By Loren Rowney and Emilia Fahlin
Coming to France as a professional bike rider, you can expect your fair share of communal bathrooms, sheets but no pillows on the beds, no towels at times (forcing us to use pint sized tea towels to dry yourself) bowls of coffee, crazy food attendants that yell at you for taking “more” than your fair share, baguettes, baguettes and more baguettes, French TV and generally no internet connection. This may seem unbearable to some, but when you have an amazing group of team mates and staff, it’s all just one big joke, and you can often hear us laughing hysterically over something. For example, the first night we told we were only allowed one piece of bread, one entree, one dessert, and one main. We’re talking about professional cyclists who eat A LOT, so rationally food at the start of a stage race doesn’t go down so well. Ally decided she wanted quiche as well as salad, two entrees, which is forbidden; somehow she managed to sneak back in line and grab two quiches. So naturally I thought I could do the same, but being 6ft tall and not very stealthy, I was unsuccessful and got chased after and yelled at in French by the mad food attendant. A memorable start to my first European race to say the least, but it was worth the embarrassment when everyone at the table was in fits of laughter at my expense. It sometimes feels like we are the naughty kids on school camp, trying to sneak the extra baguette whilst everyone sits by idly watching from a distance, “ will she make it?” they think. Then there are the nights where team bonding is taken to the next level in the form of sleeping together in a school dormitory. Once again, it was like we were the naughty kids on school camp, getting told off by other nation’s swannies to be quite as their riders had a 9pm curfew. This would generally incur more fits of laughter and giggling by the girls, as we would snack on our “stolen extra baguettes” and nutella.
So, where to begin with the racing side of the story, let’s start with stage 5, where we got our first victory of the tour with a text book lead out for Chloe to easily claim the victory. This was the turning point for us after Emilia seemed to have taken the team’s share of bad luck and was presented with “bad luck” award for two consecutive days. You often hear people say “that was my worst day on the bike”, generally that just means you had a bad day where the heart is willing, but the lungs and legs are saying NO! This was not the case for our fiery Swedish rider Emilia Fahlin on stage 6, the day we achieved our first victory. Emilia was awarded the “bad luck award” at the end of stage 6, not because her legs and lungs were not working, but just sheer bad luck. Equipment failure, punctures, crashes, it’s all part of being a Pro cyclist, unfortunately for Emilia, this was the case on stage 6. 40km in to a 127km race on a fast rolling course, Emilia’s handle bars snapped, and no she did not crash because she knew something was not quite right and had the sense to check her equipment. Typically, Emilia would have signalled to the follow car that something was right with the bike and bam, quick bike change, lower the saddle and off she goes, paced back to the peloton. Sadly, this was not to be Emilia’s day. The commissaire’s were having none of it, a change in UCI rules meant her saddle could not be adjusted at the car by the, mechanic, so she had to physically stop and wait for the mechanic to lower her seat height. Now usually, we wouldn’t panic, knowing that our follow car would slowly pace us back up, even if it took a few minutes, you would get back there. However, in this case they were not allowing it, Ronny had to wave goodbye to poor Emilia, who was still to around 80km solo. Here’s Emilia’s account of that day…
After a badly timed handlebar brake and a swop to Loren’s large spare bike I realized not just that she’s very much taller then me but also how strict the French commissaries are. Me not even reaching down to the pedals got yelled at to ride away and not wait for my team car to bring me back. I thought this man probably should clean his glasses and chill a little bit, because all I wished for in that moment was to be able to ride. But another stop to adjust my seat height probably half the seatpost lower I was pretty much left alone on the French countryside for the rest of the 85km remaining. And without any idea how long it was to the finish, running out of water and very, very similar kilometres of open French fields I had some moments of doubt and some less good thoughts about France. The day didn’t get much better when I reached the finish and had another two finishing laps while all the other girls where done. Getting straight up on podium for the newly established award for Bad luck wasn’t really what I wished to do in that moment. But things got a little bit better when I saw Chloe in the podium van and heard she won! The good thing about being on a team, we literally share ups and downs and they got me smiling again later on that day, which is not hard when you have teammates dropping these kind of lines.
“I felt really full after dinner, then I let out a few farts, and now I’m hungry again”