At the start of the year I had seen the Canadian race stint on some of the other girls program thinking how I’d like it to be included in my calendar and somehow feeling that I’d end up there anyway. So it was no surprise when I was offered a spot for the Canadian races, my instincts were telling me it was thing to do. So off I trotted to Canada.
During the Canadian races the AIS team was unlucky enough to be introduced to a peloton, which included the Cuban National Team who we had never raced or even seen before!!!! Yup, scary stuff and when you put these girls in with the Russian National Team you’re bound to see fireworks! In a nutshell the Cubans ride like they own the roads and rule the peloton and they love to disrespectfully chop every other rider to pieces to get where they want to go. This of course meant there were some really sketchy times and it caused no end of fights and abuse and some really close calls with the bitumen.
On nearly every day of racing, the Cubans would get into some sort of fight, usually with the Russians and more than once it finished with girls from either country slapping and hitting each other somewhere within the peloton. In these instances the Cubans would look directly across at the Russians, swing their arms all around the place slapping the Russians. While this was happening the rest of the field would be cringing and holding their breath to see if the Cuban, who was not looking were she was riding would fall or ride into the wheel in front. There were a few close calls but the Cubans always managed to stay upright by leaning, like crazy, on the rider next to them or by doing some sort of mental swervey manoeuvre to stay upright herself but cause no end of chaos behind! They were nutters both on and off the bikes!
At dinner they would eat like an army, get three deserts and take home packs as well. They pushed into dinner line ups but when they took on Carla Ryan and myself one night in the desert line we couldn’t hold back. Every day these Cubans pushily stole wheels from everyone but enough was enough, as the Cuban tried to jump the dessert line, I moved my body to block out the Cuban and said `this is desert we’re talking about here Cuban! You can have the wheel in bike races (cause I’m scared you’ll bring me down) but not desert!’ Yup, I put her in her place!
Canada ended up being a good call for my racing as I continued to improve and have strong racing till the end. In our last tour, Tour de Prince Edward Island, the racing was aggressive and encouragingly breaks were lasting. I covered attacks, made attacks until finally in the second last stage, a 96.5k road race, I bridged a gap to a solo Russian. At this stage there was 3 k to go, I was 9th on GC* and quite close behind to the 8th placed rider. A time gap would work well for me and a 1st or 2nd placing would be even better. I made it to the Russian fairly quickly and we worked together for the final 3k. She used me up in the last kilometre but I slowed a little to recover towards the end. Luckily the Russian sprinted a little early into a big head wind and I managed to sit in a little and jump over her at the last second for my first ever international win!
It felt great!