Before the start we look like ordinary women. A bit of chitchat about how we all have been and how cold it is. We chat, huddle close together to not feel the cold and admire each other’s new bikes and team kits. It’s the perfect picture of female companionship on International Women’s Day. Or so it seems if you didn’t look any closer.
Once the start gun has sounded we transform into 165 barbarians. We all try to get to the front of the peloton, regardless of what or who stands in the way. Solidarity? No way. We use our elbows, ride in each other’s way and push and pull with our bony hips. We all know that the roads in Drenthe are narrow and that, if you want to play a role in today’s race, you need to be up front. Pull or get dropped. But, with 165 women on a road which is only eight meters wide, being at the exact same spot is impossible.
So it’s war. Or a bitch fight, if you please, on International Women’s Day. A bitch fight at such high speeds that even the devil would back down. After barely two kilometres into the race the first victim is there. On an ordinary straight road where you would expect nothing to happen a few girls go down on the deck at a speed of 50km/h. The noise and the smell that it generates, amazes me every time again. Shattering carbon, popping tyres and burnt rubber. I brake and come to a standstill against the back of one of the girls on the ground (sorry for that). By clicking my foot out of the pedal as soon as possible and putting it on the ground, I avoid falling over.
Should I stop and help the bundle of screaming girls on the ground? No way. That’s not what we do, never. Not even on a day like this. Do they bleed? Wail like a banshee? Or just silently stay down in a fetal position? Bummer. It’s a relief they are on the ground and not us. As fast as I can I click my foot in the pedal again and ride towards the front of the peloton
And the wiggling, shuffling and pulling starts again because the Dieverbrug is approaching. That one is narrow and the turn before it is almost a U-turn. If you don’t ride all the way up front you have to brake. And you can be sure that some of us will go down on that bridge because that is what they always do. And yes, lo and behold, there’s one down. Bad luck for her. Bye bye.
We have to get on because we almost arrive at the cobbles of Dwingeloo. Same story. You’d better be at the front of the bunch because it’s narrow and you need to pass the section almost one at a time. It’s the ideal spot to attack. You are gone with a group before you know it when you increase your speed there. If you are too far off the back, you have to chase back and risk the fact to be caught up in a crash.
I don’t know about those cobbles but apparently they are so bumpy that some riders just fall off their bikes. And yes, there we go again. There’s one down, screaming like a pig in the middle of the cobbles. Is she in pain? I am so sorry. Yes really, I am but I can’t help it. Not now. We actually look the other way, seemingly unbothered by the girl on the ground crying. We have to move on.
After the cobbles the, now considerably smaller, peloton gets back together. This means that we ride on at a low pace until the next narrow section. Or a place where we have crosswinds that can result in echelons. Riding slowly means catching your breath. But it also means we are wriggling on the small stretch of road we all want to ride on. Female friendly quotes are prominent in this part of the race. The most eloquent and female-friendly one I heard on this International Women’s Day was a cried out loud “F*CK OFF, YOU C*NT”.
The scenario replays itself for several laps until we reach the finish after 140 kilometres and Chloe Hosking wins the sprint. Sport makes friends, or so they say. The sports fraternity, or sisterhood since it’s International Women’s Day after all? Haha, don’t make me laugh. We feel no mercy, have no pity. In our hearts we always want to be better, prettier and faster than the other. It’s not the men making our lives difficult. No, we do that ourselves with our sharp tongues. To me battling out in the open, is the best way. I prefer it over the shrewd and vicious ways snakes have. International Women’s Day and the Drentse 8 van Dwingeloo are the perfect example of what women do to each other.