“It feels like summer camp, doesn’t it, Clara…” Teammate Ina Teutenberg states the obvious with her hearty German laugh. Ina and I go way back. We’ve ‘camped’ many a times together during women’s races in Europe. Only this time, in Holland, we’re teammates instead of racing on respective National Teams. And the camp? Well, I have to admit, this is a few steps up from the infamous summer camp spots we stayed during grueling races like the long-cancelled Tour Cycliste Feminin. During the race we’d endure two weeks of hell criss-crossing France. I’ve done more times than I care to remember. We’d finish stages, drive for 5,6, sometimes 7 hours only to arrive at the most rustic of summer camps. Kids camps with no hot water and little food. The organizer of that race was sadistic to say the least.
The camp we’re at in Holland is pretty swank in comparison. I’d liken it to an Ikea showroom. With six of us crammed into a house I can hardly complain. It’s clean and warm. Yes, it’s cramped, Ina and I share a small closet of a room with a bunk bed but it’s all good. It’s just funny more than anything: we are in our late 30’s and ‘camping out’. Funny, ha-ha…
Our little room
Ina getting a rub from Nicole in our Ikea living room
Today was sort of a calm before the storm. Almost enjoyable to get blown around on the cross-wind sections of the course, because it was me and only me out there. I could choose the line I wanted and ride where I wanted. No such luck tomorrow. With 160 girls on the line, it will be all-out war. A battle every inch of the way. Over one hundred kilometers of fighting for every inch you get on the road, and then fighting some more to keep your inch of territory.
The Engergiewacht Tour brings back a lot of memories. Also a lot of questions like ‘am I really still going this?‘. ‘This’ being the bike racing thing. I’m not sure of the exact local, but I know we’re east of Heerenveen where I’ve spent much of my speed skating racing life. Heerenveen happens to the be the center of the speed skating universe. This world of women’s cycling could not be further away from this universe.
There’s a reason I felt relief each and every time I skated in Holland and saw the wind raging outside. Sometimes so strong the rain seemed to fall sideways. So many times when here for races I would think to myself ‘Wind? Rain? Shit weather?? It doesn’t matter, because I’m not a bike racer, and we skate inside!’. I’m eating those words now that I’m back in this wind-blown country where rain is like sun in California: expected and predictable.
Yes, this is summer camp for adults. We’re doing our best to act as juvenile as possible but the elder stateswomen of the peleton like Ina and me, well, we can’t help but talk about the fact that communal living won’t be topping the list of things we miss about bike racing when it’s all said and done. I actually don’t have anything to complain about because it’s been over a decade since I’ve been in this situation.
And I can’t say I mind it too much. The sport has come a long way since a decade ago. With races like this on the calendar and the enthusiasm from everyone involved, I’m okay with summer camping.
Ina and I joke that when we’re old ladies, we can look back and laugh about these times. Until then, I just feel pretty lucky to be racing my bike. Summer camp and all.