Behind the stripes: My first professional race

Trofeo Laigueglia 2013

I’ll never forget the feeling of when I signed in for my first professional race, Trofeo Laigueglia, my whole body covered in goosebumps as I realised my career has officially begun.

The build up to our race started on Thursday morning as we left for Laigueglia. We stopped after a few hours and rode the final of Milano- San Remo’s route. It felt great riding  the famous finale climbs : Le Manie, Capo Mele, Capo Cervo, Capo Berta, Cipressa and the Poggio. It felt unreal as a few months ago I was watching this on TV and now I’m riding on the legendary mountains. We finished our ride in San Remo, jumped in the bus and headed back to our race hotel in Laigueglia.

On Friday we had a pre race ride and rode the final lap of our race route covering the Testico climb. We gathered some vital information as the descent was dangerous with sharp blind corners covered with icy water and salt (they throw salt on the road to make it less slippery, but in a way it makes it even more slippery as the salt is like little stones). We stopped for a coffee at the beachfront just before we reached our hotel. The day followed with massages, a lot of food and early bedtime.

Saturday. We had breakfast at 8:00am and left for the start at 9:40am. Everyone was focussed and in the zone. Soignuer, Hagen, gave us a pre race rub and the neutralized start was at 10:50am. The break went really quick. I expected it to take much longer, but team Androni Giocattoli made it clear that after 5 riders had a small gap that that was the break of the day. The peloton slowed down immediately. Some stopped for a natural break while others got rid of the warmer clothing they started with. Team Vini Fantini quickly took responsibility and rode at the front with FDJ lined up behind them. The speed picked up on the first climb and on the descent team Vini Fantini tried to split up the race. They went full speed at the front and with the descent having lots of sharp corners gaps quickly formed. I luckily positioned myself in the top 30 over the climb so made the split of around 40 rides which formed on the descent. This was actually one of the hardest parts of the race for me as team Vini Fantini and FDJ rode flatbox at the front until the peloton caught us from behind again. As I was the only one of Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung who made the split it was really cool to see the yellow train coming from behind closing the gap for Gerald Ciolek. It all came back together and over the next two climbs of the Testico the race followed the same procedure- hardish up the climb, max on the descend and road in between the next climb.

My legs exploded on the final ascent of the Testico. FDJ hammered it at the front and the peloton split. At the back we quickly formed a big group and rode together to the finish while Gerald sprinted to 5th place. I was really proud to actually finish my first professional race as it wasn’t an easy one either. We climbed more than 2600m in total. I gained vital experience. One being to make sure my race number is visible across the finish line as I saw my name was not registered on the final results.

I am honored to race with my experienced teammates Ciolek, Stauff, Reimer and Konovalovas. I am learning so much from them and they are guiding me step by step. At the start when the attacks started Gerald told me which attacks to follow and which not. Martin Reimer constantly told me where to ride when. Andreas Stauff always giving advice and tips on where the race normally explodes and what to do. They have definitely made my transition from amateur to professional much easier and I am learning the ins and outs quickly.

We are flying to Belgium on Tuesday as next week Saturday we racing our first big classic, Het Omloop Nieuwsblad.  Wish me luck!