The 12km individual time trial course gave the riders a headache trying to figure out whether they preferred to go fast on their road bike or go fast on their time trial bike. During last night’s meeting, Raymond gave some final advice on what to do, but mostly: make that decision and stick to that for now. Minds may always be changed after the recon. The difficulty seemed to be in the upwards line of the road (i.e. going up a mountain). It was nothing like a Dutch time trial: no flatness to be found in this route. The riders individually made their decision considering their own experience, specialty, and gut-feeling.
Up first was Esther at the beautiful time of 11:11am. Logistically, these time trials are a slight pain in the ass, because the team cars cannot be at multiple places at the same time. Marit started her time trial five minutes behind Esther, so if Esther had a (mechanical) problem, the car would not be too far behind her. Esther faces no problems and actually enjoyed the absence of talking in her ear. She crossed the shady finish line with 30:57 on the clock, and therefor managed to get the 87th place. Soon after, Marit finished with a time of 31:01, getting the 89th spot today.
For the lay person, the course they had concurred looked a bit like this: speeding off the starting slope, sharp bend to the left out of the town, onto a roundabout, and then up the hill, bend, up the hill, bend, up the hill, bend… you get the picture. The Parkhotel Valkenburg cheerleading hooligans had outdone themselves on the road this time and written down all the names of our warriors in a bend that went up (plus the website for free publicity. Very business minded). On the ‘flat’ bits – or even a little down-hill bits- is where the riders could put their bikes in some impressive gears and use all of their strength to push those pedals down.
Sophie de Boer decided to push down the pedals of her road bike for this time trial ride and she smashed it. Shooting her snot and flume into the bush every 20 meters, she kept her own steady pace and hold the second-best time for a long time. After all the aliens and humans were in, she ended up with the 60th fastest time, 05:11 behind the winner.
Nina had made the decision to ride her road bike as well, based on the argument she did not want to burden her muscles too much; muscles that would then get sore and she would have to deal with that soreness for the remaining four stages. Legit reason and legit result! She took 35th place (+04:06) and then casually stated it actually felt quite easy.
The last two Parkhotel riders were de Vuijst and Vollering, both on their time trial bikes and in their skinsuits. Sofie was up first and her dad was coaching her from the team car. They knew fellow Belgian rider, Julie van de Velde, started one minute behind her. They also knew that Julie loves time trial and crushes time trials. This was a constant point of feedback from father to daughter: Julie is not running in, we cannot see Julie, etc. This gave Sofie a focus point and a way to keep pedaling hard. After cutting the corners in amazing lines and keeping a mesmerizing cadence, she took spot 29 with a time of 28:07. When Demi passed the finish line with a time of 27:12, she was the provisional pink jersey wearer of all the cyclists that had passed that line before her. Only a about a dozen still had to finish, which makes that an amazing result.
Even though the Parkhotel team did not ride together today, they still supported one another where they could: from bringing bags up the mountain, riding in the follow car and clocking the rider behind her team mate, lending out race glasses and head sets, to getting ice cream together after the race. When Demi was still cooling down on the Tacx, most of the riders gathered around her with camping chairs or sitting on the town benches. Experiences, tactics and laughs were shared, and the spirits were high. Let’s see what they can bring for stage seven. This will start in Cornedo Vicentino at 12:15am and will end 128.3km later in Fara Vincentino. This includes one sprint and three (!) official climbs, so time to get that green jersey back!
Text : Suzanne Schrijnder
Photo: Sportfoto.nl + Arne Mill