Lauretta Hanson writes about her first full year in Europe, which didn't end the way she expected.
It has been a while since my last blog. In fact, it has been so long that my season has been over for some time. I’ve already returned to Australia to recover from a roller coaster of a season, and I just finished a super fun team-bonding camp in Waterloo, Wisconsin.
I have to say my season started well, but there were many ups and downs. I can’t say it was smooth sailing for my first go in Europe, and then I crashed at the Ladies Tour of Norway. While on the surface, I looked fine, lingering concussion symptoms and a chest infection brought my season to a halt. As it was a very anti-climactic ending, it makes it hard to feel satisfied in my first-year racing in Europe with the incredible team. Nevertheless, I know the decision to stop my season early was the right one, and it has left me with plenty of time to reflect.
So, how do I rate the first year with Trek Segafredo?
I have to say I have been quite fortunate in my career. I have always raced for teams that offered a positive environment and supported their riders as much as they could with the resources they had available. In the past, I was still reliant on the generosity of others, and I worked other jobs in the off-season to support myself. That all changed this year.
Trek built a team that provided sufficient financial resources and created an environment that allowed me to focus solely on being a professional athlete. It is a program that runs alongside and in conjunction with the men’s team – pooling resources, sharing knowledge, and treating us as equals. With the best equipment possible, salary, support staff, and information, I can focus solely on racing.
A roller coaster that peaked early, hit the first drop too soon and was just building up again to the big crescendo, only to stop before hitting the best part of the ride.
I have to admit, joining the team was quite daunting at first. When it was announced that Trek was building a team, there were already expectations. The names that filled the roster were women that I had idolized, and to say I wasn’t a little bit intimidated, would be a lie. Fortunately, this intimidation factor didn’t last long, and as the season wore on, my idolized teammates quickly became my friends. And, I have learned a lot from their wealth of experience.
Moving to Europe was a challenge. I had lived in America for so long that it was like my second home, and I was so comfortable there, I had almost forgotten I was a foreigner. Moving to Spain was something completely different, and it took me straight out of my comfort zone. I didn’t have a community or a support network there, and I couldn’t, and still can’t speak Spanish or Catalan. While I am still trying to learn, constantly travelling from country to country had me confused. I found myself saying hola when I should have been saying bonjourno, or a simple hello. Then, just as I’d grasp the absolute basics of wherever we were, we would be gone again, onto the next race and country.
And finally, there were the races. I don’t want to gloss over the fact that it was hard. It was crazy hard! It took me a while to get used to the narrow roads, massive peloton, and harsh conditions. Like always, the European season started with the spring Classics. Notorious for cobbles, cold weather, wind, and overall grueling racing, these races lived up to its name and, while maybe I say this sadistically, they became some of my favourite and best races of the year!
After the Classics and a little break, we followed up with a couple of mountainous races, where, I’ll admit, I wasn’t at my best. Thankfully, a mid-season trip home to Australia allowed me to reset, and I felt good again when I returned to Europe in July. I raced BeNe and Ride London, and I felt like I was gaining momentum when we arrived in Norway.
In Norway, my luck ended. My season ditched – literally. A rider crashed in front of me, and with nowhere to go, I catapulted her and down a deep ravine. Fortunately, this ditch was filled with stinging nettles and blackberries that absorbed my fall and saved me from gnarly road rash, but unfortunately, the way I had landed meant that my head and shoulder had taken most of the impact. I was pulled from the ditch, but soon after, stepped off my bike and into the car; my race and – unbeknown to me at the time – season finished.
And that was it. My first season in Europe. A roller coaster that peaked early, hit the first drop too soon and was just building up again to the big crescendo, only to stop before hitting the best part of the ride.
It didn’t end the way I wanted, or I thought it would, but I’m trying not to let that overshadow all the good things that came out of this year. I’ve learned and grown a lot, I’ve built a network in Girona, and I have the support of one of the best teams in the world. Yes, 2019 was a little rocky at moments, but I feel that I have finally found my footing. I may still have a long way to go, but at least now I have something to hold onto, something to build on, and I am looking forward to 2020 – and beyond!
Lauretta Hanson is racing her first season in Europe with Trek-Segafredo and is learning to laugh, cry, and suffer a whole roller coaster of emotions, hoping one day it will feel like the norm.