Belgium Cobbles, Rain and Hail, Oh My!

USA Cycling gave me a shoutout on their website for the performance I had racing Dwars door de Westhoek in Belgium. I've never had my name in a big headline before so that was pretty cool!

Our team for the weekend was not only talented and hardcore but also made up of some of the friendliest women in the peloton. Super proud to be a part of it! 

Our team for the weekend was not only talented and hardcore but also made up of some of the friendliest women in the peloton. Super proud to be a part of it! 

(April 26, 2016) – Sara Headley (San Francisco, Calif.) turned in an impressive performance at Sunday’s Dwars door de Westhoek in Belgium to lead the way for the women’s Development Program over the weekend.

Sara Headley led the women's program this week with a 19th-place finish at Dwars door de Westhoek.

Sara Headley led the women's program this week with a 19th-place finish at Dwars door de Westhoek. (Instagram/Sara Headley)

Headley clocked a 3:27:43 at the event to take 19th, trailing top-three finishers Christine Majerus (LUX), Elena Cecchini (ITA) and Emma Johansson (SWE) by 3:05.

Gretchen Stumhofer (San Diego, Calif./Colavita Bianchi), Laurel Rathbun (Monument, Colo./Raleigh-Clement) and Holly Breck (Santa Ynez, Calif./TWENTY16 Ridebiker) finished 58th, 64th and 84th, respectively, in 3:31:47, while Madeleine Boutet (Anchorage, Alaska) and Aliya Traficante (Chico, Calif./Folsom Bike-Trek) also competed.

Racing for their trade teams, Alexis Ryan (Ventura, Calif./Canyon SRAM Racing) chalked an eighth-place finish in 3:24:38, and Tayler Wiles (Fairfax, Calif./Orica-AIS) clocked a 3:27:43 day for 25th.

On Saturday, Team USA took on EPZ Omloop van Borsele in the Netherlands. Stumhofer led the American devo riders with a 52nd-place 3:37:25 finish, trailing Barbara Guarischi (ITA), Floortje Mackaij (NED) and Majerus, who all crossed in 3:29:28.

Headley also crossed in 3:37:25 for 55th, followed by Breck, Boutet and Rathburn, who finished 95th, 97th and 114th in 3:41:13. Traficante also competed.

Ryan took 30th in 3:34:22.

It was messy, cold and ridiculously hard. I really loved every second of it. 

It was messy, cold and ridiculously hard. I really loved every second of it. 

Tayler and I rode in the break together for over half the race, never saying a word to each other. Then after the race, we were all hugs and smiles. 

Tayler and I rode in the break together for over half the race, never saying a word to each other. Then after the race, we were all hugs and smiles. 

The race had everything, from rain that turned to hail and cobbles through the start finish line. And that's exactly why I love Belgium racing - just being fit doesn't mean you'll get a result. Every rider has to have skills, guts AND fitness. Belgium throws us challenges that are hard for even the best racers.

I was proud of myself for having confidence, keeping good position from the start and really giving everything I had to stay in the front group over the climbs and through the crosswinds. The women on our team all had a great attitude despite some tough conditions. I'm also really proud to be a part of a group who sees the silver lining - lots of lessons learned and memorable suffering that will only make each of us stronger in the future.

Racing in the red, white and blue is an experience I'll always treasure.