Saturday, 2 March 2013

Season beginnings...

The Euro season has now kicked off with a bang and so far so good. 
I arrived to a very chilly Belgium late Jan to be greeted by Wiggle Honda mechanic Adam Nordy Nordmeyer & Japanese team mate Mayuko Hagiwara. Great to get settled in to my temporary home in a cute wee town just outside of Brussels city. All was good apart from the slight temperature adjustment. Arrived to a mass of snow and coming from the kiwi summer was certainly a minor shock to the system! Getting there slowly but surely now and think I'm hardening up a bit with time... #remembering2HTFU

After a few days in Belgie it was straight to the Wiggle Honda team launch in London to meet the team, sponsors and supporters. It was a pretty full on day but a lot of fun and fantastic to meet the girls and everyone who has helped in getting the team up and running.
Bar Hazen Photo - here with Lauren Kitchen and team owner Rochelle Gilm
Thanks to all the team sponsors - we've been well decked out with some top equipment. Very lucky girls!
Bart Hazen (Photo) - Team Launch - Wiggle Honda

Next up on the schedule was The Ladies Tour of Qatar, something very new to me...

 Check out the latest Pro Cycling Mag to read about my 'Qatar Experience'. I'm very grateful to this year be writing a regular 'rider diary' in each issue of Pro Cycling Magazine. It's a top opportunity and I'm thrilled they've chosen me to be part of the mag. Looking forward to reppin' Wiggle Honda each month - hopefully will come up with some entertaining reads!

Post Qatar it was straight back to Belgie on the red eye flight for some needed R&R and a 3 week training block to get used to riding in freezing conditions and get prep'd for the Spring Classics.

Safe to say there's not a whole lot to do here in our little town so I've been spending a bit of time twiddling my thumbs between training (when it's not snowing). I am studying part time this year to finish off my Business degree (I hope)! but books are yet to arrive so fair to say I've become a bit of a master at recovery time and my time on social media has certainly been on the up these past few weeks! Can't complain though - beats sitting at a desk working huh?...and definitely enjoying the Belgian bike paths and canals. My only problem is getting lost. Every little town looks very similar to me...bricks, a few shops, cobbles, dadeda - hard to get your bearings but nice to head out exploring every now and then.

Lucky for me I had some more Wiggle Honda girls come liven things up here last week pre our first big Spring classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad which was cool. A bit of team bonding been going down since including plenty of O.P.I nail sessions, cycling scoop, girl goss, team rides and relaxing. Been good but by the weekend everyone was very much ready to kick off the Euro season!

Valentines Day - Mayuko, Adam and I had to get out...found this cute restaurant in Dendermonde.

O.P.I ORANGE #WiggleHondaStyle

Writing this, I've now completed two of these Spring classic races you crazy Euros contest religiously each year. Judging by these few experiences, I know this Spring is going to be damn tough!
Everything about these one day events is brutal. For one, there's the freezing cold temperatures - it really is rough. Negative degrees means hiding away in the team Vanomobil camper until the final minutes before start time - there's no point in warming up as you're going to be an icicle from the gun regardless! These conditions also mean riding in almost everything you own...well for me this was the case. Some of the Wiggle chicks are pretty tough though and ended up venturing out in a lot less  - crazy! I still ended up being numb the majority of the day. I'm yet to master keeping my fingers and toes warm...suggestions?

Secondly, there's around 200 starters entered per event and being early season everyone is eager to impress, fresh and ready to head out with a bang! This means it is necessary to expect crazy times in the peloton - especially at the start. Who can get to the front the quickest? In the neutral zone = silly-ness!! I'm learning slowly with these events and the Euro racing in general that it's definitely an advantage being more relaxed during these stages of the race - stressing out is only going to stir up the crazy times even more. Perhaps?!

Team Presentation pre Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 

And then can't forget the typical spring courses. I heard there was cobbles at Omloop but didn't really think too much about it until we showed up for course recon the week before...ah WTH! These cobbles were more like big fat annoying rocks sticking out and damn straight they can hurt. It took me a good few hours to get the hang of these little suckers and after some advice from my Wiggle team mates I finally started to get it a little. After that race though there's definitely a hate-hate relationship going on with myself and the cobbles. Not a fan and don't know If I ever will be! Certainly makes racing interesting though - will give them that. Best I get over it as I know there's plenty of those nasty buggers coming up! I really hope to have the better of them come summer...

Bart Hazen Photo - Paterburg

Bart Hazen Photo

Frozen pre LeSamyn - Bart Hazen

All up, both races were very tough both mentally and physically. Managing the cold was a big thing for me and racing in such conditions is still new. I'm a summer lover and don't like the chill! I'm getting there though and after a few tough races I now have a pretty good idea of what to expect in the upcoming months. Le Samyn was a little better for me with the temperatures being slightly higher and I began the race knowing it would be hard as nails! I was happy to come away with the sprint classification after a good few first laps. I was chuffed as had come back after a crash with fellow team mate Beatrice in the early stages of the race. It was a tough chase but think it only fired me up more. This was cool but definitely wore me down a lot for the remaining few laps. I suffered like a dog and was yo-yo-ing from the lead group a wee bit. I was too smashed to help the following lap when eventual leader Ellen VanDijk escaped away from the peloton up the cobbled kicker. Woo that girl can ride a bike well!

 It was a shame for the Wiggle Honda crew as we had top sprinter; miss Giorgia Bronzini in amongst the pack. Giorgia has just come off an impressive track worlds where she took 3rd in the points race. Unfortunately for us, the small break way was much too strong to bring back and it ended up coming down to a bunch kick for 5th place. I'm still learning with the new team and know we all struggled with communication in these final laps; I think everyone was too smoked to do much! Being a newly established squad everyone is still unsure of one another's abilities and riding style's. I am confident we will come together over time but for now we are still gel-ing together! I ended up coming in 10th overall so wasn't a bad day but hope to be better soon :)

For now it's just chillin' at the team house getting race ready for tomorrows Omloop van Het Hageland. Excited to get out there and give it a good shot. Next week I will race my first World cup Ronde Van Drenthe and then it's off to Italy for a few big events and team camp - fun times ahead! OPI NZ

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