The Amgen Tour of California that took place recently in the USA was Lauren’s first Women’s World Tour stage race experience as well as her first time to California. Below in her own words she highlights the week long experience of the trip to the US with her Hitec Team mates.
We left for the US early on Monday morning from Amsterdam, I was traveling with my dutch teammate Kirsten along with Italian Tatiana and German Charlotte. We were to meet up with the Norwegians Cecilie and Janicke along with our staff on arrival in the US. The trip was long but expected so no real troubles there. We arrived on Monday evening to our hotel in Sacramento, California to warm weather and friendly greetings as the atmosphere started to build with many teams arriving and getting organised to race.
On Tuesday morning after a long sleep we drove up to South Lake Tahoe. This was a really beautiful location with snow capped mountains and the clear waters of Lake Tahoe, we were all getting pretty motivated to race. The biggest challenge that we, along with a lot of the other teams, faced was the high altitude of nearly 2000m for the location of this first stage.
Race day rolled around and as excited as I was to get stuck in, I was pretty worried about the altitude and how I would feel, along with the jet-lag. Its safe to say I didn’t feel fresh for the race. My team and I were to look for opportunities in the race, realistically we are not the favourite for the race and therefore didn’t have the responsibility to control the race. In the end the race resulted in a 1.5k uphill finish were I was in the mix until the last few hundred metres. The altitude added a new dimension that I wasn’t sure how to deal with and defiantly suffered with however I loved racing around Lake Tahoe and it for sure one place I would love to travel back to in the future.
Stage 2 was a 20km Team Time Trial, this time in Folsom at sea level. It was great to get back to some oxygen and my teammates and I were pumped for a solid day. Unfortunately we lost one of our girls early and then a second to a nasty crash just after half-way. I was really happy with my performance and feeling but for a team time trial you really need everyone to be on a good day to pull of a result and we eventually finished in 8th place just over 1minute down on Twenty16 the winning team. My Norwegian teammate, Cecilie, suffered a broken collarbone and shoulder blade in the crash and after undergoing surgery that evening is on the mend and is looking to return to racing soon.
Stage 3 offered a more challenging race then most people predicted. Our team plan for the race was to go on the attack and look for a stage result opportunity. I am really proud of how I raced this stage as I put myself out there trying to get up the road and even though it didn’t happen in the end for a sustained period, we rode really well as a team and it was great to be on the attack together. Unfortunately we lost our second Norwegian in this stage which meant that we were down to 4 for the final day’s racing.
Stage 4 was one the main target for our team. It was a fast city circuit around Sacramento. The 70k race looked on paper like a guaranteed bunch sprint and with one of the best sprinters in the world in our ranks we were defiantly excited about this stage. The team rode flawlessly, we are so in sync when it comes to setting up Kirsten for a bunch sprint. There was quite a big crash around the halfway mark that Kirsten was involved with but without any panic we had her back in the bunch within a lap. I didn’t even check how she was until after we were back, luckily she was unaffected in the incident. Tatiana was unfortunately suffering a mechanical issue with her gears as a result leaving us with just myself and Lotte to cover the final stages of the race. Charlotte covered the final attacks while I stayed close to Kirsten and eventually pulled her through the last corner at the front of the peloton. Kirsten won the stage after a powerful sprint to pull off a good week of racing for the team.
Personally I was really happy with how I felt during the race considering the jet-lag and the altitude on stage one but I was hoping to be a bit more of an impact on the final results sheet, however all in all it was a fantastic week to set up the second half of my season. I now have a good foundation to get stuck into the final selection period for the Olympics with Holland Hills and Gooik up this weekend.