Bike racing is bad for you; my season ended a week and a half ago and my body is still in tatters. As a racer you always want to push harder but this time I seem to have gone too far. My immune system is ravaged; I’ve been to the hospital more in the last week than I have in many years combined. I’ve picked up a series of viruses and they have been manifesting themselves in scary ways. One thing goes away; then something else starts up. It’s a real lesson to not take your health for granted.
So my cycling is over for 2011; I raced on Saturday but was fighting a losing battle. I tried to force things and ride aggressively but just didn’t have anything in the tank to make it happen. My race was over after 130km when I was split off the back in the cross-winds.
The last weeks of my season were a disappointment. I had picked up an infection that my system was fighting and left me without the strength to compete. I tried to ignore it and race on regardless but doing so was futile despite my hard headedness. I felt a shell of my normal self.
I finally went to the doctors yesterday and they sent me to have a minor surgery to drain the infection. The process wasn’t fun; but it is good to know what was going on and have it taken care of. Now, I need to rest up, work on getting back to my healthy self and not worry about the bike for a while.
I’m coming into my last races of the season; Saturday is the Groeistad Klassiker in Amersfoort then Baronie-Breda is on Sunday. Last weekend was an unexplained debacle but I’ve looked after myself well and hopefully I can get a last turn of form and go out on a better note.
Yesterday I raced the Wingene Koers in Belgium. It was very windy out and the race was extremely nervous. In Holland, a race would break quickly in such conditions; riders would recognize the advantage of working together and ride flat out to splinter the field. In Belgium, that co-operation doesn’t exist; attacks fly willy-nilly at the front and no one works together until a sure gap is formed. What results is extremely difficult racing; you have to fight very hard to maintain position as riders will scrap for every position and you must always be very assertive. All the while you are being battered by the wind and the pace never lets up as someone is always attacking. Add the constant changes of direction that circuit racing entails and the result is one heck of a hard day.
Through the race I stayed at the front and managed myself well; all the sprinting to make up position and accelerate out of the corners was wearing on me but I was still in a good place coming into the finale. With 60km to go, a minor group went clear then a lap or two later the fireworks really race started; through the carnage I came out in front with a group of 12 to 15 that was dominated by a German team. Perfect, I had come out of the shit fight and was exactly where I wanted to be; closing in on the leaders fast.
Then, with one and a half laps to go, I blew it. I’d been riding at the front of the group and decided to drop back into the wheels to skip a few turns; not wanting to do more than my share. As I was sliding back; the pace accelerated and when I went to jump back in line I didn’t quite catch the draft and left a bit of a gap. At that point it was absolutely on the rivet, 50 km/hr in a cross wind, and that bloody gap stayed the same for minutes; then it started to grow. Shit, shit, shit, I was dropped.
My stupid mistake cost me; the group made the junction with the front and fought for the win. I blew myself up trying to come back solo; was caught and passed by one group then came in with the next, completely shattered and bloody pissed at myself.
Yesterday I competed in the Danny Jonckheere Memorial in Belgie. The race was run over a flat 13km circuit that was very fast. I was aggressive early, knowing a group would go away near the start and have a very good chance of staying ahead at the finish. After a couple of laps I ran into some more shit luck as my rear tire developed a slow leak and started going flatter and flatter (in case you are wondering, my tires are brand new and my rims in good shape, somehow I have just had incomprehensibly bad fortune of late with punctures; in this case the devilish bastard of a culprit was a shard of glass lodged in the tire). Our director was subbing in for the day and was inexperienced in the caravan and wasn’t able to get ahead to provide service on the narrow roads, so after waiting for ever I dropped back through the vehicles all the way to car 33 where I could finally switch the wheel. Then, after drafting back up to the rear of the caravan, (no further, our driver wasn’t confident going ahead), I proceeded, over the next 40 kilometres, to fight my way back past the 32 other team cars to the rear of the peloton while the race averaged 48km/hr. Finally back in the group,I heard that 20 guys were up the road with 2 minutes advantage and Rogier, a team mate, was in there. I was a little smashed and starting to go dry but after a few laps of moving up through the peloton and thankfully receiving a couple of bottles from my team mates, the race heated up and I followed several attacks before splitting away with a group of twenty. My hands were tied in the group as I had a team mate up the road; but I stayed calm and did what I had to to stay in there, we got within 40 seconds of the leaders but the finish came to quickly to make the junction. In the last kilometre I responded to an attack too hastily and essentially ended up leading out the entire group and finished near the back of the escape, a minute or so up on the peloton. So, a chaotic day but my shape was solid and I seem to have bounced back from Sunday’s battle in a good way.