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Julie Leth Blog: The difference a year makes

Lining up for Ronde van Drenthe, I was more nervous than usually. Last year’s edition was not a great experience for me. In June 2015, I crashed, and was out the rest of the season. I started my 2016 season in Australia, but Drenthe was one of my first spring races. Until then, I had felt fine being back in the bunch. Not awesome, but okay. I guess the thrill of racing meant I was not thinking much; I was just so happy to race! In Drenthe this changed. I found myself at the very back of the bunch. I felt paralysed. I was stressed, and all my movements were stiff. I tried to move to the front of the peloton, but as soon as I heard the sound of someone braking, I panicked. It took me 50km to see the front of the race, but it was short lasted. I was no help to the team what so ever. I raced the race from behind, and dragged myself through. I somehow managed to finish, but promised myself, this would not happen again. 

That night, I got in touch with my sports psychiatrist, whom I started working with shortly after the crash. I was aware that the chances of me being scared in the bunch were big. I guess I was never really naive or stressed about it. I just saw it as a natural reaction to the accident, and as a part of the process. I knew I had to work with it. I told him, how I felt in the bunch, and how I reacted to certain scenarios. We talked it all through, and he started giving me the tools I needed to cope with my fears. I was taught how to control my thoughts and stressful situations. I kept working with it, and reading through all my notes, making sure, I knew exactly how to handle my thoughts, if I started feeling stressed in the bunch again. When I lined up for Flanders, it was another Julie standing on the line. I felt confident I was not going to feel the same as in Drenthe, and I didn’t.  Not for the rest of the season either. 

Truth be said, I hadn’t given it much thought, before I was in the car on my way to the start of Drenthe this year. I could feel the nerves coming, and the memories of last year’s race creeping up on me. I decided to show myself that I am at a different place than last year. Before the neutral start was over, I was at the front of the bunch, and there I stayed. I felt confident in the bunch and I entered the first cobbled section in first position. The race hadn’t really been hard yet, but that’s not really the point. I was up there. 

Unfortunately, I was a bit unfocussed at a critical time in the race, after all the cobbled sections, and got piped in the wind. I was upset with myself, for not being able to help Jolien and Elisa further into the race.

Even though I left Drenthe with a bit of personal disappointment, I was happy to prove to myself that I had nothing to be nervous about at all.

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