The Rally Cycling women's team is revving to go in Nice, France as they prepare for the biggest one-day race of the year - La Course by Le Tour de France. After a period of quarantine, the team has been training in the French Riviera for the most significant season restart in program history.
We spoke with the six-woman La Course roster about their expectations for this marquee race and how they have fared through weeks of high-stress air travel, training, and testing.
US-born Leigh Ann Ganzar had to quarantine on arrival in Europe.
"Quarantine was not as bad as I expected. I was in a really positive and encouraging environment, and my training was focused on high-quality, so I emerged feeling motivated to race. I also have my research job outside and it was nice to have other work to occupy time and keep my mind engaged.
I'm thinking about this return to racing as if it is the start of the season again. Going into the Australian races in January, I knew it would be a shock to the system, so I'm approaching La Course in the same way."
Emma White, who had been focused on the track at the Tokyo Olympics until the games were postponed to 2021, turned 23 while in quarantine.
"We had to quarantine in the UK for 14 days and when we were finally let out of the house, it made me appreciated the little things in life a bit more. The biggest challenge was that we couldn't leave our property for anything, even training. We sourced a Wahoo trainer from a fan and rode Zwift for two weeks. The time went by pretty fast and on the last day we were quarantined, I celebrated my birthday!
We have a really strong team this year and it's my first time racing with Chloe as a teammate. La Course will be challenging and fast, so we're planning to be present throughout and prove that quarantine didn't negatively impact our fitness."
Canadian Sara Poidevin's journey to Nice was simpler than some of her teammates, and she too is seeing this as a fresh start, rather than a restart.
"I was fortunate to not have to quarantine because I am Canadian. I tested at home, traveled to France, got tested again, and then met up with the rest of the team.
I'm feeling a mix of emotions, as I'm sure most riders are! It's kind of like a new beginning to the season, so I'm a bit nervous for sure, but I'm really looking forward to getting back to it with my teammates!"
Krista Doebel-Hickok was one of the team's top performers in the Virtual Tour de France held on Zwift in July, a crucial bridge between the two halves of this strange season.
"I'm grateful that Zwift and its virtual races helped me stay motivated and focused throughout these last few months. I'm in a good frame of mind to apply my fitness. That combined with a great team atmosphere and amazing support means we'll line up on Saturday with confidence.
It's a challenge and it may be a shock to our bodies and minds, but I in no way accept our lack of recent racing as an excuse to underperform. We have all put in the work to be fit and ready to live up to our own expectations. I'm also very grateful for the opportunity because it took a lot of hard work by a lot of people."
It's still settling in for Heidi Franze that after months of isolation that the team is back in Europe to race their bikes.
"It's surreal to be back in Europe after so long. It's really great to be back in the team atmosphere and feed off of the excitement to get back on the start line. It's crazy to go from being home in the US where the situation is not great, having a set routine around the pandemic, and then fitting a whole bike race into that. It seems almost impossible logistically but it's remarkable seeing how teams and organizers are adjusting to make these races happen.
I spent more time on my bike this summer than I ever have, just enjoying the hours and doing things I wouldn't normally get to do on the bike when in a stricter training setting. I'm excited to bring that enjoyment I found on the bike back to racing."
Chloe Hosking traveled from an Australian winter to a private training camp in the mountains above Nice.
"I've really enjoyed being back in Europe and love being in warm weather again. I was a bit apprehensive and anxious about traveling but had some great advice from the team doctors and felt like I managed it quite well. I took myself to quite an isolated area atop a mountain near Nice. It was perfect.
Being back in the team environment has been great and I'm looking forward to racing with the ladies again."
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