La Course by Le Tour de France on the horizon, Kessler top 15 at Dutch nationals

La Course by Le Tour de France is just a few days away, and our squad of Lauren Stephens, Leah Dixon, Shannon Malseed, and Diana Penuela have been busy preparing in Nice, France, with a two-week training camp. Nina Kessler, fresh from competing at the Dutch National Championships, will join the roster going to La Course by Le Tour de France. Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank is fielding a smaller team than usual, because of Covid-19 related travel difficulties in getting riders to Europe. The race is 96km, and features a loop the peloton will complete twice. Because of the 5.8km côte de Rimiez and tricky, technical descents, the outcome is predicted to favor a strong breakaway to stay away to the finish in Nice. For US viewers, La Course by Le Tour de France will air on NBC on Aug. 29 at 1 a.m. PST. Canadian viewers can watch via FloBikes also at 1 a.m. PST.

This week, Shannon Malseed shares what training in Nice has been like for the team, and Nina Kessler recounts her national championship experience.

We have arrived...by Shannon Malseed

Through our beloved face masks, we breathe a big sigh of relief (as big as the cloth over our mouths will permit). It feels strangely like home. Living out of a suitcase; the constant eustress of the traveller life; the all too familiar feeling of missing loved ones dearly; the longing sensation of moving forward has finally been fulfilled.

Along with it, we welcome cycling talk back onto the top step of our main discussion topics, we fill the benchtops chock-a-block full of fuel for training, and if we aren't riding or eating, we are in recovery mode – stretching, rolling, talking to home, relaxing. Although it's not your typical season - approaching the end of August with our legs and minds tapping along nice, and freshly, it does feel good to be back.

It's true as the saying goes – "you don't know what you've got until it's gone." Those constant feel-goods that fill us up – with teammates that become family away from family. It all bluntly slipped away (for me in early January when I broke myself in a crash at the Bay Crits) and in March for the rest of the professional peloton. It's only now we are taking back sips, or rather – gulps of those moments and swishing them around in our bellies for as long as humanly possible. This is as normal as we know... we're back in our 'comfort' zone. Through all the chaos and uncertainty that looms like a thick fog or now more like a light morning mist above our heads. We can see the clearing.

Race day is getting closer, and we are preparing together – a luxury we haven't tapped into in far too long. In our cute Airbnb in France, we've managed to collect four riders (with one more to come), and our core staff members for a two-week team training camp in Nice in preparation for La Course by Le Tour de France, and following that – Tour Cycliste Feminin International de l'Ardeche… which means – we are doing HILLS. Lots. Of. Hills.

My enjoyment of the elevation is increasing with each day, as Lauren "Lolly," Diana "Caro," and Leah "Dixie" pull me up the long bergs until I ultimately slip off the back. Thankfully, they double back to ride me to the top. But I get my chance on the short power climbs – the tactic here is to get them done as quickly as possible and recover over the top while the slow burners grind it up :) That's how it goes for us. We put each other to the test every day and finish each ride completely satisfied with the day's work.

Of course, life isn't as 'normal' on training camp as I'm perhaps making out. Usually, there would be a lot more cafe time, beaches, and fun stuff off the bike; but it's a big bad world out there right now, so we choose to stick to indoor activities like puzzles, cooking, and conversations that enlighten us about each other's perks and quirks. Staying safe and healthy - that's always in the back of our minds.

The dinner table conversations each night are mostly filled with how beautiful(ly painful) the ride was; along with how surreal it is to be here, how lucky we are to have the opportunity to do our jobs, and simultaneously live our dreams every day. It is heavily noted that we are some of the fortunate ones. That does not go unnoticed. Our hearts go out to those who are still being held back by this pandemic, and our thanks go out to our team management and sponsors - those steering this ship, doing everything in their power to make this opportunity available to us. Thank you.

Kessler's report from Dutch Nationals

Nina Kessler will be joining Malseed and the La Course team in France soon. This past weekend, she competed in a soggy 124km Dutch national road championships and finished an impressive 15th place against a deep field.

"It was a super hard race, because of the hard circuit combined with the bad weather," Kessler said. "With just 16 riders finishing this tough race, I can be happy with my condition. I'm disappointed that I couldn't stay with the seven riders in front of me and that I couldn't sprint for a top 10 place, but I did all I could and have to be happy with the result."

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