Dani has just got back from Belgium. And unlike the Spin Meister’s last visit, she wasn’t there for the beer. 

Instead of sampling the waffles, moving on to the frites and the moules, and washing down with a 1/2 litre or two of the Ode Kwaremont, Dani was there on a mission of a different kind. To pilot her titanium Spitfire in anger, up against the cream of the euro ladies peloton in the Trofee
Maarten Wynants UCI 1.2 road race.

Here’s Dani with her career changing story so far: from commonwealth champion runner to euro bike racer.  

Dani (2nd right) lines up  with her Isorex pro team mates

Doing it the hard way

Nearly a year on from my first bike
race seems like a suitable time for reflection. 

Maybe I should comment on how far
I’ve come in 12 months. Acknowledging the improvements in physical, tactical
and technical aspects, yes agreed, but that would just fuel those who enjoy
saying “it just takes time”. As is the case with all athletes, I want
success and I want it now. Success is showing its face but I know that I still have a lot of learning to do. 

Success In Scotland
As part of a training block in Scotland last week I raced the first round of the Scottish
National Road Race Series. 

Dani wins Round 1 of the Scottish National Road Race Series

A decent field assembled on what turned out to be my
first race in the rain (yes I’ve been very lucky so far). Never has the
phrase ‘when it rains it pours’ been more apt. In really difficult conditions, and barely able to see
for the last 20km, my confidence grew as my bike handled beautifully. As it hugged and followed the road, I sprinted to

Dani 1, Experience 0

On The Tour
Three days later I headed to Stoke for my first experience of the Tour Series, also known as a Kick in the Teeth!

Dani attacks at the Pearl Izumi Matrix Fitness Tour Series

Long story short: I managed to pull my foot out on the hill
and boom! The leaders were gone. Stoke was a long way to travel for a threshold
ride and some cornering practice.

Dani 1, Experience 1

The Ardennes Campaign
And so to the race that my week was
really all about. The Trofee
Maarten Wynants UCI 1.2

I was filled with pure excitement about
racing in Belgium, I would have loved to have been able to represent my team
SPEG Project 51 but for this race I was invited to guest for the Belgian team

Isorex made me feel really welcome and it was a pleasure to ride for
them. My goal for the race? Jump feet first into the unknown and give a good
account of myself. This was going to be a very fast race so I slotted my K2 Carbone SLR38s into the Spitfire and prepared for battle to commence. And there certainly was no easing into the
professional peloton: it was quick from the off. 

With the road narrowing to
allow only 3 riders wide in a 100+ strong peloton you want
to be up at the front. Of course you do – and so does everyone else.  But hey, I
like to make it hard for myself. On lap three I was towards the back of the bunch when just ahead there was a near touch of wheels, a slow acceleration out of a corner
and a small gap opened up. Before I knew it that gap became a
void. Three of us started working together to claw it back but it soon became
apparent that my two accomplices just weren’t strong enough. 

That left me with no choice: I had to go it
alone. Never before
had I competed amidst a top-level UCI peloton, let alone chase one down alone, but there was
no way my race was finishing before it had even got going. Then confidence,
that elusive but necessary quality, finally returned. It’s this confidence you need to bury yourself: and only by doing so was I able to close the gap solo. 

Dani fighting solo to make it back to the bunch

Back in the bunch the tempo was relentless and over the remaining distance the fast pace simply decimated the field. But despite my earlier mammoth effort, I was still up there heading to the finish line. My legs
may have been feeling a bit jaded but my head wanted more. Unfortunately it
wasn’t to be. In a pretty messy finish I remained in the
saddle to cross the line in 38th place, mid bunch. By no means a disgrace in my
first race over 100km, my first race outside of the UK and my first UCI

I’m going for a tie on this one, 1
point apiece.

Dani 2, Experience 2

At the end of the week it’s all square with
everything to play for.

Here are the three things I learnt from

It’s fast

I like it

I want more