By Dede Demet Barry, T-Mobile professional cycling team
Usually when the time changes in the spring of each year, it is accompanied by an improvement in the weather, but here in Salamanca, we experienced a serious digression in the conditions over night as Europe moved into to daylight savings time.
We awoke to dark skies and snow flurries. It was hard to believe we were in Spain or that it was the end of March. In keeping with the mood, Cathy Marsal wished me a “Merry Christmas” as we were warming up. It seems like the spring weather has been especially harsh this year in Europe.
Michael sent me a text message from France, where he was racing the Critérium International and he experiencing snow flurries as well. He told me to think “Ward-Ned’” during the race; this is my favorite ride back home in Boulder, Colorado. For those of you who have ridden a bike in and around Boulder, you probably know of the infamous Ward-Ned’ ride that travels through the Rocky Mountains along the Peak-to-Peak highway. This ride has been a huge part of our preparation for the races over the past several years. It is a mountainous, beautiful ride, with a 17-mile climb, and we have often been caught in the snow en route.
The host city for the third round of the women’s world cup was Salamanca, Spain, which is supposed to have the best Iberic ham in all of Spain. This smoked ham is very special, as the pigs are fed a diet of chestnuts, which makes the meat taste sweet.
Michael and I buy this ham often at the local butcher shop in Girona and I was looking forward to eating it in Salamanca. Unfortunately, when T-Mobile is at races in Europe, it is rare that we are able to order food at a restaurant. Normally, the race organization arranges meals with a set menu, consisting of simple foods. Usually we get quite a bit of the white food group and not much else – chicken breast, rice, potatoes, pasta, whitefish, bread, yogurt, and if we are lucky, a small green salad. Sad to say, but Iberic ham was not on the menu.
I cannot remember the last time I raced in leg warmers, as a matter of fact, I am not sure if I ever have, but I wore them Sunday, and so did each of my teammates. I also had heat rub on my legs, a heat patch on my back, several base layers on top, long-fingered thermal gloves, shoe covers and a headband under my helmet to keep my ears warm… and I was still shivering at the start line. My hands were numb for the first lap and a half and I never felt like I broke a sweat all day. To say the least, it was cold!
The World Cup course in Salamanca did not contain any mountain passes, rushing creeks or switchbacks like Ward-Ned. Actually, it was more like a big downtown criterium, as the course was 10 kilometers long, on rough roads, with the start finish in the center of the city, and it doubled back on itself several times, which made it spectator friendly, as fans could watch from many different vantage points on the course. I am sure the race was interesting for the fans to watch, but from the riders perspective, it was fairly mundane, as there were no major obstacles, like hills, cobbles or raging cross-winds…nothing to break the rhythm of the race.
The peloton rolled along at high speeds, the race flew by, as the momentum of the group reeled each attack in. The only split of the day occurred in the final sprint when the first six riders got a gap in the final kilometer. Angela Brodka, who was riding with the German National Team, won the race. Oenoe Wood maintained her lead in the World Cup and the series continues next week in at the Ronde de Vlandaaren in Flanders, Belgium.