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Nettie Edmondson Blog: A real Challenge in Madrid

It’s 1:05 in the morning and I can’t sleep. We just raced Challenge Madrid and my mind won’t stop ticking. What a whirlwind of a race. a 12.6km TTT, followed by a 100km circuit race.

Our TTT was great. Despite a serious lack of training, our team did so well together. We barely lost any time on the technical sections and the girls finished off a strong ride to end up 2nd. I dropped with around 1.5km to go after a final pull and was happy to finally feel like I could contribute ‘something’ to the team. I was certainly the weak link, but when you have 2 months off or easy in the middle of the season, it takes a lot to get back to World-Tour fitness. Wiggle High5 hadn’t seen the team time trial podium in years, so this second place, 18s behind Sunweb felt like a win to us.

We started the following day in 5,6,7, 8 and 9th on GC. We had a lot of options. If any of our five got in a break and it stayed, we could win the overall. If any of those five won bonus seconds in a few of the 7 sprints, they could also move up into a podium position. We also had Kirsten Wild in the mix who could win the final sprint, so that was our priority.

Out in the race, the situation changed. Emilia won 8 bonus seconds in the first few sprints before a break of four got away. We decided to bring that back in the middle of the race to continue giving Emilia a chance to win bonus seconds for the GC, instead of waiting till the end for the final sprint. Elisa and I brought it back before a group of 17 riders escaped off the front. We should have had more numbers there, but fortunately, Audrey managed to make the cut. We were therefore sitting in 2nd on GC as only Ellen Van Dijk managed to make the split from the top four Sunweb riders. 

This was a good situation for us to be in. Audrey always gives so much to the team and we knew how much 2nd on GC would mean to her. We let the gap go out and watched as Cippolini and Lotto tried to bring it back. Unfortunately Audrey’s radio wasn’t working, so she was signalling a ‘thumbs down’ from across the lap. We took this message as ‘I’m not feeling good, bring this break back’, so in the final 15kms of the race, we went to the front and started working to bring the minute gap back for a sprint for Kirsten.

The bunch ALMOST came back, finishing around 10s behind. This actually turned out to be the worst possible situation for us in the end. Not only did we not get Kirsten up for a chance to win the stage, but by bringing the bunch so close to the leaders, meant that the three Sunweb riders in the peloton were all of a sudden back in the mix for GC. 

It was a mess at the finish. No one knew what was happening. The only consolation in this moment was hearing that our old teammate and much loved member of the peloton, Giorgia Bronzini won the race; her final before retirement. We were so pleased for her, but soon our happiness turned back to confusion as we tried to work out whether Audrey had finished on the GC podium or not. The internet was telling us she’d finished 2nd, while the organisers were telling us no. We sat at the camper and tried to help Audrey stay calm amongst the confusion. Audrey had actually been feeling good in the race, and the thumbs down was her way of saying she had no radio/asking what the situation was and whether she was ok to go ahead. She’d luckily managed to place in a few of the sprints and had taken 9s, which made us think she had to have held onto the podium. The internet now said she had finished third, but the organisation had just completed the GC podium presentation, complete with three Sunweb riders.

What a mess. I felt so sorry for Audrey. This could have been her first World Tour podium, and instead, this mess was what she got.

I had to run off to antidoping whilst the team had to head off to the airport and drop off Lisa, Emila and Kirsten. We soon received a photo from Audrey of her being interviewed by a camera backstage as she was indeed, awarded third place on GC. I know mistakes can happen but this was so sad. If there was any doubt, why rush. Get it right and give those who earn the reward the chance to stand in the spotlight.

I’m happy the bunch stayed away. It was certainly a messy situation trying to deal with hand signals, broken radios, and bonus seconds, but in the end it worked out well; Kirsten had already said she was happy for Audrey to go for the GC – it wasn’t vital for her if she didn’t get to sprint, and one of the most special riders in the peloton was able to say good bye to racing in the best way possible. I don’t think there was a rider out there who wasn’t happy with the stage winner.

Congrats also goes to Ellen Van Dijk on the GC win, Coryn on 2nd and to Leah Kirchmann for also having to deal with the ridiculous situation.

With one more Women’s World Tour race left for the season, let’s hope things go a tad more smoothly in China next month!

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