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Making the break

Posted by Dani Christmas on

Boortmeerbeek - May 1st

It’s said that we learn most from our mistakes. 

In one of my first kermesse races of the year I certainly learnt my lesson. After the usual hectic start I missed the race winning move. Maybe it was fate. After some great Isorex teamwork, softening the peloton I launched an attack only to suffer a mechanical. With no neutral service available my race was cut short, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because I had taken a lot physically and mentally from those kilometres whilst being able to recover to go again the next day and really aim for a result.

East Flanders Provincial Championships, GP Vistamedia, Hamme - May 2 nd

After the previous day’s lesson the goal was to make the break and with the start line dominated by Topsport Vlaanderen and Lotto Soudal riders the plan was clear, if there’s a move with both team represented, be in it, simple.

With the race starting as predicted with one attack following the next I picked my battles, going with the moves that looked threating but keeping my powder dry. When Lotto Soudal’s Jesse Vandenbulcke and Topsport Vlaanderen’s Gilke Croket attacked I was straight on it. With barely a 5m gap established I pulled through immediately increasing that gap by a further bike length and before we knew it we were away. With over 60km still to ride we were in it for the long haul. With the gap to the main peloton steadily growing we were joined by a trio of riders – Sylvia Debboudt, Isabelle Becker and sprinter Kim De Batt.

For the last 20km cramp spread like the plague through my hamstrings, I remained poker faced not wishing to divulge my internal torment. With the bunch at bay and my breakaway companions among the best in the field my attention turned to the finish and the inevitable attacks to be launched along the way. Experience told me that I would have to stay planted in the saddle all the way to the line, jumping out of the saddle would almost certainly lead to instantaneous loss of leg function. With the calibre of riders around me I knew to succeed I would have to use brains as well as brawn more than ever. The sprint was opened up early with a couple ofriders going for a long one. I remained patient, scanning everything happening aroundme. As the best sprinter in the race Kim De Batt made her move I was straight on her wheel, staying in the saddle we were moving clear the others. Gritting my teeth I wasn’t quite able to take Kim on the line but held off a late surge from Lotto Soudal’s Isabelle Becker.

With Kim De Batt not eligible for the provincial championship due to her team being based outside of East Flanders I was announced champion. Of course I wanted to cross the line first but the East Flanders jersey that I wear for the next year means a lot, not least to myself and the team and I will continue to represent the jersey in the best way possible.

Wielergala De Pinte - May 25th

Sometimes opportunities present themselves and in a split second you just have to grab them.With the regular race start, attack, attack, attack, nothing seemed to stick with a whole host of teams represented.Topsports Vlaanderen rider Demmy Druyts took off on her own but no one appeared interested in initiating the chase. My teammate Kelly Vander Hagen and I had a number of short discussions about how we would play the race but neither of us imagined the gift we were to be handed. Riding relatively easy on the front of the bunch as we came off of a small roundabout I glanced round to see what was happening behind us only to be greeted by a 15m gap, that was all we needed. I shouted “GO, GO, GO!” and we were away. What I loved about Kelly was the complete trust she had in me, she didn’t look round, she just buried herself as we sprinted away from the bunch and linked up with Demmy within a few kilometres. We made the break, pulling it out to two minutes on the rest of the field come the finish, much to the joy of our Isorex supporters on the roadside.

Grote Prijs De Wielkeszuigers Schellebelle - June 9th

An early breakaway of 11 riders went up the road following a sprint rushes lap after 6km. Although there were various attempts by riders to jump off the front of the peloton there was nothing was strong enough to stick. With the gap to the breakaway steadily growing myself and my two Isorex teammates decided to attempt to pull them back with the help of another smaller team, this cooperation broke down pretty rapidly but not satisfied to roll round in a negative bunch we pushed on. The gap started to tumble but with 3 riders vs 11 in the break it was a tough task. With others taking a free ride off our pace making we regrouped and changed strategy.

I bided my time and launched a big attack with just over 30km to go. There was a reaction from the bunch but no one made it to my back wheel. ‘Ok Dani, you made your bed now you’ll have to lie in it’. Tapping out steady tempo I engulfed myself in own little world. This world was interrupted just 5km down the road when a group of 5 riders bridged across to me inevitably causing a reaction from the bunch now bearing down on us. A quick attempt to rally the troops and it was clear that the riders around me were either not strong enough of motivated enough to go the distance. Solution? Attack again. Putting myself in a serious box I powered away. ‘Race brain’ fails me on this occasion, it could have been a further 5 or even 15km down the road but I was joined by Topsports Vlaanderen’s Kelly Van Den Steen, I was thankful for a companion to share the work load. We cooperated really well together, so much so that the time gap reduced on each of the 6km laps. What seemed like mission (virtually) impossible when I initially entered the hurt locker with 30km to ride and an 1 minute 35 second deficit, the break dangled in front of us like a golden carrot. Those final seconds were by far the hardest to close but with just 2.5km to ride we made the junction and caught the break. Right on cue the attacks started, with no time recover and every cell in my body screaming I completely emptied the tank, using every watt I had left. Finishing in 8th place was probably one of my most pleasing races, not for the result sheet but the way that I rode and defined myself.

The remainder of the season will be my biggest challenge but I will keep aiming to make the break. 

Making a big break.

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