Omloop Van Borsele 2018 – a rider’s perspective

Omloop Van Borsele has been something I have been looking forward to for a long time. After having a pretty disastrous race at the Healthy Ageing Tour two weeks prior I was hopeful that I would be able to go into the last nations cup round and prove to myself that I can race at world level. I adore racing in Holland on the fully closed, pan flat roads where bridges are considered hills so I was excited to go back with fresh legs and good state of mind after the first junior girls national series round the week prior.

An early wake up on Thursday morning to load all the stuff in the van and soon me, Libby and Poppy where ready and waiting to go. We collected Rosie mid journey and headed down to the Eurotunnel and then onwards though France and Belgium to Zeeland, Netherlands. We met Emily who had travelled over from her little rock in the middle of the sea (Jersey) and collected the keys for the static caravan shed we where staying in. Not long after that we were all ready to go and ride the TT course. The TT course was a very twisty 14km course. I am still very much getting used to my new TT bike as its unlike anything I have ever ridden so knew I had to keep it safe and upright though the corners to make sure I didn’t risk coming off. The course rolled really nicely in practise with minimum wind. I thought it was going to be very fast…

Friday came round and the long wait began for the TT. The first rider was off at 4:45 however I wasn’t off till nearly 7 being the last Admiral Liv AWOL ridder to go in a field of over 150 riders. This wasn’t a bad thing as it was extremely hot all day so I was hoping that the temperature might drop a tiny bit before my start. We took our TT bikes to the soft bike check in the Jig. Every UCI TT rule was in place which came as a shock for some. Mine and Emily’s TT bikes passed with ease which was a nice reinsurance. Soon Rosie and Libby where warming up and ready to go. Rosie went first and came back in a time of 23:41. Elizabeth was next and posted a similar time of 23:31. Poppy was our next rider up on the start line and came back in a time of 22:35 giving her 87th. whilst I was beginning my warm up on the rollers Emily was flying round the course to come in 102nd with a time of 22:59. Soon I was waiting in the que for both gear check and for my bike to go back into the jig for a final time. All passed and soon I was at the top of the start line. I had an awful start down the ramp however I actually got away very quickly by my standards. I had been warned about the cross winds so I assumed this would be the same the whole way round the course. I was just going flat out and passed the half way point with a time that should have in theory given me a sub 20 time had the head wind I was about to hit not exist! Nearly straight away after the half way point I was battling a head wind that I hadn’t really expected. I was well into the red but that didn’t matter I knew I had to dig very deep to get back quickly in the conditions. Soon I was back sprinting for the finish line. The clock stopped at 21: 51 giving me 50th which I was happy with although I possibly should have had more left in the tank to battle the head wind but that doesn’t matter. As per normal I absolutely loved the TT and had decided that what ever happened the next day the trip had been so worth it just for that 14km. Looking back I can’t complain with the result being the first British girl not on the GB program and beating loads of national team riders including the whole Belgium squad was pretty decent.

The next day saw us have a relatively early start for the second stage, a 70km 3 lap omloop. We started at the back of the grid which I was in some ways grateful for as it kept us out of trouble. I soon realised that Rosie had gone out the back in the first couple of Km however the rest of us where still in. We where approaching the end of the first lap and I had moved up a bit when all of a sudden there was a large crash in front of me. I slammed my brakes on and felt myself come out of the saddle. Luckily I got a foot out and managed to land onto my top tube which wasn’t nice but better than the floor. I negotiated myself round the crash and started chasing. I never made it back to the bunch however I did quickly find myself in the large chasing group that had formed as a result of the crash splitting the bunch. All 30 of us pushed on to keep the gap to an absolute minimum. This was going well and we were hardly losing any time as we got the bell after 2 laps. About a 3rd of the way into the last lap I could see the convoy suddenly stop dead in front on the dead straight road due to a crash. As we started going round the large amount of stationary team cars my Garmin started flashing up with multiple speed sensors found. The Admiral Liv AWOL team car had come past my group at the start of the third lap and I knew our car had my spare bike on it so I assumed something had happened. I could now clearly see my team car stopped at the side of the road without my spare bike on the roof. As we came past Poppy was pushed back into the race on my spare bike. It turned out Poppy had stopped to avoid the crash in front of her only to have someone ride into her and break her hanger. Luckily our team car was relatively near the front due to my TT result the day before, the tester came in useful for once! The last 15km went so quickly and soon we were crossing the line only a couple of minutes down on the leaders. Emily and Elizabeth had already come in in the back of the main group, meaning we had 4 riders starting the last stage the next day.

Sunday saw the last Stage take place. It was a 80km point to point round Zeeland. I honestly was expecting to be broomed early on hence why I hadn’t bothered looking at a map of the course so had no real idea on what it was going to be like. After a full on scamble at sign on we ran to the line only for it to start pouring down with ice cold rain 10 minutes before we where due to  start. Almost straight after we where off it stopped raining and the sun came back out. I stayed middle of the back as I knew there was likely to be a crash and I couldn’t get to the front safely. About 10km there was the first really large crash. I luckily got straight round and back on, however it was very much game over for poor Emily as her chain was off as a result of her being taken out. That left me, Poppy and Elizabeth. Poppy had managed to successfully navigate her way to the front and was out of trouble. I was very comfortably in the bunch until another large crash saw the bunch split just past the half way point. Both groups where of equal size as a result of the bunch literally being split in the middle. Like the day before I was with loads of national team riders however today it was more so. At about 30km to go Elizabeth and a couple of others, in my bunch crashed on a corner. Despite her best efforts Libby never made it back to my large chasing group and got eliminated out of the race. This now left Poppy up the road in the main bunch and me in the second. Soon we where on the two finishing laps round the main town. I had no clue where on earth we where going but couldn’t stop smiling as we where only 2 minutes down so where defiantly going to get to finish. I have never been so happy in any race ever to see the 3km to go sign as I knew I would get a final GC position. I rolled safely over the line in the back of my group, grinning. I had survived one of the highest standard junior girls races in the world, something that I would not have expected.

I finished 92nd Gc and Poppy 74th. Poppy was also 30th in the white jersey competition for first year Juniors which is really good especially after having to finish stage 2 on my spare bike. Omloop definitely made up for my disaster that was the Healthy Ageing Tour. It truly was a weekend I will never forget. A massive thank you has to go to all our teams sponsors but especially Admiral and Perkins who without we would have never have been able to afford to go to both HAT and OVB nations cup rounds. Another large thank you has to go to Fokko Winter at Forte who helped get us into both tours in the first place. Personally have to thank Mark at Epic coaching for getting me to a point that I can survive in a nations cup race which 12 months ago I wouldn’t have been able to. Another thank you has to go to Jo and Steve at Elmy cycles who managed to find me the perfect TT bike that fits a hobbit (me!). Thank you to Ricky Wildman, Jo Bridson and my dad, Pat for being excellent mechanics, pit crew, soigneurs, helpers, drivers, coat holders, chefs, the lot. On top of the racing it was a lovely weekend with the team so thank you to my awesome teamies who helped made it such a fun weekend! It’s been an experience that really will last a life time for us all.

Poppy and Connie - Onloop 2018

Featured photo by Kevin Buyssens (from ‘s-Heerenhoek). Many thanks to Kevin for giving us permission to use his photo. His other photos can be viewed on and he can be contacted via Facebook.

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