Stairway to Hell: Helen Wyman reports from Ruchpen and Hoogerheide

It was my first time racing Ruchpen, a small town around 30km’s north east of Hoogerheide where we would race the World Cup the following day. I love racing in Holland and to be honest have been pretty disappointed there are so few races there this year. So when the offer came in to start, there wasn’t a hesitation.

We headed to the race in the morning of the event, and saw a pretty cool course. Lots of little ups and downs, and basically a fast track which shouldn’t hurt the legs too much. A few practice laps and I was confident I could do OK.

The race itself was a great battle, with Sanne van Paassen, Nikki Harris and I all pushing the front of the race and getting away from the chasing pack. Sanne eventually slipped off the pace and finished 3rd, leaving Nikki and I to scrap away until the very end. We both tried a few accelerations but there was very little difference between us, and very few places to make a gap.

Coming into the finish I looked like whoever got up the last little bank first would take the win, but with Nikki leading into it, I had different ideas. She’d kept the pace high the last quarter of a lap and hadn’t given me an opportunity to pass, so I took a different approach to the last bank, and despite being second in, came out first and managed to sprint to the win.

It’s always good as a cyclist to win, it’s why we do it. Yes we love our bikes, and we love training, most of the time, but winning is the goal. That’s my 3rd win of the season, showing me that despite some health issue at the start of the season, it’s all been worth it. I’ve had some near misses for other wins as well, and learnt more than a bucket load. My preparation has already begun for next season with planning, and I can’t wait.

Hoogerheide Stairs

The next day was Hoogerheide, and a very different and crazy tough event. A slightly altered course from usual although it still kept many of the traditional features. Additions to the course included a sandy section, some mud that felt like three-quarters set concrete, and a flight of steps that many riders dubbed the “stairway to hell”.

I was a little sluggish on the course, not quite finding the zip in my legs I needed in these conditions, which is pretty odd as on paper this should be ideal for me. The health issues I mentioned earlier left me chasing condition a little, so I guess it just wasn’t my thing for this season. I gave it my all, being in a battle for 5th, potentially 4th, and despite my fastest lap time on the last lap finished 7th and totally gassed. It left me 9th overall in the World Cup, again with a huge amount of lessons learnt and ready to apply next season.

Next up is the World Championships. It’s in Zolder, where we have already had a World Cup this season. Hopefully I can get a single digit result, and finally learn to love the course. We will see.