Australian Lauretta Hanson blogs about her first experiences in the European pro peloton.
I am currently sitting, staring out a plane window, looking off into the distance at snow-capped mountains. I assume that we are somewhere over France as we make our way to Brussels for yet another weekend of the spring Classics. All of these things – Belgium, France, snow, mountains – they’re all so far from everything that I once knew, but they have somehow become the norm as I settle into life as a European pro.
I’m Lauretta Hanson. I grew up in a small town in regional Victoria, Australia and I started racing when I was eight years old. I never expected that bike racing would take me across the world, and I never expected that it was a possible career, yet here I am. I am one of 13 riders that make up the Trek-Segafredo women’s team, and although I am not the youngest, I am the least experienced in racing in the European peloton.
I started racing bikes in Australia, then moved to the USA for six years, and now I find myself living in Spain and competing in some of the biggest races in women’s cycling, and for one of the biggest teams in the women’s peloton! Fortunately for me, I am surrounded by a wealth of experience, both on and off the bike, and every day is a new experience and a unique opportunity to learn.
You laugh, you cry, you suffer a whole roller coaster of emotions, and maybe one day this will feel like the norm.
So, what have I learned so far?
Of course, I have learned all the little things – how to prepare for a race, how much food to take, when to eat, what to wear – and I’ve also learned some bigger things that I feel are important as an athlete, but also in day-to-day life.
Go with the flow
As an athlete, everything is planned and structured. You have goals and targets and a plan to get there, but sometimes you can’t control everything, or rather, it just doesn’t work out the way you wanted. It can be something big like a crash or illness that totally changes your season, or something minor like a delayed flight, which means you don’t get to ride that day. It’s less than ideal, but you adapt, change plans, and carry on.
My body is a temple, but it is not a fortress, and letting people in, building relationships and friendships, is what gets me through.
Your body needs rest
Sometimes the best training day is a recovery day. Almost all of these races have been harder than any race that I have done in my career so far. There is so much demand on my body physically, but mentally as well. Add in travel and other external stressors, and I’ll finish a race week feeling completely broken. Sometimes I forget and wonder what is wrong when I still feel like rubbish a few days later. Accepting fatigue and allowing myself extra time to recover is a challenge, but I also recognize that it is necessary to improve.
It’s ok to talk about your struggles
Mental health has been a big topic lately, and I think it should be. We are human, and we are not invincible. Transitioning to the European peloton, moving away from the familiarity and comfort of my family and friends has not been easy, but it is only recently that I have realized that talking about it helps. My situation is not unique, and so many others have experience, advice or empathy to give. My body is a temple, but it is not a fortress, and letting people in, building relationships and friendships, is what gets me through.
Every day brings a new challenge, and I have learned to take it in stride. You laugh, you cry, you suffer a whole roller coaster of emotions, and maybe one day this will feel like the norm. And perhaps one day I’ll be the seasoned pro offering advice to the newbie in the team. But for now, I’ll keep making mistakes and learning from them, to help me improve and keep moving forward.