After Team WNT Pro Cycling’s success in its first UCI race in Spain the next stop was Belgium and the challenge of the Dwars door Vlaanderen on the 22nd March. This one-day race takes in some of the tricky cobbled sections made famous over many years, such as the Oude-Kwaremont and the Paterberg over its gruelling 114 kilometres. However, the race hadn’t got underway before Team WNT Pro Cycling suffered its first crash. In the neutralised section there was a crash at the front of the peloton that involved Hannah Walker and Hayley Jones. Hannah was able to remount and ride hard for 20 km to get back in touch with the peloton, but it was the end of the race for Hayley who had to abandon.
Then came the climbs up the famous cobbles of the Oude-Kwaremont and the Paterberg. Keira found herself in the front group, but when the pace kicked up on the descent after the Paterberg she suffered a big crash. After coming to a halt at the bottom of a ditch and unable to move her leg, Kiera was forced to abandon and take a detour to hospital, where X-rays showed nothing broken, just bad bruising. On a more positive note Elise and Gaby both had strong rides, riding in the front group until it split on a long-cobbled section. Gaby comments: “Dwars door Vlaanderen was my first race of the season. It was great to be back racing in Belgium after a few years away. The race started off frantic and in true Belgian style we hit some of the most iconic cobbles climbs, ascents of the Oude Kwaremount and the Paterberg. The climbs split the race up and the decisive moves went over the top! It was quite windy so there were lots of echelons and it was a tough race. Positioning is very important out here, you need to be well placed going into the climbs and cobbled sections, I felt quite nervous today but lots of confidence and positives to take forward to the next race. Good to get the first race in the legs and looking forward to see what we can do as a team this year!”
Dwars door Vlaanderen was an early reminder of how tough it is racing at UCI level and 2017 remains a year of gaining experience for Team WNT Pro Cycling as the Team’s Communications, PR and Social Media Manager (and rider), Hannah Walker explains: “People generally only see the good side to racing a bike, whether that be winning or showing off your new equipment, but today was a tough day out for the whole team. Thankfully, the crashes delivered no more than bruised bodies and scratched bikes, annoyingly none of them were down to our riders, they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That said, we will come back stronger for the next races, and we have to accept to take the rough with the smooth, but always look to learn from our experiences.”