Lizzy Bennett is one of nine cyclists keeping rider journals for The British Continental in 2021. The Welsh rider is the defending Curlew Cup champion and is now in a her second full year at the Drops-Le Col s/b Tempur team. In her first journal entry, she relives her day in the breakaway at her first race of the season…
The thought of racing Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the first big race of the season, filled me with a rush of anticipation and adrenaline like no other
I’ve never been so excited. The thought of racing Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the first big race of the season, filled me with a rush of anticipation and adrenaline like no other. It had been far too long sitting on the sidelines waiting for the racing to start again.
It was also the first time crossing the border since Covid-19 and Brexit. The panic of making sure I had all the right documentation for border control – including a travel letter by the governing body just to leave Wales, a negative PCR result, French and Belgium sworn statements and locator forms – filled me with nervous energy and a hint of trepidation just to get to the border. The reality was, thankfully, much better than I had expected. I sailed through, only being asked for proof of a negative PCR result and my UK passport.
We arrived a few days prior to Omloop Het Niewsblad. The team was reunited after nearly a whole year apart and it felt completely normal to be back together. The only diﬀerence was having to take protection measures against Covid-19. In the few days before the race, the team completed some nice training rides and a recon of the race. We have an increased international roaster this season, meaning new friendships and the opportunity to experience new cultures and ways of working. Being taken out of your comfort zone is good for your soul and performance.
The race was a 124 km mixture of cobbles and climbs. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is classified as a 1.Pro race but had the startlist of a WorldTour race. I was filled with a feeling of excitement and nerves. I hadn’t raced in so long. You can do all the training you want but racing is completely diﬀerent. There are so many other things to take into consideration.
The team plan was to get someone in the breakaway and look after our protected riders for the pointy part of the race. My job was the former. The first move went after 4 km. I followed and it happened to stick. There were three of us in the move and we worked really well together. I remember hearing my teammates and DS (Nico Marche) talking on the radio and giving me that extra motivation to give it my all as they could see the gap growing and growing, eventually reaching five and a half minutes.
We got caught a few hundred meters before the Molenberg with 38 km to go. From that point on it was about pushing for as long as possible to the finish. I eventually finished in the second group on the road that day.
Everyone was happy that day with the team’s performance. I’ve never raced like that before in such a big race and it was nice to do something diﬀerent. It was a great way to start the season and hit the ground running for the next races. We had five riders from the team finish in the second group, with Tata Martins our top finisher in 40th. It wasn’t the result we had aimed for but the way we came together as a team after a year of no racing is something we can be really happy with, providing a strong foundation for the rest of the classics season.