BELGIUM – Starting off the season, Canmore road cyclist Sara Poidevin steered directly into two of the biggest races on the calendar.
But finish line results, said Poidevin, never tell the full story of the race.
“I had a good off-season of training, but there is nothing that matches the intensity of racing at that level, so my goals going into these races were to race as hard as I could for as long as I could, and to help set up two of my teammates in key moments in the race,” said Poidevin in an email to the Outlook.
The Rally Cycling product finished 83rd on April 21 to begin Belgium’s Ardennes Classics. After six months of not competing, Poidevin said it was a shock to the system to match pedal-for-pedal against the world's best women on wheels.
The 130-kilometre race is part of the UCI Women’s World Tour, the elite female road cycling series.
“The first race we did, La Flèche Wallonne, I felt rusty and out of practice moving around in the group, but by the second race, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, I was more confident and able to position myself well in the group leading into key moments,” she wrote.
On Sunday (April 25), Poidevin took on the 141-km Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes, also known as La Doyenne, or The Old Lady.
The one-day race has been giving racers trouble for nearly 130 years.
“I was able to make the front group of about 40 riders going over the first climb of the day, 55km into the race,” Poidevin wrote.
It gave the Canmore racer and Rally Cycling teammate Clara Koppenburg a chance to work together. At a pivotal moment into the fifth climb of the day, La Redoute, Poidevin tried to help position Koppenburg where a major split happens. But about halfway up the climb – 105-kms in the race – Poidevin lost contact with the front group and knew her day was done.
"I rode on my own in a strong headwind for about 20-km before being passed by groups that had been dropped early on in the race," she wrote.
Poidevin finished the race, but wasn't given a finishing time.
“This was my first experience racing the Ardennes Classics, and I was really excited about the opportunity,” she wrote. “I definitely know I am capable of more, but as I mentioned earlier, I need more racing intensity to be able to perform well at this level. There is huge depth in these fields, and I know that although it doesn't show on paper, I am fit and gave my best efforts on the day to go as deep as possible into the race.”
Up next, Poidevin races at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana in Spain from May 6-9. She’ll race in four one-day races in the following days, and then take on the Burgos Alimenta stage race in Spain from May 20-23.