We sent TWC contributor Hannah Troop out to Belgium to ride the tour of Flanders, one day ahead of the pros, before interviewing the Canyon//SRAM riders in the evening after their own race on the cobbles.
Words: Hannah Troop
This weekend the Ronde van Vlaanderen celebrated its centenary year, a milestone the Flandriens would never allow to pass by without a high octane party, fuelled by plenty of beer and Euro-pop. Cycling is part of their bloodline, arrive to Belgium on two wheels and you’re welcomed with open arms. It isn’t just sport here, it’s everything, and ‘Flanders’—the Champions League Final, the Wimbledon, the Grand National of the calendar year.
Sunday saw the 13th edition of the women’s race run alongside the men’s. Covering fewer kilometres, but with no less brutality the women tackled the infamous cobbles with as much attacking spirit as their male counterparts. To be a champion on this terrain requires you to be tough as the cobblestone your body takes a battering over. Sections of pavé are upon you, at the turn of a corner, out of no-where and pack a punch. Most of them are no more than 2km long, yet leave you shaken to the core but strangely energised, like a pneumatic pounding of adrenaline.
“I was really afraid, but it was ok, it’s our job.” – Barbara Guarischi
Hitting a cobbled climb is mind over matter and primarily a test of how long you can hold your nerve before admitting defeat, unclipping and continuing by foot. For Barbara Guarischi of the Canyon//SRAM team; racing this terrain only a month after shoulder surgery from a previous race crash commanded respect. Shrugging she smiled and told me: “I was really afraid, but it was ok, it’s our job.”