Whitney Allison here. I’ve raced for Colavita-Bianchi Women’s Pro Cycling Team since 2013 and have worked with Source Endurance coach Adam Mills since late 2012. This season, my team was fortunate to have the opportunity to do a big spring block in Europe this year. Here’s a little on my experience and my takeaways from that cold month!
What’s it like to race in the Spring Classics? I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous this past February when I headed straight from snowy Colorado to Europe with Team Colavita for a week in Limoux, France, followed by Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Omloop Van Het Hageland, Rondo Von Drenthe (WWT), and Drentse Acht Van Westerveld. I went into the trip knowing that I was well prepared physically thanks to Adam Mills of Source Endurance, but I still had no idea how the racing would go. A lot of Americans struggled with European racing the first time they race there, so I tried to keep an open mind and focused on learning.
I finished nothing! I had a race-ending mechanical the first race, and the rest were all positioning related. I learned a ton. It was so different than U.S. racing.
- Europe has deeper fields. In the U.S. I am one of the stronger power riders, but there I felt more average. The depth of the field was impressive. The courses often led to shattered fields and gaps that would be racing ending opened up in a blink of an eye.
- Huge fields. In the U.S. we usually top off at about 120 for stage races with a dwindled field by the end. Some of these were much larger, near 200 and all unfamiliar riders.
- Narrow roads & Road furniture. In the U.S. our roads are much wider and have fewer “features” on average. It was a bit terrifying hearing the peloton yelling “small” (the simplest word most riders could understand) and not knowing if it meant that the curb was going to jut into the road for a “traffic calming zone” or if there was a middle barrier, or something in between. Of course, the reaction to someone yelling “small” is to accelerate towards the unknown object and then dodge at the last second. Surprisingly, there weren’t many crashes.
- Aggressive and close riding. There are no personal bubbles in Europe! Riding is much closer and more aggressive. A moment not focused can easily mean your wheel getting snatched and losing position. Sidewalks, dirt, and roundabouts are all fair game. The peloton churns differently and this was a struggle for me to position well.
- Prestige. These races are so historic! Being a part of that really was special. The cycling playing cards were new to me and people asking for signed jerseys.
It was an incredible experience to have a go at these historic races and I’m really grateful for Adam giving me the recipe for great fitness and my team and sponsors for all the support!