My legs are screaming and the cramps have started. I see the 1000m to go sign and know that I just have to suffer, to embrace it. This is everything I have been working for, just keep pushing and don’t give up is all I can tell myself. People line the side of the road but I don’t see them, I don’t hear them, I’m only focused on the finish line. I can see Anna van der Breggen just in front of me. So close… yet so far. Finally I take the left turn and see the finish banner. I watch as Anna celebrates and I cross the line 6 seconds later to take 2nd place in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It’s my third top 5 of the Ardennes after placing 3rd in Amstel Gold and 5th in Fleche Wallone. Yes, it’s been a memorable week.
Liege-Bastogne-Liege is a race I have dreamt about for years. It’s a race with so much history, raced over so many iconic climbs – it’s one of the big monuments and when you ride the course 3 days before and already see the campervans lining the slopes of the infamous La Redoute climb you start to get a sense of how big this race really is. There are no lucky winners. You need great legs, good tactics and a strong team. Finishing 2nd and sharing the podium with my teammate Annemiek is one of the biggest moments of my career.
My career has never had one standout season. Every year is a little better than the previous one. In some ways this seems frustrating but at the same time it leaves me forever hungry for more. This year I chose not to put my hand up for Commonwealth Games selection because they clashed with the Ardennes. This was such a hard decision to make but at the same time I’m at a point in my career where I have to prioritise a little and make a decision that I know can push me to become the best cyclist I can be.
If there is one thing I have learnt in my cycling career it is to surround yourself with great people that can help you with these decisions both on and off the bike. I’m forever grateful for the people around me. They teach me how to be confident, how to be patient but they also push me and challenge me. I’m not sure I believed I could walk away from the last week with such results. I’m satisfied, but I’m hungry for more. This search is never-ending – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Bring on the rest of the season!