Meet guest blogger Manon Zuurmond, she started cycling just three years ago and she's already a hardcore biker. We just love her mindset and the way she inspires women to start cycling. She's a shero by heart. Last August she participated in the Alpebrevet, read her story.
172 km, 5294 altitude metres.
August 29th 2015
It was an early start at 6:45 am. It was a mass start but we arrived too early and therefore ended up at the front. The race started by the sound of the pistol and then the sounds of cleats clicking in the pedals. The Alpenbrevet had started. This is what I had looked forward too for six months, this is what I booked my holiday to Switzerland for, this is what I rode all these kilometres on my Amira for.
On Tuesday during a recon I started too fast on Grimsel (the first climb) and I wanted to prevent this today so I would have something extra on the final climb: the Sustenpas. So I took it slow this first climb. I named this the ‘snail’s tactic.’
On the top I had to say goodbye to my boyfriend and cycling buddy Ronald. I was upset for a while. He is the guy I trained with for kilometres. He knows exactly when I need a little push. He had to cancel his Alpenbrevet because of back ache. I would have to continue without him. I need to continue.
I dreaded Nufenen. It’s the hardest climb of the day I think. It’s uneven, has steep gradients and in the final 8 kilometres it’s nowhere less than 9% or over. Yes, this is the place I would need that 32. I didn’t bring it for nothing so I’ll use it. And no I don’t care what others think about this gearing.
Because Ronald abandoned we lost some ground and ended up at the back of the field. I started to overtake others, good for my morale. The first part was going relatively well. After this first part which included several hairpins, a long straight road at 9% average appeared ahead of me. There was this headwind, the sun burned and the sheer endlessness of that road without any turns. This really was the hardest part of my Alpenbrevet.
On top of Nufenen I sent a text to Ronald: ‘It is going reasonably well, now Gotthard.’ I followed my buddy Jan, who was with me during the whole tour, on a long descent made up of concrete slabs. It looked just like some roads in Belgium, but it is nothing compared to the cobbles that awaited me on Gotthard.
The ‘snail tactic’ required that I increased my pace about now: start easy and become stronger throughout the day. The Gotthard started with asphalt. The asphalt would be interrupted once in a while by some cobbles. This enabled me to feel the legs. And they felt good so I changed gears. ‘Going great Manon,’ three Dutch riders who I passed yelled. Oh yes of course, my name is on my bib number. But they were right, I was going great. My ‘snail’ tactic really worked!
All of a sudden Jan steered left. One of our friends was sitting in the grass. I steered left too. Gone was the rhythm. Our friend Koene didn’t look well. ‘Heat stroke’, he said. He was happy to see us and continued with us.
Before I knew it the cobbles were there. For six kilometres and with eight bars in my tyres I bounced around. It was such a great feeling to ride on such an old road. With the panoramas and the many hairpins it felt good.
After drinking a cold Fanta at the top we descended towards Wassen, the foot of the Sustenpas. The Susten starts wonderfully and fierce with 9% from the start and with lots of corners through tunnels and over a beautiful waterfall. After this beautiful start the road is just straight ahead, boring and kilometers long uphill. When we did the recon on Tuesday my speed was 7km/h. Today I managed to maintain a speed between 10 and 12 which satisfied me enormously. The tactic still worked!
'Let’s wait for Koene, I don’t see him anymore,’ Jan said. This was the start of the battle Koene fought with the Susten. With our help he climbed back on the bike again and again. He was done with the Alpenbrevet, done with cycling. I wished I could have given him a bit of my energy, some of my good legs and some of my morale. Two more turns. You can do this!
Just before the first of the last two turns, we stopped. Jan came up to me and asked when the checkpoint on the Susten closed. I wasn’t thinking about things like that. I just wanted to help Koene make it to the finish. ‘It’s quarter past eight, we’ll never make it, the checkpoint closes at nine thirty’ Jan said. What? We are not going to make it to the finish line? Dissapointment. A text to Ronald. ‘We won’t make it * censored *.’
I saw Koene, completely empty. Soon the angry thoughts left my head. We couldn’t leave him here, we had come so far. Then no official finish, it’s only a sportive, a sportive I had hoped to finish. Moreover, I did ride it, entirely (because we eventually made it to the finish but way too late), and enjoyed it a lot. And enjoyment is only thing that counts.