by Evie Stevens
Constant sideway winds, torrential cold rain, 1000 exceedingly tall women all fighting me for position 999, a million tricky corners, roads too small for cars, road furniture jumping out at me left and right, the sight of the 999 tall women stretched out in front of me and the winning break disappearing into the cold midst, me adding as much value to the team’s performance as a rain jacket on a sunny day …this horrifying vision used to pop into my brain when I thought of racing in Holland. It is true, I used to suffer from Dutch Anxiety.
Thank goodness I have spent a lot of time working on differentiating “anxiety” vs. “fear” and I decided 2012 would be the perfect year to overcome my Dutch Anxiety. What a better place than the Brain Wash Tour (formerly known as the Holland Ladies Tour), 6 days of racing in Holland, 5 road stages and 1 team time trial. For all of those readers who are still stuck on the name, Brain Wash, it is a hair salon, not some form of Dutch torture, phew.
The big goal of the tour was the TTT, it was the last chance before Worlds to test out our TTTing skills in a race setting. For me it was 34 kilometers of pure torture to my legs, yet there is nothing more satisfying than crossing the finish line with your teammates, who all suffered and raced their hearts out as well and then learning you got the win. Cycling is a team sport, yet only one person gets to stand on the top step of the podium, which makes a TTT win even more special. The following days consisted of great racing, with Trixi and Charlotte being in the leader’s jersey and Ina taking another dominating stage win.
Racing specifics aside, I learned to not only tolerate Dutch racing but I actually found it quite enjoyable. It was hard (yet in my opinion if a bike race isn’t hard, then I should try racing harder!) but there was something sort of beautiful about racing in this flat country (well flat except for where we were racing today, hello roller coaster roads, please see my Strava file to fully comprehend http://app.strava.com/rides/21391918). Perhaps it was the belly-laugh inducing conversations I enjoyed with my teammates, or that after 3 years of racing together, I decided to request the friendship of Ina Yoko Teutenberg (that is via Facebook) and she accepted!, or maybe it was my Dutch teammate Eleanore Van Dijk (who is quite a legend in this country) turning to me today and saying “who would have thought you would have done this well in a Dutch race,” because as I currently lie on my bed writing this blog, the vision of flowers, smiles, world peace and happy babies pop into my mind when I think of Dutch racing.