By Chloe Hosking
Some people talk about ‘the black hole’ after the Olympics. The what? The thing in the ozone layer that means every summer I have to slather myself in sun-screen but still get burnt?
Not exactly. For athletes it’s that feeling that everything you’ve been working towards – that thing that has been consuming your thoughts and actions for so long – is over. It may sound strange, but the best way I can describe it is feeling a sense or hollowness, like the lights have been switched off and you’ve been left fumbling around in the dark not knowing what direction to go in.
For me especially, who was extremely disappointed in my performance, I’m left with this heartburning, dry throat sensation that seems strangely reminiscent to how I felt when my first boyfriend dumped me and left me heartbroken.
Having never been in the situation before (it was my Olympic debut) and never spoken to others about what post-Olympic sensations could entail the first few days post the Olympic road race on the 29th of July were a mess of emotions. One moment I’d be laughing, the next crying, the next wandering around at a loss for what to do. It serves somewhat as a consolation that most women I’ve spoken to since have been experiencing a similar emotional roller-coster.
It seems fitting then, just like when my boyfriend dumped me, I’ve dived straight into the next thing to try and occupy my thoughts. Meaning, I’ve jumped straight back into racing with my Specialized lululemon teammates at the La Route de France (4-12/August) – a nine day stage race which, as the name suggests, moves from the north of France down to the south-east.
For many the world stops when the Olympics begin, for professional cycling however the calendar continues and we keep on racing.
And while we’ve been busy enjoying everything that makes racing in France so infamous (think communal bathrooms, school dormitories, and bad cafeteria food) we’ve also been able to fit in some racing – this may be because we have no televisions or internet so technically we don’t even know the Olympics is on.
Today’s 122.5km fifth stage from Pontault-Combault to Châlette Sur Loing served as a welcome reward for our hard work after the last four days where we had worked hard to animate the race but had yet to claim a stage win.
After a fast and aggressive start it seemed like the bunch was content to conserve for the looming mountain stages.
Coming into the final kilometres Loren – who is moving around the European peloton like she’s been here for years despite just making the plunge for the first time a few days ago – and Katie were marshaling around like the British men around Cav.
After a sharp right hand corner with four kilometres to go the three of us were lined up on the right hand side of the road waiting patiently. A crucial chink in our chain was missing after Emilia had a nightmare day on the bike and so we knew we had to wait to launch our train a bit later than usual; a broken handle meant she had to have a bike a change at exactly the wrong moment, only to then need a seat adjustment and with no assistance from the team car allowed she was forced to ride the remaining 80 kilometres alone…
At two kilometres to go, just as the bunch was starting to mushroom and things were getting a bit sketchy our diesel engine, Evie, came rocketing up the left hand side of the road looking excitedly at Loren, Katie and I. I didn’t need to hesitate. ‘Loren, GO!’
Loren accelerated onto Evie’s wheel and we were off. Evie continued to lift the pace making it impossible for anyone to try and challenge our train, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Loren took over with just under one kilometre to go. Taking it to just before a corner at 550 metres to go Loren dropped Katie and I off with a fairy tale run to the line. Katie took me through to corner and I was able to accelerate off her wheel with just over 200 metres to go to take the win.
It was exciting to cap off the girls effort but I’m sure with four stages to go it wont be the last stage win for the team!