My First Tour of Flanders: Race Report by Ingrid Drexel
Yesterday for the first time ever I had the opportunity to race the epic race in the Flanders region: Ronde Van Vlaanderen - commonly known as the Tour of Flanders.
Flanders is a great race, one that everyone talks about and that every pro rider would want to do some day. This past Sunday, April 1st, Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank got the opportunity to race.
Women's cycling has grown a lot; each year the races get harder, and the quality of the field is increasing so much. The Women's World Tour was created in 2016 to bring women’s cycling to the next level, and since then, more races have been incorporated into the calendar and with that, more competition to be included in the top races.
As of this year, only the top 15 teams in UCI rankings get an automatic entry to the World Tour races, and beyond that teams rely on an invitation from the race organizations. Being ranked #21 in the world currently, Team TIBCO - Silicon Valley Bank had this incredible opportunity to compete - to RACE. We give it our all every single race, learning from each race and growing as a team. It’s just the beginning. To be the best you have to race with the best, be patient and take it one step at a time. I think as a team we’ve made good progress, but we still have a long way to go. I know we can get there with the continuous support from our sponsors, our team director and team owner, as well as the staff that surround us and take care of us.
Why is Flanders one of the most important, prestigious one-day races on the calendar? First of all the crowds are just amazing, the whole Flanders area takes a break from work to see the race, with fans cheering every single kilometer of the race. Everything paralyzes around you when you go through those crowds on the hardest climbs of the region. This is what kept me going that past Sunday.
With my knee injured from a crash at last week's race, I wasn't pedaling the way I usually do and was compensating with other muscles, which then resulted in cramps and other pains. But this opportunity to race Flanders is just so special, that I wanted to get the best out it and give it my all. For those of you who know about TSS (training stress score), mine was 349 for Flanders, my highest ever. This shows me that I fought with everything in my power (and thankfully with my 4iiii power meter to make sure that effort over each km was logged!)
At the end of the day a lot of things play a big role in performance. For instance, the bikes we ride. I ride the Fuji SL with disk brakes, which in my personal opinion in the rain is the best thing to have. They are more precise, and you know for certain that they are going to brake when you need them to. Also, wheel selection is incredibly important. Flanders has it all - climbs, downhills, flats, cobbles, wind and more. So choosing the right, most versatile wheelset to handle that makes a difference. I decided to ride my low profile EDCO carbon wheels. They’re super rigid and able to handle the tough terrain as smoothly as you could hope for.
Other than equipment, the weather is another important factor. The morning of Flanders, it was just 3ºC (37ºF) and raining, very hard conditions for a race (especially for me who’s coming from the hot Mexican weather ☺.) These conditions make the peloton nervous, which can cause a lot of crashes. Two of my teammates went down, which ended their race, but I knew I had to keep going, every kilometer, as hard as I could.
The race was a total of 151 kms (94 miles) and 4:14 hours (for me) total. It was the hardest race I’ve done, but such an incredible opportunity. I’m so happy that I had the ability to race, and that my heart and soul was able to convince my screaming legs to just keep going (SHUT UP LEGS!).
It was incredible to meet some of our team’s incredible partners this first European Block, including Christian from EDCO Wheels and Martin from 4iiii. This kind of support is what will help us get to the very top. Thanks Team TIBCO-SVB for the trust and support!
~ Cheers, Ingrid Drexel (7 x Mexican National Champ)