After driving back to Roth, Germany, we barely had to time to settle before we were packing our bikes again and heading to Belgium for Antwerp 70.3.
This was my second time to this race. I did it last year and was fortunate enough to walk away as the champion. I honestly had no idea how I would go this year or what to expect from my body. I was still recovering not only from Quelle Challenge Roth three weeks before but also from my crash. My right leg was still not right from my bingle with the car but there was no way I was missing this race. I had so much fun in Antwerp last year thanks to Marc Herremans that I was determined to give it a good go.
We arrived on the friday morning and Marc was there at the airport to pick us both up. He is such an amazing person, not only because of what he has been able to achieve since his accident but also because he is such a genuine and wonderful person- his enthusiasm is infectious.
We awoke on saturday to perfect weather- the sun was shining and it was about 26 deg. Last year race day was terrible- it poured rain for the entire bike ride. I was hoping for a day like today. Well it was not to be as we awoke on sunday morning to an overcast sky and wet roads. Oh well, at least I knew how to cope with this weather after last year.
From the time we left our hotel to the time we hit the water at 11am, it rained. Once on the bike, it did ease up- a bit. I had a fairly ordinary swim. I knew that I was not in great swimming shape- I had done the bare minimum in Verbier but I was still a little disappointed. But I was determined to make up for it on the bike and I felt great from the start- I feel so good on my Ceepo now and have my position dialed perfectly. Antwerp is dead flat so I knew it was going to be a fast day in the saddle. I rode as hard as I could and had caught all of the girls by the 23km mark. I was happy with how I was feeling and all of the work in the mountains was paying off. I felt strong and controlled.
I dismounted the bike with Belgian- Sophie Goos, and we had a lead of about 1 min on the next girl. I was a little slow in transition and left T2 in second spot. I started the run feeling quite good- much better than I felt in Roth three weeks before. The longer the run went on, the better I felt and by about the halfway mark my legs were ready to go. The gap had blown out to about 1min 10 by this stage but I was able to claw my way back into the race and by the 19km mark, Sophie's lead was down to 30secs. I gave it everything for the last two kms but fell short of catching her. The gap at the finish was a mere 18secs- for once in my life I wished the run was a couple of kms longer- who would ever have thought that day would come! But after everything I had been through this year with my surgery and then being hit by a car, I was more than happy with my result. The most important thing for me was that I had the fire back in my belly- it had been missing in my last few races. But it was back in full force for this race. I wanted to push as hard as I could, I wanted to hurt and I wanted to win- I love that feeling.
I cannot wait to return next year and try and win back the title. It is fantastic race and there is nothing better than finishing right in the centre of town. We had such a great time and the race is so well-run. If you ever get the chance- this is a must-do race- fast, fun and loads to do after the race is over.