Photos: Cyprus Cycling Federation
The strength of a cyclist cannot be measured just by power alone but also by mental resilience and the ability to continue on the road ahead even in demanding circumstances.
When Jesse Vandenbulcke crossed the line first at the Aphrodite Cycling Race, ending a triumphant week in Cyprus for Human Powered Health with a hat-trick of victories, the Belgian was riding on more than just physical strength.
“It has been a tough time,” Vandenbulcke explains. “My best friend and training partner has been diagnosed with cancer so I can’t see her many times and my Dad passed away last month so that has taken a lot of energy from me.”
With one finger pointing high, Vandenbulcke immediately dedicated her victory to those who she keeps close to her heart.
“It is really nice to take the win for them,” she said after the finish. “They give me the power to make more out of my life.”
The emotional result was made all the more special by the fact she could celebrate in person with her young son Fabian and husband Giovanni, as well as contribute to the team’s electric start to the season.
“It’s a great feeling. The team has already been on fire this year so I’m happy I also could do my job and contribute.”
The road race which packed in 16,000 meters of climbing over 70km was the final event in a trio of races that included Cypriot champion Antri Christofrou’s wins in the time trial and Women for Future one day.
Once again, Human Powered Health used their numbers to great effect, making the race as hard as possible to force a selection before Katie Clouse and Vandenbulcke attacked into a headwind and were joined by two others.
“I did as much work for Jesse as I could,” said Clouse. “She was so strong today so we were trying to just make it to the base of the climb with an advantage so that she could attack and solo to the finish.”
That move constituted a 15km solo ride for Vandenbulcke who was quick to praise Clouse’s efforts. Behind, Christofrou and Barbara Malcotti then began winding up their efforts on the final climb, passing the remnants of the breakaway to finish second and fourth respectively.
Clouse then surfed the wheels up the climb playing the perfect teammate for home-free Vandenbulcke.
“I was pretty wrecked by the end but overall it worked out so well for us and it was the perfect day,” Clouse beams. “I’m starting to feel stronger every race and training day. I need to put in some more volume but I’m definitely super excited for March and April racing.”
Local rider Christoforou has been entertaining Vandenbulcke, Clouse, Malcotti and Makayla MacPherson all week in her home country and had an incredibly special experience.
“Today we passed my village and I had all my family on the road,” she said. “They saw how we raced and they were cheering for all of the team. I am really happy about that, I just can’t explain how happy I feel.”
The trip to Cyprus has been an incredibly fruitful one for Human Powered Health in terms of UCI points and the hanging specter of Women’s WorldTour league survival. In total the team scored 256 points over the three races.
The women’s team next line up at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on February 25 at what has been coined the “opening weekend,” ushering in what is known as the spring classics.
Aphrodite Cycling Race – Women for future results
1 VANDENBULCKE Jesse – Human Powered Health 2:03:49
2 CHRISTOFOROU Antri – Human Powered Health 2:05
3 PINTAR Urska – BTC City Ljubljana Scott 2:16
4 MALCOTTI Barbara – Human Powered Health 2:21
5 CLOUSE Katie – Human Powered Health 2:39
6 ABDULLAEVA Shaknoza – Tashkent City Women Professional Cycling Team 3:21
7 PUGELJ Nina – BTC City Ljubljana Scott 4:21
8 ZABELINSKAYA Olga – Tashkent City Women Professional Cycling Team 4:24
9 KUSKOVA Yanina – Tashkent City Women Professional Cycling Team 8:38
10 COLJE Maaike – Activate Cyprus Mixed Team 8:48
11 MACPHERSON Makayla – Human Powered Health 10:00