• Korina’s Euro Diary: La Samyn des Dames

    by  • March 14, 2014 • euroNews, womyn on weels

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    Being in Europe for my first block with the National team I find myself fighting in every race. Continually working on positioning, aggressiveness, and the ‘pop’ it requires for each time up a berg or cobbled section. I’ve gone from being an amatuer to being on the National Team very quickly and skipped a few steps along the way. I wanted to sit down and get to know my teammates here in Europe and learn a little more about each of their experiences getting to where we are today. After a killer finish in La Samyn des Dames (6th) I asked Maura Kinsella, former NorCal racer, about her riseto cycling, and if racing here ever gets easier.

    Korina: This is your second trip over with the National Team. Have you noticed a difference between your first and second trip?

    Maura: My first trip over I was competing in stage races so it made it a lot easier for me to get the hang of european racing at a faster pace. Getting to race back to back forced me to get much more comfortable in the peloton. This off season I got the invite to come back and I worked really hard in Boulder. I knew what to expect so I tried my best to mimic that in training.

    How did the race unfold in La Samyn?

    It was an awesome day! I felt really good and was able to position myself well throughout. I made it into the front group every lap after the cobbles and after the final time through, there was only about 30 of us left – of the more than 150 starters. The last kilometer was a false flat and a hard, long power sprint. I was in perfect position with 250 meters to go, sitting on Amy Pieters’ wheel – winner of last weeks Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – but unfortunately the finish turned into utter chaos. It was the longest 200 meters ever, with people starting to box me in, so I had to fight to not get swarmed. At the end, there weren’t any teams left, so everyone was pretty much on their own. Emma Johansson, who went on to win, gained a couple seconds from attacking a hundred meters out but 3rd through 6th were really tight. Obviously, I’m bummed that I couldn’t fair better, but I’m still really happy with the result and hungry for more!

    Was there a point in the race where things clicked? Where you thought you’d be able to pull off a top ten finish?

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    I had been feeling good all day, but once I got over the last section on the cobbles I knew I could do something special.

    What would you say is the biggest difference between racing at home and racing over here in Europe?

    Everything! I remember last year at Tour de l’Ardeche looking ahead in the peloton and it was the biggest field I had ever seen. Then looking behind me and that too was the biggest field I had ever seen. Racing here is a lot more aggressive, back at home we have these bubbles when we race. Here there are five people in your comfort zone at any given time. The bike handling is also much better. What would be catastrophic crashes back at home are avoided easily by the peloton, though there are still a fair amount of crashes in each race. I think the racing here really suits me. I hate the ‘negative racing’ which is pretty common back at home. Here, it’s hard the whole race and I do better at the end because of that. I’m definitely a power type racer.

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    You coined the term Stylewatts and we all know those are real! Tell us about Happinesswatts.

    Happiness watts are even more real than style watts! I think there are way too many serious cyclists out there. You see so many cyclists who are super disciplined, won’t drink, always on a diet, and follow what their coach says to a T. I think enjoying yourself is just as important as being disciplined. For me it’s all about finding the right balance with the sport. If i take it too serious I stop having fun and when it’s not fun my racing sucks. I think when I’m happier I’m faster – therefore happiness watts came about.

    *Maura came in 6th at La Samyn des Dames so I too believe that happiness watts are real!

    What’s your favorite part about racing over here in Europe?

    The focus we’re able to have. We get to live and breathe cycling while we’re here. Being around the best female cyclists in the world is also something special. It’s how you get better.

    How about the hardest part?

    The racing; it’s so physically demanding, but the mental aspect is even harder. Alexis Ryan said racing here is like playing a video game and it’s true. It’s like Mario Cart. If there’s a gap you have to squeeze in it or be off the back.

    After your result at Het Nieuwsbald and La Samyn you’ve been deemed one of the ‘riders to watch’ by Peloton Watch. Is that overwhelming?  Exciting?  Daunting?

    All of the above. But it’s definitely a good confidence boost going into the next race on Sunday.

    We’re seeing more and more American teams come race in Europe do you think it’s beneficial?

    Definitely, there’s nothing that mimics what it’s like to race over here. Even describing it doesn’t do it justice. I think we can bring a lot of what European racing is like back home to America and bring the style of having hard racing all the time. A lot of the top teams like Optum, United HealthCare, Specialized-Lululemon, and Tibco are coming over and racing a few blocks here and I think bringing that back to the American peloton will not only make for better racing it’ll also help bring more depth to American racing.

    How did you like racing in NorCal?

    I loved it, but it was hard! I came to NorCal for college and was a Cat 2 in the midwest. Being a Cat 2 in the midwest is totally different than being a Cat 2 in Norcal and racing in the P1/2 field where there are actually pros in the field.

    What’s your favorite NorCal race?

    There’s a lot of really good races in NorCal but my favorite would have to be either Vacaville or Cat’s Hill.

    Those are both races with power climbs? Would you say that’s more your style of racing?

    I guess I didn’t notice that connection. Yes, I like those style of races because it breaks it up early. Plus having sections like that really help encourage hard racing all the time

    Here’s how we’re going to cap this off: I’ll give you two random choices and you pick your favorite.

    Road races or crits: Road Races

    Red or White Wine: Red

    French Press or Pour-Over: French Press

    Dance parties or beatboxing: they go hand in hand. A night that has dance parties definitely has beatboxing.

    Boonen or Cancellera: Cancellera

    10 speed or 11: 11

    Cobble or bergs: Cobbles

    Flanders or Roubaix: Flanders because there’s a women’s race!

    NorCal or Boulder: Ahh, you can’t do that to me….Depends on time of year!

    Taking the Spring Classics one cobble at a time. Photo by Korina Huizar

    Taking the Spring Classics one cobble at a time. Photo by Korina Huizar

    Taking the Spring Classics one cobble at a time. Photo by Korina Huizar

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    Chris Harland-Dunaway grew up in the town of Moraga and now lives in Palo Alto. He is a recent UC Davis grad and Norcal racer for Marc Pro - Strava -- www.marcpro-strava.com --