinner that night but Van de Winkel has a bigger appetite for racing. “Now to achieve this teamwork and result in a UCI race!”