by Marie-Soleil Blais

February is already well underway, the time has flown by since our last race in Australia. They say it’s always harder to fly back from Australia than going there. It was! I’m still slowly getting back to a regular training routine just starting a block in Tucson, Arizona. I haven’t gotten as many miles in the legs as in previous years, but travelling to Australia for three weeks was a hell of an experience. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

The morning of our last race, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, you could tell there was something in the air. It was going to be a good day. One of the cool things with my Astana team is the way we communicate because of the language barrier. Half of the team speaks Spanish, the other half speaks Italian. Some understand or speak a little English but I’m alone with my French-Québécois.

That does not leave many words in common for everyone. Because of this, we use body language to understand each other and it works in an amazing way. Every little gesture, eye contact, smile, high-fives, wink face, laugh, etc. become a lot more meaningful and create a connection between us that no words could actually replace.

Okay, yes sometimes it gets tricky but we would do a translation chain, from Spanish to Italian to English and in reverse. We definitely bounded in these moments where everyone gets involved, translating one word or adding a synonym, until we all get it. These are little team victories every time.

The morning of the race, we waited for each other in the hallway of our bedrooms before going to breakfast. We all looked at each other like making sure we were all ready for today, all in this together. The plan was very simple (well, at least the plan in English was simple!). We needed to place Arlenis Sierra in the best position possible at the bottom of the last climb, a few kilometres from the finish.

It was a beautiful course, on the coast of the ocean near Melbourne. The media coverage was the best I had ever seen with motorcycles everywhere and three helicopters over our heads. Three! It was so loud, we couldn’t hear anything. My teammates and I came together before the last climb, I was the first one to take the wind. I couldn’t stay long, but just enough to see it and feel like a part of the team.

I was soon catapulted to the back and never saw the front again. We didn’t have team radios so I had no idea what was going on. The caravan went by us, all I could do was hope the girls and Arlenis were going to sort it out. She did, she won! As I passed the finish line, I found my teammates celebrating. We celebrated each time a rider arrived. We won! Winning is a rare thing in cycling, so precious.

Afterward, all the spectators and fans were cheering us and asking for pictures. “Astana! The winning team!” It was an overwhelming and crazy experience. Being part of it, sharing the joy with my teammates with our very few words, that was amazing.

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