It was a day of highs and lows that ended fantastically for Mikayla Harvey of Bigla Pro Cycling.  After being prominent in the peloton throughout the race, Harvey’s race was brought to an end with a crash with 52km remaining of Ronde van Vlaanderen.  But disappointment quickly evaporated when teammate Cecile Ludwig took third place.

We wanted to know what goes into a day’s racing beyond what we see on TV, and in Mikayla’s case it was a day that started as early as 6.30am as she got ready for what is one of the biggest races in the professional calendar.  Here, in her own words, Mikayla Harvey shares what life doing professional cycling really looks like.

Waking up Sunday morning I was a bundle of emotions, I was about to start the biggest race of my career!  Our race began at 10:55, which meant I was eating breakfast just before 7am.  My alarm got me up at 6.30am. I rolled out of bed and did ten minutes of light yoga, before heading off to breakfast with my teammates. Usually I am an early riser and one of the first to make it to breakfast, but this morning we were all up nice and early!  My pre-race breakfast consisted of a massive bowl of porridge, mixed with a scoop of protein powder, almond milk and topped off with banana and a sprinkling of nuts. And of course, a cup of coffee!

After breakfast, I packed my luggage into the van and set off to the race start. Each race I have a similar routine. Our team staff make it super easy for us. We arrive to the start, and our bikes are all set up and ready to go next to our team camper van. Inside the van I have my own little cubby hole where my helmet, shoes and musette are kept. My musette is filled with race food and radio.

Next, comes the “what do I wear” dilemma. Everyone begins to discuss the best clothing options, from base layer to arm warmers to vest. Is it going to rain? Should I start with a gabba? After changing, I fill my pockets with race food and clarify with the swannies where we will be picking up more bottles and musettes during the race.

Lastly, I get warm up cream rubbed onto my legs and we do a quick radio check before grabbing our bikes and heading to sign on.

Stepping out of the camper van was quite surreal. There were so many fans and the atmosphere was incredibly motivating!  We did our sign on, last minute pee stop, then got to the start line. Now the nerves and excitement really started. The crowds at the start where CRAZY, I was pumped and ready to give it all for my team mates!

Annemiek Van Vleuten, Marta Bastianelli and Cecilie Ludwig on the podium at the end of Ronde van Vlaanderen, photo provided

My role for the day was to protect my lead rider for as long a possible. Team racing is a special thing. Our group is close knit, and riding for each other becomes really motivating for each one of us. When we lose, we lose together, and when we win, we win together!

Out on the course the battle began. Each section is a fight for position. Every moment requires full concentration. Especially, on the crazy Belgium roads!

My race came to an end after 105km. I crashed in the middle of the peloton. I was fine, just the usual bumps and bruises. I was a bit flustered and stressed out and my bike needed some help from my team mechanic. By the time I got going I was out of the convoy. I chased for several minutes before the tail end vehicle told me race over.  In that moment I was upset, the pinnacle part of the race was just about to start, and I had more to give to my team mates. However, I knew I had already done what was required from me for the day.

When I got back to my team, I found out that Cille had come third. I was pretty much jumping up and down with excitement. A Tour of Flanders PODIUM! WOOOHOOO!

Everyone was so excited, and the atmosphere was incredible. That Sunday was a very special moment and I will never forget my first Flanders!  Being able to play a part in an incredible team performance, is such an emotional experience.

It is always a little crazy post-race. The staff makes sure everything is very organised, from protein shakes to making us lunch boxes – usually rice and some form of protein. Once I finish racing, I try and get as much fuel as possible into me. Then take a quick shower and wrap up in some warm clothes. 

We couldn’t see Cille until after the presentation. So, me and a tea mate went to try and watch the presentation but we couldn’t find where to go and it was hard to get access anywhere. But at least we tried!

During this time the staff is busy packing everything up to take back to service course, and most of my teammates are quickly rushing off to catch flights home.  This was my first race where I was able to stay the night afterwards.  It was nice being able to enjoy the night and celebrate the epic result!

Flanders was super brutal, so recovery is important. When traveling back home I am careful against getting sick. Germs are everywhere, especially when using public transport – Pretty much every cyclist will carry around their own personal hand sanitiser and try not to touch anything!

I took Monday off the bike, but I am back into training this morning and will be racing Zwift tonight. However, after a hard bike race, its always important to listen to your body and not push back too quickly, especially when there are heaps more races on the horizon!

Photo: Sean Robinson/velofocus.com

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