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It was the perfect ending to a roller coaster few weeks, and I couldn't have been happier. Seeing big smiles on the faces of my teammates and staff after the race made every single moment of suffering completely worth it. Although we come from many different countries, and sometimes go weeks without seeing each other, when we race, we race together. And when we win, we win together.

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It's a unique sound, so incredibly different from that calming, whirring noise I'd imagined while watching coverage on TV of the men's pro peloton winding their way through beautiful French landscapes during the Tour.

Although I'd mentally rehearsed this moment many times, and was ready to go with my elbows out when we rolled out for the neutral start at 40 plus km/h, nothing could have prepared me for the noise hundred women screaming and yelling in various languages, and the brakes on their respective bikes squealing on carbon rims as we stopped and started and hopped curbs and rode the wrong way down streets and sprinted to avoid road furniture and Dutch policemen waving flags from the medians.

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Our director gave us the go ahead to force the pace early on and get a break up the road, and so less than 25km into the race, at the advice of team captain Lisa, I accelerated hard into a right hand bend with a crosswind waiting on the other side. Three other girls caught my wheel, and then we were away. For the next 90km we battled heavy wind and one Category 2 Converse All Star Black Mens

I didn't finish my first European road Converse Canvas Shoes Buy Online race. Neither did I finish my second, or my third. Although I'd been knocking on all wooden surfaces and avoiding salt shakers like the plague, I managed to get up close and personal with the Dutch (and then Belgian) asphalt no less than three times in my first two weeks. Banged up and demoralized, I headed to France for a few weeks to lick my wounds and get in some training before my last European race of this spring block, the inaugural Tour Languedoc Roussillon.

Europe is a road cyclist's mecca there is hard, fast, technical, and downright terrifying at times. I'd heard some crazy stories from other women racers in the American peloton, and so to say I was a bit nervous would be a major understatement. Luckily for me, my teammates are some of the best road racers in the world, and they did their best to coach me through my first hectic stint on the narrow, cobbled roads. However, no amount of reassurance was going to completely quench the panicked thoughts going through my mind (or steady my shaking hands!) as I stood on the start line in Apeldoorn for the Ronde van Gelderland, my first European pro race.

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Gillian Carleton Wins Stage 5 of Tour Languedoc Roussillon

climb as we slowly put time into the tired peloton behind us.

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approaching and the race announcer screaming my name in a thick French accent, I threw my hands in the air to celebrate my first UCI victory.

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With less than 2km to go, I inwardly apologized to my exhausted, shaking legs, and attacked hard up the left hand side of the road. I came flying into the upcoming roundabout and was through and out the other side before I chanced a glance back and saw I'd put a precious few seconds into my breakaway companions. I looked up and saw the flamme rouge red flag that signals one kilometer to go. I put my head down and summoned every last ounce of strength left in my legs and lungs and heart into turning the pedals over as quickly as possible, and with the finish line rapidly Converse Female Shoes

All week, the four of us rode our little hearts out, making up for our small numbers with Loren sprinting to victory on stage three, and Lisa taking a commanding time trial win on stage 4. With only one stage to go before I boarded a plane for Vancouver, it was my turn.

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At the beginning of April, before the dust had even settled from a hectic Redlands Bicycle Classic, I packed my bags and hopped on a flight to Amsterdam. My teammate Tayler and I were about to join some of the other girls in Europe for a block of racing in Holland, Belgium, and France.

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team reconvened at the end of May in the sunny south of France, I was still sporting some super stylish bandages on my knees, but absolutely determined to at least finish a race before heading back to North America. Although the hilly course wasn't going to be the best platform for me to man up and show the team that they'd made the right decision hiring me this season, I gritted my teeth and got ready to suffer.

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