April 22, 2016 (Montreal, QC) – We caught up with Canada’s Lex Albrecht (Bepink) who won the QOM at La Fleche Wallonne for Women, 137km, held on April 20th in Wallonia, Belgium. Albrecht took the first Queen of the Mountain points at Côte d’Ereffe, then crossed the top of the Côte de Bellaire first. She earned her third QOM at Côte de Bohisseau and took more points at the top of the Côte de Bellaire to seal her victory. We caught up with Albrecht for her take on her stellar day.
Congrats on your great ride at Fleche Wallone – was the QOM your goal from the start?
Lex Albrecht: No. I have been so sick since just before the start of Emakumeen Bira (our last stage race in Basque Country) with what seems to be a nasty chest cold that I didn’t even think I would take the start. I did anyway. I had to work hard to get my head in the game before the race, but I decided I had to find a way to make being at this World Tour Race count. I heard that Fleche Wallonne could be a great race for me because of my style and specialties as a rider, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to at least give it a go. I told myself to forget how I was feeling and to race with my heart. My plan was to be on the very front from the earliest part of the race and throw in some attacks if I could before I’d get shelled off the back.
Have you ridden Fleche before?
Were you excited and afraid of the renowned Mur de Huy?
LA: Mur de Huy was the one part of the course that I hadn’t been able to check out the day before. I heard that it was tough, but from the description that my teammate Amber Neben gave to me (she knows it well, she has come close to winning on the Mur se Huy) I was mostly intrigued. Quite frankly I doubted I’d make it there with the pack so I really wasn’t sweating it. (Plus hills like that usually get me revved up, not stressed!) After the first time up Mur de Huy in the race, I was pretty much in love. It’s steep but pitchy, and a nice distance for me (1.3km).
Walk us through your race and the challenges you faced?
LA: I started on the front of the peloton early on, and our break got away after the peloton stretched out on the descent leading into the first climb at around 13km into the 137km race. Once the group of seven of us was off the front, I decided I wanted to be the first across the summit line of the climbs. I recalled that our director had mentioned that 300 Euro was to be awarded to first rider to summit each of the categorized hills in our race meeting the night before. I didn’t really care about that in the meeting, and I had no intention of going for it then, but when the opportunity was in my face on race day, I decided to go for it. My lungs were in rough shape and I left a lot of snot all over the roads (and myself…good thing it was a bike race and not a beauty contest) but my legs felt fine. I didn’t feel like I was burning extra matches going for the summit lines. Our break got up to a 4-minute lead over the peloton, and we dropped one of our breakaway companions along the way.
Somewhere after 100km into the race, the main peloton caught us. I thought I could jump in and stick on, but the effort it took by then was utterly painful for my lungs. Plus I’d accumulated a bit of fatigue! All I could feel were my lungs though…over the final kilometres and up the last two climbs, I had to be content with letting myself roll home with the group just behind the leaders. It was a good race considering my health, and the course is a new favourite now, especially the Mur de Huy.
It seems you became more confident as the race unfolded?
LA: I did discover that my legs were still working alright, and as long as I didn’t go too hard my chest could handle the load. I realized early on that I was the strongest in the climbs and that definitely gave me an extra confidence boost too.
Are you happy with your race and the confidence it gives you going forward?
LA: I’m satisfied with how Fleche Wallonne went, because I feel like I achieved my goal of “being in the game” and making it count, even if I had my doubts about what my body could do. I think going in with a good attitude made all of the difference. Every race this year has either given me more confidence or made me more fired up to fight harder and be better for the next one. Now my focus is getting healthy before the next competition.
This is your first year racing in Europe with BePink your new team – talk about the transition and how it’s been going?
LA: Racing in Europe is a bit of a different ball game compared to North America. For me, an analogy that describes it well is that back home, racing felt like highschool whereas over here it feels like University. In school, I did my degree in my second language that I barely spoke, in one of the most difficult programs at my school, in a town where I knew nobody, and I barely had friends because I wasn’t proficient enough in French. Sometimes I asked myself what in the world I was doing, but for some reason I knew that if I was working that hard to get by every day, it would have to pay off somehow, someway. (I’m proud to say that I truly believe it did). The one difference with racing is that I haven’t once second-guessed my choice to compete full-time in Europe. I KNOW this is the right thing for me. And I love it. I’m learning a bit of Italian, how to adapt to a few cultural differences, and finding some pretty amazing places to train on the few days between races.
What’s the rest of the season look like for you?
LA: I will race Gracia Orlova in Russia before returning to North America to get my haircut by my beloved hairdresser Jeff and put some mileage on my motorcycle. Then it’s off to race at Winston Salem, the Philadelphia Classic, the Tour of California, followed by the Canadian National Road Championships. I have made the long list for Olympic selections, but we have some very strong candidates for the team. After Nationals the plan is to come back to Italy to race the Giro d’Italia, and the rest will be determined afterwards.
Congrats again and all the best going forward.