Photos: Hubert Giddelo
Race Report: La Flèche Wallonne Femme
by Brodie Chapman
It had been two weeks of rest, training and sunshine after Team TIBCO - Silicon Valley Bank tackled the UCI Women's World Tour Spring Classics. Come late April, the team and I returned to Belgium for Ardennes Week, this time welcomed by the sun and spring smells.
Reinvigorated by these conditions, the team could look forward to some hard racing on the menu, which La Fleche Wallonne Femmes certainly dished up!
The 118.5km race would see our team take opportunities where we could to show some form on the steep climbs, while making sure the race was always within our grasp in the earlier kilometres. The opening circuit saw seasoned racers Lex Albrecht and Alison Jackson riding assertively at the front of the race, their experience especially encouraging for me as they helped me position and move through the peloton more confidently. Enthusiastic climbers Emma Grant and Alice Cobb were never too far from my sight which affirms our goal to ride together in the peloton as much as possible.
With AJ mixing up the pace a bit with some attacks, and Lex being quick to jump to any early moves, the pace then settled mildly, in anticipation of the first major climb, where the race would inevitably become more selective.
It was on these climbs that I was able to ride to my strengths and watch the bunch split to pieces as everyone grappled with the gradient. I fought to stick with a group who were then to become the chase group to a small selection of riders up the road.
My weapon of choice for this course was my Fuji SL, paired with Edco Umbrial DB light wheels, Maxxis Relix 25mm tubular tires, set to a psi of 80 in the front, 85 in the rear. This combo made for an incredibly fast, light bike, perfect for accelerating up the roads that feel near vertical as the fatigue sets in! What goes up must come down, and I was thankful to be running Shimano Dura-ace hydraulic disc brakes on the descents, where I could modulate the braking with much more precision and confidence.
After the selection was made, it was about keeping calm and confident. It’s amazing how much you really have to find it in yourself to keep the cranks turning over, despite your brain and body looking for ways to tell you that you can’t. I went into the final climb, the Mur de Huy, positioned poorly and had to really dig deep to get myself to the top. I knew I had it in me to just pedal a bit harder, as the end was close (yet on that climb, 100m feels like 1km!).
I crossed the hilltop finish in 19th position, a place I am very proud of in my first year racing outside Australia, let alone in the Women’s World Tour. I was also stoked to see my TIBCO - Silicon Valley Bank teammates (and their priceless pain faces) get over that brutal berg not too long after me.
Every race I am taking in so much, learning heaps from how each race unfolds and - of course - from my teammates. I am really looking forward to my next races with the team. Stay tuned for more soon!