South African cyclist Maroesjka Matthee has suffered a setback at the start of her three-month stint in Belgium, but remains eager to make the most of her time in Europe.
Matthee contracted laryngitis within the first week of her arrival in Europe but was one of only 36 riders in a field of 66 who completed the 92km Beveren-Waas circuit race last Sunday ‒ even though she had not trained at all.
She had contracted laryngitis, an inflammation and infection in the voice box, soon after her arrival in Belgium, she told In The Bunch today.
“The weather wasn’t great when I got here; it was extremely cold,” she said. “I trained hard for a couple of days and took it easy for a couple.”
She started feeling “completely down” when the other girls arrived. “I couldn’t ride at all for ten days.
“I was stressing and it seemed to get worse. I began coughing and it was really hard to stay indoors while the other girls were out training.”
She was taking an assortment of medicines but found it hard to deal with the problems. “I tried to calm down and assure myself that I would get better,” she said.
Because she had done no cycling, she was not planning to take part on Sunday.
“But on Saturday morning, for the first time, I woke up without a sore throat. I decided to wait and see how I felt the next day,” said the 29-year-old, who won the Herald Cycle Tour in February and finished third in the Cape Town Cycle Tour in March.
“On Sunday, I felt a lot better. I decided to race but I was not sure if it was the right decision.”
It went “surprising very well”, she said today. “It was a lap race, with each lap just over 5km. It meant that anyone who dropped off from the main peloton would fall out.
“You could try work your way back, but if the officials saw the gap was growing, they could call you off to prevent overlapping.
“I began cramping after about 90 minutes but I pushed through and managed to hang on.”
She was the last rider to finish but happy to have completed the race, considering the circumstances.
She was still “not near where I should be” but hoped to finish on the podium soon.
Racing in Europe was much harder than at home, “even if you’re fit,” Matthee said. “But the racing over here suits me. It’s very explosive and fast.”