June 16, 2008 – Since we last spoke with Erinne Willock (Webcor Builders) in January she’s had a number of successful rides with her trade team, and with the women’s Canadian National Team scoring increasingly commendable results in US, as well as in Europe. At the challenging 10-day Tour de l’Aude in France, Willock rode her way to an impressive 12th place overall and her Webcor team finished 9th in the Team GC, another strong statement that they are a force to be reckoned.
Following her l’Aude performance Willock arrived in top form for the Montreal Women’s Road World Cup on May 31st where again she impressed finishing 7th. The 5-stage Tour du Grand Montreal (TGM) followed and Willock was the top Canadian in 6th overall. With the Canadian selections for Beijing pending we caught up with the tired but happy rider after the TGM to talk about her successes and goals for the rest of the season.
How are you feeling after the whirlwind race schedule you’ve just completed.
Erinne Willock: Well I’m happy to be going home tomorrow. I’ve been gone from home since April 1, so it’s been about 2.5 months on the road. But, I am really happy with how successful it’s been. We began our road trip working for Alex’s (Wrubleski) win at Redlands and then flew directly to Holland to start the Europe leg. We were really lucky that we even got to race in Europe since at the beginning of the season Canada was without a budget and both Canada and Webcor were struggling for invites to UCI events. Team Webcor’s success in Australia and New Zealand helped Canada and Webcor receive more invites to other World Cups and UCI events. It’s important to note that neither of those trips would have happened without the help of two specific sponsors – so a huge thanks to L2RCP who funded the Canadian European project and La-Z-Boy who funded the Webcor trip to Australia and NZ.
What was Webcor’s game plan going into the Tour de l’Aude?
EW: After we lost Katheryn Curi to a broken collar bone from a crash at Fleche Wallone, we were really missing one of our power horses. But we still went with six strong girls, and Alex, Christine and myself were hoping for a good ride. I’ve done this race several times and have been on the winning team with Lyne Bessette finishing 9th there myself in 2005, so before the race I was trying to give everyone the necessary pointers and help as much as possible. We didn’t really know how it would pan out – l’Aude is such a long and hard race and as we expected, a lot can happen. We knew that we could have three riders in the lead group over climbs and were hoping for some good individual GC, Team GC results and stages. Webcor finished 9th in Team GC but the team was actually much stronger – we were 2nd overall until we lost two of our riders.
At what point did you realize that this could be a big race for you in terms of results?
I’ve always performed well at l’Aude and love the race. Believe it or not I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t place higher. I ride my best when there are tough climbs and against the strongest competition. My legs got going better on the TTT after Stage 2. I lost a little bit of time in the prologue and Stage 1 and then we had a team crash in the Stage 3 TTT but after that the Tour for me went great. I was able to respond to attacks on the climbs from riders like Judith Arndt and Amber Neben, and from that point I was climbing amongst the top climbers and new my form was only getting stronger everyday throughout the Tour.
What was going through your head when Susanna Ljungskog made her attack on the 2nd of three big climbs on Stage 4?
EW: “Where’s she going in such a hurry? She won’t be able to keep that up,” ha ha”¦
The Montreal Women’s Road World Cup has always been one of your best races. What are your thoughts on the race this year?
EW: The Montreal World Cup was not a race for Webcor this year. We started out with Christine getting two flats in the first couple of laps, and Janel giving up her race to help. So, very early on Webcor was down to two riders (Alex and I). Alex was tired from jet-leg and wasn’t her normal self. The race was also very different this year as several top riders that normally compete in this race, like Nicole Cook, Amber Neben, Trixi Worrack were not in attendance because they are following a specific preparation plans for the Olympic Games. The race became very tactical and not as fast as it normally is. I felt strong in the race but didn’t have much snap, as I felt a little sluggish from the trip back from Europe and the hard racing at l’Aude. I was very close to making the winning break with Luperini and Arndt, as I was able to respond to the attack but lost contact near the top of the climb.
You were the top Canadian at the Tour du Grand Montreal – are you pleased with your performance?
EW: Yes, especially in the TT. I was using the race to gain more form and raced as aggressively as I could. Also, the Tour is typically thought of as a flat sprinting race, which is not my forte, so I was especially happy to show form in a stage race like this, after performing well at l’Aude which is a hilly stage race. On the final stage of the TGM I was in a break for almost 100km and we (Webcor) were hoping that I could move up in GC spots (which I did with time bonuses) or that if the break got caught it would set up my teammate Christine to go with the counters and possibly a stage win. But since we were down to only three riders by that day, Christine was in every move for the last 10-15km but unfortunately they didn’t end up being the final move.
What’s next on your schedule and are the Beijing selections your primary focus?
EW: Next on my schedule is heading home for a 3-week break from racing before I go to the Canadian Road Nationals. Beijing is my primary focus and has also been my life long dream. I don’t know what the CCA will use as their selection criteria, but I am hoping those involved in the selection look hard at the demands of the course which involves 2x up a tough 10km climb. The course will be very selective and it will be a select group of climbers contending for a medal. My coach has carefully planned for me to peak at the Olympics so I’ll be taking the next three weeks to do some specific preparation for Beijing. After Nationals we (Webcor) will be racing at BC Superweek, and then flying to Germany to compete in a 6-day stage race in Thuringen. This should set us up for a solid performance for the Olympic Road Race two weeks later.
Good luck and we wish you all the best Erinne.